Harnessing technology to provide a rich graduate student experience

Ekin Yasin sees her classes as a laboratory, which allows her to adapt her curriculum to empower different segments of the student population.

We had to recognize and respect that this isn’t a normal year. We had to build in ways for us to reflect on what’s happening — not just doing the work to do the work. 

Ekin Yasin

UW Continuum College teams up with campus partners to offer fee-based graduate degrees in a wide range of academic disciplines, including technology, health, business, engineering and education. Many of these programs are designed for working professionals’ schedules, with classes primarily held in the evenings, on weekends and online to give graduate students a chance to jump-start their careers on their own terms.

Students have the opportunity to work with UW faculty like Ekin Yasin, associate teaching professor and director of the UW Communication Leadership Master’s program, who are on the cutting edge of their fields, while online degree offerings harness the latest technologies to provide a rich student experience.

Ekin sees her classes “as a laboratory,” she said. That sense of experimentation helped Ekin adapt this spring when the class she was teaching went fully online.

“Learning online, looking at a screen, is hard for a lot of people,” Ekin said. “For me, as someone whose job is to draw you into content, to capture you, I think about connecting to different learning styles every day of my life. It was a space to experiment with that.” 

Part of that experimentation was acknowledging that, in an atypical year, a stereotypical top-down, hierarchical classroom approach wouldn’t work. It was important for students to feel heard. 

“We had to recognize and respect that this isn’t a normal year,” Ekin said. “Not just with the pandemic, but the many key crises impacting our BIPOC community members and our Black students, in particular. We had to build in ways for us to reflect on what’s happening — not just doing the work to do the work. Creating space for honesty was extremely important.”

Though remote learning poses obvious challenges, Ekin found that it can also empower a different segment of the student population.

“Learning online can be helpful for people who are introverted, who are marginalized or are not in positions of power,” she said. “I’ve definitely had more students in the past year who’ve participated, candidly and authentically, who would not otherwise have participated. This is an opportunity for us to keep them engaged and participating as we move forward.”