Schoolcraft College math professor Rujuta Joshi on transitioning to distance learning and supporting the arts

Schoolcraft College math professor Rujuta Joshi on transitioning to distance learning and supporting the arts

Joshi says music is a key avenue for being active in the Indian community.

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This post is sponsored by Schoolcraft College.

Rujuta Joshi is a multitalented and vital member of the community. A professor in the mathematics department at Schoolcraft College, she explains how she kept her students engaged when the school was forced to adopt distance learning (online) methods because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Further, Rujuta is an accomplished singer who actively shares her talents across a wide range of music programs, including her Koojun Music Academy. For Rujuta, music is a key avenue for sharing Indian culture and being active in the Indian community.

What is your title and what courses do you teach?

Rujuta Joshi: My title is Part-time Instructor in the Mathematics department at Schoolcraft College. For the Winter 2020 term, I taught Math 113 (Intermediate Algebra). In the past, I taught Math 126 (College Algebra), Math 53 (Beginning Algebra), Math 47 (Pre-Algebra), and Math 45 (Beginning Mathematics). I have been teaching at Schoolcraft College since the fall of 2016.

During “normal” times, how would you describe your teaching style?

RJ: I have a very hands-on approach when it comes to teaching. I make sure that every student has the tools and resources they need from me to ensure that they have a successful and rich learning experience while taking my courses. The students learn in different ways. Therefore, I try to make them understand the concepts by giving different examples on how to remember key concepts.

I show them different ways to solve problems and encourage them to use alternate strategies that they have learned in the past. I provide personal attention to students and provide one-on-one support and guidance where needed.

I care about each and every student. I believe that it is my responsibility as a teacher to create an environment where the students are actively engaged and interested in learning more, whether it is through math or music.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Schoolcraft College had to transition from traditional, face-to-face classes to distance learning formats almost overnight. What were the main challenges you faced?

RJ: During the spring and summer of 2019, I took two distance learning classes: how to teach and develop distance learning. I heard that these classes were intense, but I accepted the challenge and completed the course at the top of the class in the 98th percentile. This certification gave me a different perspective to my teaching style. I applied different techniques taught in these two classes.

Due to COVID–19, we transitioned from traditional to an online setting overnight and adapting to those circumstances was challenging at first.

As an instructor, the major challenge for me was to make this transition as smooth as possible since the students were used to my teaching style for the traditional environment for the first eight weeks of the semester.

Many students were not comfortable of this change due to various reasons: anxiety of the unknown, not been able to communicate face-to-face with me, internet issues, and most importantly, the change that we were forced to adapt due to the current situation on short notice.

Although there were some bumps along the way, overall, the transition seems to have been very smooth considering the circumstances. Do you agree?

RJ: The transition from traditional classes to online was very smooth for me. I invested a lot of time adapting to this new transition so that it would be in line with my teaching style by practicing on the whiteboard in BlackBoard Collaborate (an internal Schoolcraft College tool), creating practice exams and spending weekends making sure that most glitches were resolved. The Distance Learning classes I took earlier helped me. It gave me hands-on training to apply these practices right away. Schoolcraft administration had also been very supportive and kept us informed of all the activities and actions, thus making the process smoother.

How important has the attitude of the students been in this process? Even though the instructor and the student are farther apart in terms of distance, have they, in a sense, grown closer?

RJ: Many students register for traditional classes only because they like the rapport with the instructor. Students had to invest in these classes as they were not used to the platform, and also not meeting face to face for class. I made sure that the students didn’t feel this void by making the online experience an almost “live class” type experience.

They could ask questions, interact with me, and see me by attending the lectures using BlackBoard Collaborate. Therefore, after couple of online lectures, the students were comfortable using BlackBoard Collaborate to the point that they told me they were happy since they didn’t have to travel to class. Because we could communicate and see each other, the distance was not a problem and we became closer as a class.

You also are extremely active and accomplished in the music arts. Please tell us about that.

RJ: My music journey started when I was very young. My mom was a great singer and my dad was a stage actor in addition to professional jobs. I became intrigued and started to learn Indian Classical Vocal music with the support from my parents. Since they wanted me to focus on education by keeping singing as my hobby, I went on to achieve a Master’s degree in Math from University of Bombay and a Bachelor’s Degree in Music from Akhil Bharatiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya, Bombay.

I was born and brought up in Bombay (Mumbai). While learning Indian Classical music, I used to regularly perform in music programs in Bombay, India. I migrated to the United States in 1989 and continued performing regularly in music programs in the United States.

