In the spring 2012 semester I played the role of tech facilitator for an online class in restorative justice at EMU’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding (CJP). At the time I was their resident tech/web/social media nerd, so I had also been involved in the design process for this class, which was the first online class the CJP had ever delivered. To design and deliver this course I worked with CJP administration and faculty, including restorative justice pioneer (and my mentor), Howard Zehr. It stands as one of the high points of my tech career and played a major part in my coming into this new role of Distance Learning Tech Analyst in Information Systems at EMU.
But why did CJP wait until 2012 to do online ed, you may ask? Well, the concerns were born out of organizational-cultural value placed on community at CJP. This program is world-renowned for its peacebuilding and conflict transformation education and work, most recently enjoying one of its alumna, Leymah Gbowee, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize. Community-building is close to the heart of CJP’s approach to teaching and doing peacebuilding work, and there was a shared sense that previous generations of online education – primarily text-based – simply did not provide the grounds for teaching and showing substantive relationship and community building.
But the new generation of social and collaborative web technologies have begun having a deep impact on higher education, online or otherwise, so we decided it was time to take the plunge. Here’s a blog post at CJP’s Peacebuilder Online I wrote back in February in the early weeks of the class:
It continues to be an emphasis in my work at EMU more broadly to foster the values mentioned there, of relationality and co-creative learning.