Arriving from overseas to study at Murdoch is an exciting and once in a lifetime experience. But what happens when a global pandemic strikes, and you’re forced to head home?
For 81 students from Tokyo City University (TCU) who were studying at Murdoch as part of the Tokyo City University Australia Program (TAP), this was their reality when COVID-19 hit.
Giving students a global outlook
Beginning with a pilot program in 2018, the TCU TAP Program was set up between Murdoch University and Tokyo City University to provide an intensive language and liberal arts program to TCU students.
The program, which runs for one semester at a time, aims to promote internationalisation of the TCU curriculum by enabling TCU students to study at Murdoch.
TCU student Noa, who was studying on-campus at Murdoch prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, says her interest in the TAP program came from a desire to advance her English language skills.
“I was not good at English since I was little. That’s why I decided to participate because I thought it was a great opportunity to get to like English.
“In addition, I thought TAP would be a weapon for job hunting, and my parents saw it as a good experience for my future.”
Transitioning to online study
Wanting students to still get the most out of their program, Murdoch worked closely with TCU to help transition the students to online learning once they returned to Japan.
Using live chat, webcam, pre-recorded videos and Murdoch’s online learning platform, myMurdoch Learning, students had full access to their Murdoch lecturers and could ask questions, talk with classmates and get the help and support they needed at any time.
Having never studied online before, Noa was a bit apprehensive when she was first told her studies would be moved online.
“It was my first time to take online learning, so I was anxious. I was worried that I couldn’t hear the pronunciation, couldn’t communicate well, and couldn’t understand the content compared to face-to-face lessons.”
However, with the help and support of Murdoch staff, Noa found the transition to online learning easy and even got a few visits from her lecturers’ dogs.
“I think I was able to understand and actively participate in classes thanks to the teachers’ explanations and using the chat functions and camera.
“In addition, it was also interesting that the pet dogs of the teachers appeared during the tutorials. I felt it was something we could only experience in online classes.”
A new way of learning
After overcoming the first few hurdles of adjusting to online study, TCU students quickly adapted to their new way of learning and continued to advance their English language skills.
Yuki, another TCU student participating in the TAP program, found the support offered by Murdoch staff throughout the transition to online learning extremely helpful.
“Teachers always asked if I had any questions, so it was easy for us to solve what we didn’t understand in class. In addition, class guidelines helped me a lot.
“I enjoyed discussing content with teachers and friends. When I did preparation, it was exciting to get new knowledge. Also, the reference videos I watched in preparation were interesting and I could practice listening.”
Noa added that she found the format of using pre-recorded videos, in addition to live chat and Zoom sessions, specifically helpful when it came to learning new concepts and ideas.
“I could watch the lesson in a video, so I could rewind and watch it many times until I could understand it. And it was good that I could chat with the teacher in the tutorial, because I could learn English pronunciation and it was easier to actively participate.
“I was able to check homework with everyone in a Zoom session every week and each tutorial gave us a question time. I could always ask the teachers questions by email, and Murdoch’s TAP Program Manager contacted us diligently to check that we understood our homework.”
Preparing for the future
The outbreak of COVID-19 has meant students all over the world have had to overcome a range of obstacles and adapt to new ways of learning.
Having now finished their TAP semester, both Yuki and Noa highly recommend the TAP Program to other TCU students and praise Murdoch for their support and the ease with which they were able to continue their studies once back in Japan.
“I would recommend TAP to other students because there are no disadvantages to studying abroad,” says Noa.
“In Japan, in order to study abroad for a long time, people have to take a leave of absence from the university and do visa and ticket procedures themselves. However, TAP gives me credit for lessons, so I didn’t take a leave of absence and many people supported me locally.”
Yuki added, “I think it is important to experience a lot of things. While at Murdoch, I communicated with my roommates and did lots of housework. I would definitely recommend the Tokyo-Australia Program to other TCU students.”