By Emily Rivero
Professor John Bailly of the Honors College is known in the FIU community for creating immersive, one-of-a-kind courses that seldom meet in classrooms. Traditionally, his classes Miami in Miami, Art Society Conflict, and three study abroad programs are focused around on-site learning tours spread throughout Miami’s historical and cultural locations.
Everthing changed when FIU moved to remote working and learning.
“My classes rarely meet in a classroom,” Bailly says. “If we are studying the Everglades, we are slogging through the Everglades. If we are studying contemporary art, we are meeting Mr. Margulies at his Warehouse Collection in Wynwood. If we are studying society, we are completing a day of service at the Lotus Village.”
Bailly has had to work quickly to fit these immersive classes into an online environment due to the transition to remote learning. The result? By using blogs, photos and even poetry, he and his teaching assistants Sofia Guerra, Marco Linares, Natalie Mateo, Maria Carla Robaina and Nicolette Roe have created self-guided virtual tours for students to experience these environments from their homes.
Bailly says: “For my entire life, whenever I go to a new city, I have always bought every guidebook available—especially nontraditional ones. I've walked Paris from west to east and north to south with French hiking books. I've looked for minute details on buildings in Venice while reading a local's chaotic notes. I've entered dark corridors in convents to buy cookies in Madrid at the behest of a guidebook even though it seemed crazy.”
Every semester, Bailly strives to achieve and encourage these moments of impromptu discovery through his class tours. Even now, despite transitioning to online learning, he is intentional in creating these special exploratory experiences for his students in his virtual tours.
“My objective for self-guided virtual walking tours is to provide students with a similar experience in a moment when visiting the sites is not possible…. My Deering Estate tour actually leads students through mangroves to a plane crash and down into solution holes. My South Beach Tour leads students down an alley to discover art and poetry,” he adds.
The students have been receptive to the change and are grateful that their classes can continue online.
“Going online is especially tough for us considering the adventurous nature of the classes. Even so, the feedback has been very positive—my students love them,” Bailly says.
His students have also suggested that videos will enhance the experience, and while that is currently hard to achieve, Bailly hopes to be able to provide them for classes in the future.
“The ultimate goal is for students to have access to the walking tours once we can all move about again. And, eventually, they will be able to recreate my lecture with peers, friends and families because they'll have it on their phone.”
To encourage group participation and human connection in this transition, Bailly’s Honors College students are creating online blogs of their experiences to share with fellow peers. These blogs are available for the community to read. You can also participate in the self-guided virtual walking tours.