Undeterred by the Pandemic the University of Ottawa Taiwan Studies Program Put its Research Course Online
When the University of Ottawa cancelled exchange programs back in March because of the Covid-19 pandemic, it seemed as if the Taiwan in the Global Political Economy of Care course could not be salvaged. This was originally envisioned as a field research course which would take students to National Chengchi University (NCCU) in Taiwan. It was designed to look at Taiwan as a case study of a society faced with the problem of a rapidly ageing population. The course focuses on how the combination of the government’s social and welfare policies has created a major pull factor for a mass migration movement. Its dynamics reveal major problems related to gender equality, labour abuse, and discrimination, but also mobilization by civil society to address these issues.
Professor Laliberte of the Taiwan Studies Program at the University of Ottawa then completely revamped the course into an online version. It was very regrettable that the students were unable to travel to Taiwan and experience its society first-hand, but the online format allowed the educational content of the course to include teachers from National Taiwan University and Academia Sinica to share their expertise as well as the originally planned NCCU teachers.
In its final form the online course consisted of three weeks of long-distance teaching between Canada and Taiwan, and online research and essay assignments. The primary goal of the course remained unchanged: to help students develop skills to pursue research in various fields of social science. And by the end of the course, students had learned about new techniques for critically evaluating information about the global care chain, and responses to sanitary crises from the perspective of the political economy of welfare regimes.
By the time the course began, the uOttawa students had long ago returned to their respective hometowns throughout Canada, some as far away as Vancouver. Their teachers in Taiwan delivered lectures and met with them online, interacting with them almost as well as if it had been in person.
Now equipped with a deeper knowledge of Taiwan, many of the students expressed hope that once the threat of the global pandemic subsides, they’ll finally be able to visit the island and put their newfound research skills to use.