Reinventing “ITU Presents”

Written by Harshitha Mudduluru

October 13, 2020


“ITU Presents” returns this Summer 2020 with an introductory reduced price of 50% off. Students can enjoy ITU’s “TED-Talk” style series while earning their degree credit. You may wonder, what does this “return” mean to you as students? This return doesn’t simply mean a repeat, rather, it is an upgraded version of a speaker-based series, following three guiding principles:

  1. It traces back to its root calling of how the ITU founder, Professor Shu-Park Chan, started this class as a “Joint Seminar”, which means famous local experts and technologists joined with ITU students to share their life experiences.
  2. It is developed as an anchor course for an exciting new ITU Nugget Structure Curriculum, which is specifically designed to foster Silicon Valley Industry participation at ITU, and
  3. It embraces the trend of Edutainment (Education + Entertainment), which is enabled by the new streaming technologies.

In order to make this return a success, we have carefully deployed each principle with designs and features.

Principle-1: Tracing back to its Root Calling
ITU President and CEO, Yau-Gene Chan, has a special personal bond to this class. “ITU Presents,” formerly “Joint Seminar,” was created and first taught by ITU’s Founder, his late father Professor Shu-Park Chan. Prof. Chan invited guest speakers, typically Silicon Valley industry leaders, to speak on topics of their personal interests followed by a Q&A session with ITU students.

Historically, ITU Presents remained the favorite and reportedly “most useful” class of ITU alumni, giving ITU students the ability to listen to real-life experiences of famous thought leaders and technologists. These experts often shared personal stories of their early career struggles, strategies, and successes.

We will stick to three key features for how it was taught originally. The new version has some updated designs for delivery and effectiveness:

  1. It will be taught jointly by faculty and external experts. In this case, while our President Chan will be closely involved with each talk, interacting with students and guest speakers, he will delegate the day-to-day design and running of this class.
  2. Guest speakers will be famous technologists from hot Silicon Valley Industries such as Blockchain, Fintech, AI & Machine Learning, Big Data, Medtech, Biotech, Cybersecurity, and Internet of Things. This becomes a good platform for us to establish and build an ITU + Silicon Valley Expert Network. And these speakers could become a link to your next good opportunities.
  3. Guest speakers’ real-life experiences with early career struggles, strategies, and achievements, help us all relate and share how they struggled too when they first started their careers. As successful living role models, you’ll see a whole person, not just someone from books or news!

Now, the torch has passed on to a new generation. While it is important to be grounded in its root calling, it is also critical for ITU to keep it fresh and relevant in our “Innovating Education” initiative — we are in the process of piloting and implementing ITU’s new Nugget Structure Curriculum. This leads to our second principle.

Principle-2: Developing an Anchor Course for the new ITU Nugget Structure Curriculum
ITU has made some exciting new changes in its curriculum structure, specifically to foster Silicon Valley industry participation with ITU students.

Starting this Summer term we are piloting a new modular offering called “Nugget” courses. ITU Nuggets are essentially a shortened version of our typical classes, but instead of being 45 lecture hours, a Nugget can be as few as 5 lecture hours, which allows ITU’s offering to be developed at the speed of Silicon Valley Innovation.

As the anchor course in the Nugget Structure Curriculum, “ITU Presents” mixes students of all majors together, so they can interact with fellow classmates from other fields of study, on an ongoing basis. Additionally, the course encourages higher industry participation and entrepreneurship for students at ITU. The “ITU Presents” course is 1 unit in total, and is offered over three terms with 1/3 unit per term — this means it will take three terms to finish this course.

You may ask: “What is the benefit of developing “ITU Presents” as three Nugget courses? Why is it offered as a 1/3-unit Nugget course over three terms instead of a regular 1-unit course in one term?” The short answer is: we want students to experience joy, not a burden when taking the class. But here are the three more reasons:

  1. We want to create a valuable experience for students to enjoy the Nugget course benefits. A regular 1-unit course requires 15 lecture hours, which means students need to take the course weekly in a 15-week trimester — this weekly schedule may create extra stress for students when it becomes a required class for all degree programs in Fall. That is why a regular 1-unit course is divided into three smaller 1/3-unit Nugget courses.
  2. This course is designed to accommodate busy schedules. As a 1/3-unit Nugget course is taught for five (5) lecture hours in a trimester, students only watch a speaker and participate in class activities every three weeks (as shown in the timetable below). Furthermore, the class is on Saturdays from 6 to 8 pm with light meals offered* — this is important if students need to travel to take weekend classes on campus.
    T1: 5/16 T2: 6/6 T3: 6/27 T4: 7/18 T5: 8/8
    w1 w2 w3 w4 w5 w6 w7 w8 w9 w10 w11 w12 w13 w14 w15

    Summer 2020 Schedule Illustration: 5 talks out of a 15-week trimester

  3. As a result, this class creates a great opportunity to mix students of all majors together over a span of three trimesters — long enough to allow for social connection and networking among students from all degree programs. It provides on-going interaction among top ITU leadership, faculty, students and industry innovators.

