OSUN Courses Connect Students Worldwide and to Community in Vienna

With the 2023-24 academic year just around the corner, the Open Society University Network (OSUN), of which CEU is a part, has opened enrollment for a suite of courses in social sciences and humanities, expanding the topic areas and faculty roster for CEU students. The three distinct formats of OSUN’s courses are designed to leverage the network’s robust institutional partnerships and facilitate valuable learning experiences.

OSUN Online Courses are each taught by a single OSUN institution and offered online. The courses enable students from multiple OSUN campuses to work with specializations that may not be represented at their primary university. Another collection of courses, OSUN Network Collaborative Courses, are taught jointly by faculty from multiple OSUN campuses, with students coming together online and offline throughout the semester to work on assignments and projects. A major benefit with these courses is the multiplicity of faculty perspectives offered in a single course.

A third category, courses designed within the framework of OSUN Engaged Learning, are focused locally and link coursework directly to the Vienna community with site-based engagement activities.

All three course models cover OSUN themes, spanning sustainability, human rights, global justice and arts and society. Here, professors from CEU who teach OSUN Network Collaborative, Online and Engaged Learning courses, share their experiences, illustrating the value of these courses and these modes of learning.

A Door to Deeper Participation

Last academic year, CEU Assistant Professor, Viktor Lagutov, taught the OSUN Online Course “Earth Observations in Monitoring Sustainable Development Goals” to a class of 10 students from CEU and 10 from the broader OSUN network. The course is one of a handful of OSUN courses, including “Introduction to Geospatial Data Visualization” and “Mapping the World with QGIS", related to the work of GeoHub, a platform for geospatial technology training, for which CEU is a founding member.

“We're promoting understanding and application of geospatial technologies. It's a broad topic, it includes, among others, Earth observations using satellite imagery, data visualization and analysis using Geographic Information Systems (GIS), alternative data collection methods like crowdsourcing and smartphone applications, as well as other digital technologies with a geographical or spatial dimension,” said Lagutov.

He stressed the importance of technical application skills for social science students who want to go into the field of monitoring of sustainable development goals, highlighting that “the goals have a variety of socio-economic indicators, requiring data on multiple factors to be analyzed together. GIS provides an increasingly user friendly and affordable approach to monitoring, and offers analysis on a variety of economic, social, cultural and environmental indicators.”

While CEU is already global in that its students come from more than 100 countries, the OSUN Online Course format generated further diversity of perspectives on sustainable development goals, influenced by students coming from various environmental science departments as well as those studying adjacent topics, such as social equity or environmental justice, anthropology and liberal arts disciplines.

“Sustainable development goals are a key priority area for OSUN and CEU. The topic is on political agendas worldwide and covers a variety of domains, from poverty reduction and economy growth, to biodiversity and climate change. What we're trying to do with our course is to develop competencies in using geospatial technologies for analysis, which will make our graduates more skilled and credible in the field,” said Lagutov.

GeoHub Summer School. Photo courtesy of GeoHub/ISEPEI.

In addition to skills development, the course operated as a basis for those who wish to go deeper in application of geospatial technologies. For example, this year, many of the participants from this OSUN Online Course continued on to study in Lagutov’s OSUN Summer School at CEU in Budapest, “Geospatial Technologies for Building Resilience”.

The Summer School had more than 300 applicants for the 40 spots, half of which went to environmental and public policy professionals, and the other half to OSUN students, faculty and researchers. This year’s faculty included experts from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, UN Industrial Development Organization, UN Office for Disaster Risk Reduction, UN Office for Outer Space Affairs, WorldBank Global Environment Facility, European Space Agency, Esri and Google, among others.

An OSUN Online Course can, therefore, serve as a door to a deeper educational trajectory through summer schools, and as a gateway to a community of like-minded practitioners or further workshop trainings and internship opportunities.

Flexible Pathways and Joint-Teaching

CEU’s Pușa Năstase is one of four instructors from different OSUN institutions, teaching the Network Collaborative Course, “Policy and Practice in Global Education, Critical Perspectives”. The course can be taken on its own or as part of the GLOBALED certificate focused on global educational development.

