Autumn is always an exciting time of year in education. We are on the verge of starting a new academic at UManresa and with it comes eagerness, expectations and nerves. As we continue to live through the Covid-19 pandemic, this year also brings a number of uncertainties, the most prominent being, will we have to learn online again?
UManresa has a protocol to ensure everyone on campus stays safe under the current circumstances. Numerous health professionals have advised the top three steps we can take to mitigate the spread of Covid-19: wash hands, wear a mask and socially distance yourself from your peers. The Servei d’Idiomes is no exception, and our goal is to offer uninterrupted service throughout the course.
However, as the Head of the Modern Languages department, I saw that students had a difficult time adjusting to online learning. I admit, it was a stressful time for both faculty and students. We all had to adapt to technologies that we may not have been familiar with. Learning seemed slower, classes were different, some just didn’t like it.
Which brings me to one of the most important factors in language learning: interaction. Afterall, what is language for but to express yourself to others and to learn what they think or feel? Onsite courses make this interaction easier, but should there be a time when one or more student may need to self-isolate or even the teacher may be under stay-at-home orders, interaction does not need to stop. A few ideas we have are:
1) Video-conferencing: My 83-year-old mother has learned how to use Zoom in order to keep in touch with friends from her church. If she can do it, so can we. If onsite classes become unavailable, video-conferencing will be the most useful tool to continuing your language lessons. The Servei d’Idiomes will ensure that students receive all the information necessary for students to join a meeting.
2) Whatsapp audio messages: Practice speaking by sending audio recorded messages to your classmates or teacher. It’s not the same as a conversation, but we often use it for our friends. Why not use it for learning as well?
3) Email and text messages: Writing is also interaction. It’s much slower than a video-conference call, but thanks to email and text messaging, it’s instantaneous and fun. How many times have you had a text messaging conversation with a friend when the same conversation could have been had in a spoken phone call?
4) Forums on your Moodle: If you don’t want to give out your personal phone number or email address, you can always take advantage of your Moodle (aula virtual). You can take advantage of the forum to communicate with all of your classmates and your teacher at once. Afterall, it IS your virtual CLASSROOM.
Yes, the interaction may feel different, strange and even awkward, but there will always be interaction between you, your classmates and your teacher. Throughout the 2020-2021 year, you will still have this essential part of language learning.
Therefore, let’s enjoy this fresh start to a new school year and rest assured that we will continue to provide the optimum learning experience regardless of the public health situation.
Wishing you a safe and enjoyable year at UManresa,
Nancy Lee, Head of the School of Modern Languages