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COLUMBUS, Miss.-- Erinn Holloway understands the challenges.

As a Spanish instructor at Mississippi University for Women, Holloway knows students have grown accustomed to learning a new language face to face with a professor in a classroom. But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced teachers and students throughout the world to make changes.

Holloway feels the chance to implement new teaching methods in the spring and summer has prepared her to meet the needs of students for the fall 2020 semester.

“I prefer to be in front of the students every day, but since this will be a little challenging this semester, I am going to try to convey this enthusiasm during our weekly small group sessions and to include as much authentic material for them to work with during the rest of the time,” said Holloway, who also is the coordinator for The W’s Study Abroad Programs.

The W’s Campus Renewal Plan extended the period of time for students to move into on-campus housing. The process will begin today (Wednesday) and will end Sunday. Classes will begin Monday, Aug. 17, so instruction and final examinations can end before the Thanksgiving holiday. As a result, there will be no Fall Break.

Classes will be offered in-person, online (mainly asynchronous, but some synchronous) and in hybrid formats to allow flexibility for remote learning when needed, including the possibility of fully online semester if it is necessary. Synchronous learning is online or distance education that happens in real time, while asynchronous learning occurs through online channels without real-time interaction.

Holloway taught synchronously at the end of last spring and during the summer, when classes were held online. The summer classes, which met twice a week for four hours, were easier to teach using this method because she only had nine students in the course. In the fall, she will have about 20 students in both Spanish I courses, so she will divide the students into small groups that will meet once a week to practice speaking Spanish. Before the class meets, she said students will be given a packet or communicative activities to review and that those items will be used to practice Spanish. On the other days, students will focus on writing and reading, grammar exercises, vocabulary and cultural activities.

“Teaching a language online is very challenging,” Holloway said. “In the face-to-face courses, I facilitate a lot of pair/group work activity. In the online course, this is a little more challenging to do in real time. I usually address this issue by me being the partner for the entire class and the students taking turns asking and answering questions.”

Holloway said teaching during a pandemic is an opportunity to try different programs or services that can enhance their objectives, like the program TalkAbroad, which allows student to speak with native speakers in a safe atmosphere thus reducing the stress that can be associated with language production. Holloway said students will schedule conversations with native speakers who are available at the time our students choose. She learned about the program a few years ago when the director reached out to her to demo it.

Holloway said she has had positive results using TalkAbroad in her upper level course. She said the students’ sessions with native speakers are recorded so she can review them and ensure students have covered the required material. Holloway said the textbook she uses in her classes also has an online program that has many oral activities where students can record themselves and compare their pronunciation to that of native speakers. 


Aug. 12, 2020
Contact: Adam Minichino
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