“Education affects us all and the future of the countries we live in. It is one of the main sources of expenditure for every government, so everyone should be paying attention, not just those who are in school or have kids in school,” said Năstase, Senior Program Manager at CEU’s Yehuda Elkana Center for Teaching, Learning and Higher Education Research. The course, which she described as a “birds-eye-view on education”, attracts students ranging from advanced undergraduate to PhD levels, and covers many angles of international education development such as financing, teacher training, inclusion, and the nature of various public and private models of education.  

“Having peers from all over the world in this course on international education provides a lot of context and richness of information about what happens in other countries and what models are out there,” said Năstase. She highlighted the value of exploring policy cases, such as the “Roma Decade”, and of student-led sessions, which are part of the course design: “We had a great discussion on the education situation in Afghanistan recently, and the students were presenting and leading the conversation.” The class also discussed student protests in South Africa related to the fight for the lowering of education fees.

Similar to the trajectories of Lagutov’s students, Năstase noted that some students from the course went on to continue their studies at the related OSUN Summer School at CEU, “Global Education Policy Implementation” alongside education professionals. "Many of the students pursuing learning in this area want to work in the education sector,” she said.

OSUN’s Network Collaborative Courses provide flexible pathways for gaining credentials, and can expand the disciplines and experts available to CEU students. Sanjay Kumar, CEU Senior Lecturer and Project Head of the OSUN Experimental Humanities Collaborative Network (EHCN), co-designed and taught the Network Collaborative Course, “Digital Theaters”, which last year connected six institutions from five continents. This year, the course will involve eight leading theater instructors from eight institutions, who will be working with BA students from CEU’s Culture, Politics and Society program and from other OSUN network institutions.

“The content couldn't be more current, because performance, theater, music and live arts were completely affected and radically rethought and reshaped during the pandemic,” said Kumar. The course addresses how theater and performance changed during the restrictions of the pandemic. It began as began as a pilot experimental humanities project of Ramona Mosse from Bard College Berlin, and Miriam Felton-Dansky from Bard College Annendale.

“CEU’s Culture, Politics and Society program is a liberal humanities program, and this Network Collaborative Course is really the first class offered to CEU students on theater and performance. Being in Vienna, which is home to so much culture and music, we have a great opportunity to address theater in collaboration with leading performance scholars from around the world,” said Kumar. The theoretical part of the course unpacks liveness, participation and documentation, and builds up to a practice-based final project, which last year took the form of students mounting a digital performance about a Vienna murder trial, which was broadcast live from CEU across six continents.

Connecting the Classroom to the City

CEU courses designed within the framework of OSUN Engaged Learning, offer yet another mode of learning, and link coursework directly with the Vienna community and site-based engagement activities. These courses aim to amplify facets of the city of Vienna and directly integrate these into the student learning experience. One such course, “Music in the Focus: Leadership, Curatorial Practices and Social Engagement” draws from Vienna’s cultural life.

The course, primarily for CEU Cultural Heritage Studies and BA students, is taught by Zsuzsanna Szalka, CEU Culture Hub Coordinator and visiting faculty member, who explained: “The idea for the engaged learning was to conduct a course with many guests who are leaders in the Vienna music scene, presenting lectures, workshops and sometimes a mixture. Students were assigned to guide select sessions after doing preparatory research and meeting with the speaker.”

"Challenging the Theater of Memory" lecture-concert at MDW, Vienna.

Szalka highlighted that each class was simultaneously offered as a public program through the CEU Culture Hub. While students gathered for the course discussions and presentations, the sessions were streamed online and were open to the public. The structure gave students experience in presenting public programs and in interviewing leaders from renowned organizations, such as the University of Music and Performing Arts, Wiener Staatsoper, Music Austria, Vienna Konzerthaus and Popfest Vienna.

In addition to the wide-ranging guests representing the city’s music scene, the course took students on local site visits to the WUK culture club and the Porgy and Bess jazz and music club, linking theoretical ideas to practice. “The Vienna jazz scene is very important and mixed with the new music scene...I think it was very exciting for students to hear from the director of Porgy and Bess, Christopher Huber, and jazz musician, Andras Des, and then to experience a concert at the venue, which was co-funded by OSUN and the Culture Hub,” said Szalka.

Visit here to learn about fall OSUN courses available for CEU students.