In this issue:

Professor Profile: Professor Angela Sumegi reflects on the evolution of Carleton’s Death and Afterlife course
By: Maha Ansari
Angela Sumegi

It’s been more than 15 years since Professor Angela Sumegi began teaching the Death and Afterlife recorded course at Carleton University.

A lot has changed since then. For example, Sumegi says the course – which is offered through CUOL – has evolved in terms of content.

When Sumegi was first assigned to teach Death and Afterlife, she decided to weave her own vision for the class into existing course content. The previous professor had been teaching students about responses to death in world religions. Sumegi says she wanted to approach the same topic by “following a thread.”

“I wanted to create a more cohesive way of looking at it,” she explains.

To achieve the cohesion she desired, Sumegi began developing course content that focused on the view of the person in the religious system. The re-imagined Death and Afterlife course focuses on one central question: “Who dies?”

With this question at the forefront, Sumegi’s lectures explore religious beliefs and traditions spanning nations and generations. She points to Islam, Buddhism and ancient Egyptian beliefs as some of the subjects the Death and Afterlife course examines.

Technology has played a significant role in the evolution of the course, Sumegi adds. Once a course in which content was delivered mainly in lecture form through CUOL, Death and Afterlife has been made more accessible to students today by way of advancements in virtual communication.

“Today’s version of this course is much more interactive,” says Sumegi. “Not only interactive between me and the students, but more interactive between the students themselves.”

As an example, Sumegi points to the speed of virtual communication. Many students in her class have used online messaging platforms to form study groups or ask her questions and receive prompt responses.

Apart from the conveniences of virtual messaging, having an online portal has allowed Sumegi to post supplementary materials that cater to students’ individual needs.

“Because of the technology, I’m able to respond to the students’ interests in a much broader way than I would be without it, especially given the size of the class,” she says.

Class size in Death and Afterlife is another area that has undergone change. Once a course of about 300, Sumegi says that in recent years the course has seen enrolment rates of up to 900 students.

Given the high enrolment rates and students’ continued interest in the course material, Sumegi says she is optimistic about the future of the course.

“Death will always be fascinating because it is the final frontier,” she says. “I think that this course will go on to be as popular as it has ever been.”

Tales from the Field: Reynosa Mangagil on the flexibility of summer online courses
By: Bianca Chan

Reynosa Mangagil has taken multiple courses throughout her undergraduate degree. Having graduated just last November, she’s had years of experience with online courses, including online courses in the summer term.

In an edited email, the psychology major offers some insight into the benefits and challenges of taking online courses during the summer, and answers common questions that potential online summer school students have.

Q: Why did you decide to take an online course during the summer?

A: I decided to take an online course because it is convenient. I can watch my lecture wherever and whenever I want to. I can still travel and bring my classes with me. I do not need to come to school all the time.

Q: How did you find it compared to an online course during the regular school year?

A: I do not see much difference other than during summer, just like a regular summer class, it is much more fast-paced. It is harder to catch up if you miss one or two lectures. You just finish your midterm and you are already preparing for the finals.

Q: What are some tips you would pass on to prospective online summer school students?

A: Taking online courses during summer is like a double-edged sword. With an online class, you have the flexibility and the convenience of having all your lectures online. However, it requires a lot of self-discipline. Always make sure you watch your lectures on time even when you travel.

Q: What are some of the benefits you experienced with taking an online class during the summer?

A: As already mentioned, an online class is very convenient and flexible. I can download my classes and go to a park and study. When I travel, I am able to access my lectures wherever I go.

Q: Any challenges?

A: One of my biggest challenges is setting a time to watch and study my lecture. There is always something happening in the summer. I travel, go to work, hang out with friends. It is so easy to just set aside studying especially when I am not obliged to go to school.

Q: How did you find the communication with other students and with your professor?

A: With the professor, she is very accessible. She even acknowledges and addresses people like me watching her lecture when she teaches. She responded to my email fairly promptly as far as I can remember. As for students, there are always many eager classmates who are willing to converse with you regarding certain topics on the cuLearn discussion board. Some are even willing to share their notes. I guess that is because many are online students trying to learn with one another.

Q: Would you take an online course during the summer again?

A: I’ve always considered that as an option in my past four years of undergrad. Maybe when I go back to studying again (I just graduated) and when I am given the opportunity to take another one, why not?

Q: Some general concerns are about the amount of free time students get during the summer months while taking an online course. Can you speak to this at all? How was your experience with free time?

A: When you take a summer class, it is already a given that free time will be limited. Summer classes are always hectic, whether in class or online, especially when you are taking multiple classes. I’d say when juggling online classes and other things, such as a job or other classes, there is really not much free time. If you really want to do well, self-discipline is the key.

Tech Corner: StudyBlue helps you study smarter

By: Bianca Chan
Want to save trees, money and your grades? There’s an app for that.
StudyBlue is a crowd-sourced learning platform that provides tools for effective studying. In the app, which is available for iOS and Android, you can explore six main functions, including notes and study guides, which will help you regardless of what program you’re in or what school you go to.

The best part is that as long as you have a smartphone, not only will your study materials be in your pocket wherever you go, but it will cost you nothing. The app is available for free, although there is an optional “pro” version from $10/month.

The most notable feature is the flashcard tool. You can create and customize your own flashcards so that they best fit your study habits. StudyBlue offers a flexible flashcard format that allows for longer definitions, fill-in-the-blank questions, or even multiple-choice questions.

On top of that, every set of flashcards made is shared on the platform. This has resulted in over 350 million pieces of study material, according to StudyBlue’s website. These flashcards are grouped by a wide range of subjects.  However, the shared library feature is only available to pro users.

StudyBlue also has a fully functional offline mode, which means you can use the complete app anytime, anywhere, whether you have an Internet connection or not. It’s also a place where you can store and organize all your notes and course materials. Moreover, there are plenty of collections all along the level-spectrum, from junior high school to university.
Another unique feature of the app, available in both the free and pro versions, is the ability to track your progress in real time with an automatic score after each study session. This way, subject material that you know already and material that you need to work on are all stored in your electronic backpack to keep you on track.