J-WEL Connections October 2020 Recap: “Activating the Ecosystem to Reimagine Education" | MIT J-WEL

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J-WEL Connections October 2020 Recap: “Activating the Ecosystem to Reimagine Education"

participant screenshotOn October 5 - UNESCO World Teachers’ Day - the J-WEL Community kicked off our second J-WEL Connections virtual event, with the theme “Activating the Ecosystem to Reimagine Education.” Through more than 80 sessions and across four weeks, Connections explored the ways in which our members have sought to serve their students and employees amidst the challenges of the pandemic, and set the stage for new approaches to learning and training in the post-Covid era.

How to Connect: The Approach 

The event’s highly interactive sessions aimed to spark cross-collaboration across pK-12, Higher Education, and Workforce Learning. Over a four-week period, 221 participants from 33 countries—from Mongolia to Belize to South Africa—attended sessions, with keynotes including:

  • “Grasp: The Science Transforming How We Learn” (MIT Vice President for Open Learning Professor Sanjay Sarma)
  • “Covid Chaos: Impacts to the Education Ecosystem” (the Honorable Jane Swift, Former Governor of Massachusetts) 
  • “Roadmap to Recovery: Shaping the Future of Work in a Post-Covid World” (MIT Professor Tom Kochan) 

    country map

Makeup of the Event: First Respond, then Reimagine

The first two weeks of Connections focused on responses to the challenges generated and surfaced by the pandemic. J-WEL members participated in thematic conversations around policy; mental health and community; teaching, learning and assessment; and equity, with both J-WEL member organizations and MIT experts presenting their approaches to “Fostering a More Equitable Campus.” 

Participants also shared how educational issues are uniquely impacting their local contexts in “Regional Spotlights” on Africa, Asia, Latin America/the Caribbean, and MENA/Europe. J-WEL members created “Covid Response Videos,” and participants learned how their colleagues’ institutions have responded to the pandemic internationally, from the Universidad de Montevideo in Uruguay to the HsuanHuai Institute in China and the Davidson Academy in the United States. 

zoom screenshot In line with the participatory design approach of Connections, Weeks 3 and 4 of Connections made use of charrettes to address not only the current challenges facing our community, but the futures we wish to make a reality for learners everywhere. The charrettes engaged the J-WEL community in a member-wide dialogue to identify exciting, cross-member projects that foster collaboration on ideas to move forward, and to determine areas of priority and direction for the J-WEL community.

In essence, a charrette is a structured brainstorming session. These exercises allowed participants to ideate on reimagined solutions while incorporating diverse insight and expertise from both MIT subject matter experts and the international J-WEL community. 

J-WEL members who were unable to attend the event will be able to access session recordings in the coming weeks. In the mean time, you are welcome to view our publicly available session, "The Undervalued Currency of Culture in Higher Education."


  • Top: Connections participants pose for a group "photo" during the opening session
  • Middle: J-WEL Connections 2020 Participant Map
  • Bottom: Chun Lung Alex Wong, Assistant Vice Principal at St. Paul's College in Hong Kong, presents his charrette team's idea for a Global Educators' Network App during Connections' closing session.