I am actively involved in supporting many charitable organizations by raising money through music programs. I have performed in more than 100 music programs. I have also performed with Michigan Philharmonic orchestra in many programs.

Rujuta Joshi of Schoolcraft College
Joshi singing at a fundraising event with the Michigan Philharmonic.

I started teaching Indian Classical music soon after coming to the United States. Through teaching music, I gained significant experience on how to teach students of different levels. I founded a music institution called Koojun Music Academy (Koojun means “sweet singing”) (www.koojunmusic.com) where the students of ages 7 years to 70 years learn the basics of singing, voice culture, Indian Classical music, semi-classical music, light music, bhajans and Bollywood music. All my students are given the opportunity to perform for audiences ranging from 100 to 750 people.

Through these programs, our main focus is to raise money for non-profit organizations. In 2018, the students of Koojun Music Academy raised $1,000 for Schoolcraft College Food Pantry, which helps students with food insecurity.

Koojun Music Academy is affiliated with the prestigious Akhil Bhartiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal (ABGMVM) of India. Koojun Music Academy is also one of the few approved Examination Centers in the United States for Akhil Bhartiya Gandharva Mahavidyalaya Mandal for Vocal, Instrumental Music and Dance. So far, over 600 students have taken the exams through this center. Given my experience with music, I was inspired to publish a book called “The Theory of North Indian Classical Music” for those who want to learn the basics of Hindustani Classical Music as well as to increase the appreciation of music. This book is used by many music schools in the United States.

Rujuta Joshi of Schoolcraft College
Joshi’s book, The Theory of North Indian Classical Music, is used by many music schools in the United States.

Who or what inspires you?

RJ: Family has played an important part in my life. Along with all my Gurus, my family – my parents, my children, and sisters – have been my inspiration to motivate me through my musical journey.

Rujuta Joshi of Schoolcraft College
Joshi and family.
Joshi, left, with her sisters.

Your colleagues at Schoolcraft College have mentioned the great success with your YouTube channel. Please tell us about this.

RJ: I wanted to share my knowledge not only with music enthusiasts, but with those who want to learn more in the subject of Indian Classical Music. I wanted to educate in a fun, simplistic way. Therefore, I created my own YouTube Channel called “Raag & Rhythm with Rujuta” with the intension of making it accessible for generations to come. This channel includes a series of episodes. In each episode, you get some basic information about the Indian Classical Raag and Rhythm with some examples of songs based on that Raag and Rhythm.

How do you stay active in the Indian community?

RJ: One of the ways in which I stay active in the Indian community is through music! Through music programs, we support and raise money for various non-profit organizations who provide free treatment to patients through their free clinic, work for under-privileged children, battered women, as well as for various temples.

By teaching music, I try to keep Indian culture alive for the next generation. I have organized many musical shows for the youth of the Indian community through my music academy and I have also conducted summer camps for Music in the past.

I have served on various Boards and cultural committees on a volunteer basis:

  • Maharashtra Mandal of Detroit (Entertainment Chairperson)
  • The Bharatiya Temple, Troy (Cultural Committee Chairperson) and have organized 12 programs per year for 2 years
  • Geetmala Foundation of Michigan

I also hold a prayer at a local temple every month. In this gathering, we pray to create positive energy. I enjoy spending time and volunteering at our local temples.

What is the most valuable aspect about being a part of the Indian community?

RJ: An important aspect of being a part of the Indian community is the importance of family. We celebrate all the family occasions and also various festivals of India.

What’s your favorite activity?

RJ: Listening to music and singing is my favorite activity.

Is there anything else you’d like to add that we didn’t ask you about?

RJ: I have a keen interest in religious books, astrology, photography and painting. I am certified in 2nd Degree of Reiki.

My son is a Fellow in Actuarial Science and works for an insurance company. My daughter-in-law went to law school at University of Wisconsin-Madison and works for a telecom company. My daughter works for a consumer goods company as a Marketing Analyst. She also holds a bachelor’s degree in music and a 2ndDegree Black Belt. All three of them are Michigan State graduates.

Note: For an upcoming sponsored post in The Indian SCENE, Schoolcraft College wants to connect with Guest Students, who are students who attend or attended a four-year school but also took courses at Schoolcraft College. We want to hear your story! If interested, please send an email to jmajeske@schoolcraft.edu. Thanks!

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