Online education has been around for decades, but online learning and degree programs have grown exponentially since the early days of dialing up and logging on. Though many Duke TIP alumni are familiar with the residential Summer Studies Programs, TIP prides itself on maintaining its high standards of academic rigor and sense of community even with programs run with new technologies.
How? I’m glad you asked.
eStudies started in 2004 with fewer than thirty students in just two classes, but it is projected to host nearly 1,300 students across fifty-four sections in the summer of 2018. It’s grown so quickly thanks to the way it combines synchronous and asynchronous teaching, allowing students to commune with their peers and instructors and get feedback in real time, have conversations, and form bonds over their similar interests in this obscure subject they may not otherwise be able to explore until college or beyond. Sound familiar? It should, because it’s the same challenging yet welcoming experience students have always found at our residential programs. Yet the flexibility of the online format allows those who may not be able to leave home for three weeks over the summer to still participate in the TIP experience.
Alumna Colin Azariah-Kribbs (‘05, ‘06), who took two fiction writing courses, as well as astronomy, describes the online format for eStudies as “really conducive to helping everyone have a voice. It is great for that particular age group—teenagers. Because teenagers are so self-conscious and it’s hard sometimes to find other people who are interested in the things that you’re interested in, so I feel like the class did a great job of not only teaching us but giving us a space to know that we weren’t alone. I was really surprised that that type of community could be created in an online format.”
This community provided a safe space for students who may feel uncomfortable or nervous discussing their writing or giving and receiving constructive feedback in person. The online peer-review process allowed Colin to read and process feedback and work on her projects in her own time, which provided a unique opportunity for growth and reflection that may not be available in a face-to-face, real-time class. “I wouldn’t have found the success I’ve found so far if I hadn’t taken the class, because one of the things that was really great about being exposed during those formative years to those different voices—the teacher and my peers—was that I was forced to get out of my head and really hear what people thought about [my writing] in a sympathetic environment. It made me open up as a writer and learn how to develop and improve upon more of what I was good at.”
Harshvardhan Sanghi (’11, ’14, ’15) ended up using the skills he learned from his documentary course to help shape policy in his local community. After his eStudies course, he had some extra time over the summer and decided to create a documentary film about the pollution in Varthar Lake in Bangalore, India. The film gained the attention of the governor and helped encourage a policy shift around pollution in the area. Harsh used the report he created along with the documentary to support his college application to Duke. He is now a sophomore at Duke and just declared his major in mechanical engineering with a minor in economics.
Harsh with his instructor, Michael Salerno.
His experience with TIP is what led him to apply and ultimately choose Duke. Harsh says, “It’s a great opportunity to explore other interests and have a good experience, especially for high school students who may have a lot of other stuff going on.” As for advice for future eStudies students, he said, “Just be willing to try out new things and try out different activities, courses, and interests and something may lead to something really cool. Even if it doesn’t end up changing the rest of your life; you will have a lot of fun and learn a lot of cool stuff, so don’t be afraid to get out there and try new things.”
Both Harsh and Colin have kept in touch with their instructors and have gone on to use the skills they learned in their courses to gain recognition and even win awards. Colin is currently working on her PhD in British Literature at Princeton University and recently won an award for a screenplay she wrote.
The cornerstones of academic rigor and social development are found throughout all of TIP’s programs; however each is unique with added benefits that may not be found in other programs. The online learning format provides a real flexibility for students to be able to pursue multiple interests over the summer, and allows students to learn and absorb material and feedback both independently and as a community. Although the community may not be in person, you will still find that common connection and form special bonds with instructors and students across the globe that all TIPsters find when they step outside their comfort zones and decide to challenge themselves through a TIP program.