The Digital Winter Semester at American Studies Leipzig

In the upcoming winter semester 2020/21, all instruction at ASL will be done remotely, mostly via Zoom and Moodle.


What You Should Know About the Upcoming Semester

Please carefully read the attached “Digital Winter Semester Guidelines” for details. The document contains advice on how to navigate the upcoming semester, on what technology you should ideally prepare, and other details.


Why We Decided to Go Digital for All Lectures / Seminars / Tutorials

Our decision to go all online for this semester is driven primarily by three considerations:

  1. While the kind of intellectual work we do thrives in the immediacy of in-person contact, it can also be done online, offering an alternative that is safer and that works reasonably well given the circumstances. As Americanists, we do not need labs or other specialized equipment; we need our books, our brains, and the ability to talk to one another, and as much as we would prefer to do the talking in person, it can also be done online. Doing so allows us to avoid unnecessary health risks to the student body, the ASL community, and the larger public.

  2. In our assessment, hybrid teaching arrangements are less practical and come with their own sets of problems. Hybrid teaching scenarios, with some students present in the room and others tuning in from home, create a disparity between these two groups, splitting up the seminar group into those who can be there in person and those who cannot. It makes for easier conversation among those who are in one room, at the expense of the others. For students with preexisting health conditions, unable to ever join for an in-person session, they create a form of structural inequality. This is a dynamic we want to avoid.

  3. We believe that our resources are better spent if we focus on delivering a good all-digital learning experience rather than experimenting with the complexities, shortcomings, and frictions of hybrid instruction. We hope to be back with some form of in-person teaching in the next summer semester. In the meantime, we will look for strategies that make the fully remote classroom as good as it can be rather than trying to create a semblance of in-person learning when the real thing is still out of reach. If you have ideas or suggestions on how to improve this experience further, please contact us at using the subject “Digital Semester Suggestion.”