Besides accommodating students’ schedules, we also want to create an engaged or “hooked” experience that students would go through in case they miss a talk — similar to missing a TV series episode. This leads to our last principle: embracing the trend of “Edutainment”.

Principle-3: Embracing the Trend of “Edutainment”
Many institutions may be challenged by these questions: with so many outside presentations, seminars, and webinars — how can we attract audiences to our events? However, many people are still subscribing to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Apple streaming services for entertainment. Can we learn from the entertainment industry to attract audiences? Can this series be educational as well as entertaining?

With these questions in mind, we apply an important Chinese philosophy “Learning by Playing”, which is equivalent to “Edutainment”. Simply put, ITU Presents is “Silicon Valley Tech Talk” + “Networking”. Again, here are three features:

  1. This class is a series of talks on topics that are authentic to Silicon Valley innovative culture, so that students can enjoy a “TED-Talk” style series while earning their degree credit. For example, the series may include: Entrepreneurship, Innovations in Silicon Valley, Emerging Technologies, and Silicon Valley Legends. This Summer we get started with the series of “Emerging Technologies”. The schedule is from 6 to 8 pm on Saturdays — this gives students a sense of TV episodes that they can enjoy on weekends, which also helps avoid fighting rush-hour traffic during the weekly schedule.
  2. The “TED-Talk” style of series will include specifically designed assignments and evaluation so that this class complies with WASC credit hour requirements. According to the requirements, for each lecture hour there are at least two hours of out-of-class assignments. Accordingly this class includes two types of assignments: 1) one online discussion is assigned for each talk — this will allow students to dive into the topic and interact with each other further after each talk, and 2) a final report is required for each student to submit as a signature assignment — this allows students to put the five (5) talks together and frame it into an in-depth cohesive report.
  3. This class also aims to cultivate Silicon Valley Innovative Culture worldwide using live-streaming technologies. Edutainment is not new, but it has recently become affordable for institutions. Popular social media platforms, such as YouTube and Facebook, enable institutions to live stream their events without using a big production team. With live streaming, we will eventually distribute the talks to more audiences throughout the world using the video platforms — imagine how exciting it will be for people to have an immersive educational talk, live from Silicon Valley. We believe the potential impact in China and other parts of the world will, in turn, help us to invite more influential speakers in Silicon Valley.

As what our President Chan envisions, the series may eventually include a ticket price for external audiences, when we reach out to audiences worldwide. We aim to spread our unique mission to more students with this valuable course and build up our “fan base” in terms of edutainment — this is an important part of Reinventing “ITU Presents”!

Finally, you may ask, “Should I take this Nugget course?” Yes, you should take it, especially if you are in your second term this Summer. Once you take this Nugget course this Summer, you will be qualified to switch to the new Nugget Structure Curriculum this Fall — remember, it takes three terms to finish the required “ITU Presents” course in the new curriculum.

However, this may lead to another question for you, “Why should I switch to the new curriculum this Fall if I can continue with my current curriculum without taking this Nugget course?” Again, the short answer is, the new curriculum will provide new flexibility and opportunities for you to take Nugget courses and Internships. If you want to learn more about it, stay tuned — we will have more announcements and promotional material for it.

With that, please join us this Summer and enjoy ITU’s “TED-Talk” style series while earning your degree credit!

* Note:

  • This class is scheduled from 6 to 8 pm on Saturdays for five times per 15-week trimester. Although each talk is scheduled for two hours, only one lecture hour is counted for each talk as the format of the talk is “TED Talk Style Lecture” + “Networking”.
  • Because of the “shelter in place” policy, we will offer this class online in Zoom meetings until we can move back on campus again.

Dr. Michelle Liang
ITU Faculty, Project Manager and SGA Advisor
April 27, 2020

Editor’s note: Contact the author at if you have questions.

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