Slowly but surely, universities in the US are ceding to the inevitable, reversing their rose-tinted reopening plans, and committing to fully or almost fully online Fall semesters. My own institution made its announcement on Wednesday of this week, although the writing had been on the virtual wall for several days.
To be clear, it’s the right decision, and I applaud the university for its courage and support for the faculty. Given the country’s abysmal failure to contain the coronavirus and the overwhelming evidence of the personal and public health risks of Covid-19, it would be a catastrophe to allow hundreds of thousands of students to travel or commute to colleges, live in dorms (or take the virus home with them), and spend hours a day in poorly ventilated classrooms, not to mention gymnasiums, dining halls, fraternity houses, bars, libraries, or wherever students spend their free time. No, thanks.
So, we have five weeks until Sep 1, the first day of our Fall classes. That’s not a long time, but it’s enough to make the semester better than spring and summer. In many ways, we’ve been working towards high-quality online classes every day since mid-March, but it’s clear that students have a right to expect effective, planned, and coherent courses, not “Zoom University.” We can’t pretend that we’re still in “crisis mode” next semester.
Continue reading “It’s not too late to plan for an online Fall!”
When my eldest son was 5, he participated in the North Brandywine Swim League (go Sharks!). This involved the rest of us sitting by the side of local pools for many hours waiting for the highlight of our summer evenings, the under-7 backstroke, or as I called it, synchronized drowning. Twenty yards of tense excitement (for the lifeguards).
Over on Twitter, our British and Canadian #tleap (teaching/learning English for academic purposes) colleagues have shortened synchronous online teaching to synchro, and it’s hard not to think of synchronized swimming. Or possibly drowning.
Synchronous instruction is a mode of online teaching in which students are present “live” at the same time in the same virtual space, usually with the teacher, which for us now means a Zoom class.
Continue reading “Synchronized swimming (or drowning)?”
The usual dumpster fire of news was quenched slightly this week by this announcement: CBS Will Replace This Year’s Tony Awards With a Grease Sing-Along.
(Fun fact: I stage managed St Catharine’s College’s one-day only May Week production of Grease in 1997 at the West Road Concert Hall in Cambridge, in which we used a motorbike as “Greased Lightening.” I had to bring a fire extinguisher on stage and try not to make it too conspicuous because fire regulations.)
Anyway, it struck me that the substitution of a Grease sing-along for the Tony Awards is an apt metaphor for online ESL teaching. You have questions? I thought so. In the remainder of this post, Grease Sing-Along will mean new online ESL classes, while the Tony Awards refers to traditional face-to-face ESL classes. Continue reading “Broadway metaphors for online teaching”
Soon after we started teaching remotely at the UD English Language Institute, we learned that we wouldn’t be going back into the classroom this summer, and many students will continue to take our courses online for longer than that because we don’t know when international students will be admitted to the US, nor when they will feel safe enough to try. So we wanted to know more about the students’ experience of our remote classes.
We conducted an online survey in our intensive English program with three simple open-ended questions: Continue reading “Remote Learning: What students told us”
We’ve survived a month of remote teaching via Zoom, and we have a week to breath before the next session starts. So, I thought I’d share some Zoom humor, or Zoomor, if you like.
When we make Zoom recordings, our classroom capture system attempts to transcribe it automatically. Unfortunately, the technology can’t quite keep up with my accent or speed of delivery or … something, and the results are often bizarre. Here then is a compilation of greatest hits from the last month. The excerpts are unedited and all come from me (not my students). I have rearranged them and added fictitious time stamps and speech prefixes. Prizes for anyone who can guess what I teach. One hint, my course is called Grad VI (read “grad six”), Listening/Speaking for Graduate Students.
Enjoy. Continue reading “Typical Zoom lesson (transcript)”
Just a quick note to let you know that many of my books are available in electronic format for online teaching, learning, and study:
Don’t hesitate to contact me if I can help you get access to my materials! Good luck out there.
In my last post, about a century and a half ago (OK, two and a half weeks), I described how we took the English Language Institute at the University of Delaware online in ten days. Now we’ve finished three weeks of remote instruction, how’s it going?
Which, all in all, is pretty good. Continue reading “Keeping our distance: What we did next”
As intensive English programs like ours are shifting from face-to-face to remote and online classes around the world, I thought it would be useful (if only for posterity!) to document what we have done at the University of Delaware English Language Institute.
My view is largely of the academic side. There is a whole complex layer of administration and student support going on as well, where my colleagues have moved mountains to recreate advising, tutoring, registrar services, and extracurricular activities for the coronavirus universe. But in terms of teaching and learning, these have been our steps so far, forming a rough timeline of a very rough time. Continue reading “Going live: What we did and how we did it”
They said keep a journal … yeah, that’s not going to happen, but I am happy to share two documents I created as part of training the English Language Institute faculty to move to remote instruction as our campus rapidly shut down in the last few days due to the spread of the novel coronavirus. I presented these as part of hours of in-person and (later) online workshops and demonstrations spread over 3 slightly hectic days.
We decided to limit our technology to platforms licensed and supported by the University which we felt gave the biggest return on the investment of time without making excessive demands on faculty who are less comfortable with technology. So we’re primarily using Zoom for “live” teaching, and Canvas (our LMS) and GoogleApps for those feeling a bit more adventurous.
These Google Docs are licensed with Creative Commons so you can copy, adapt, and share them. Hope they’re useful to other programs living through these challenging times!
I was inspired by Rachael Cayley’s excellent plenary at the Consortium on Graduate Communication’s Summer Institute last year to post more about successful lessons on my blog. So here goes … My annual summer gig for the last 8 years has been to teach a Second Language Acquisition course for Delaware K-12 teachers. Our state has seen a dramatic increase in the number of English learners, who now account for almost 9% of total public school enrollment. However, we have a critical shortage of certified ESL teachers, which we have tried to address in part through the University of Delaware’s Additional Certification in ESL program, which I created and coordinate. Our strategy is to train as many existing teachers as possible in the theory and methods of ESL teaching so that they can not only support ELs directly but also disseminate their expertise in their schools.
Which brings me to last Monday and the first day of the 2019 course in Dover.* Continue reading “New Language Immersion Experience”