Bridging the Gap: Turning Face to Face into a Synchronous Distance Learning Language Class

classroom at Yale

Please note: These notes are a summary of the keynote session presented by Chrissy Hosea of the USA at the recent Perfecting the Blend Conference at Mt Clear, Victoria, Australia

Chrissy Hosea teaches Dutch over three campuses at university level in USA

  • Students meet in a classroom on a campus at a designated time, 5 x 50 mins per week
  • The Instructor is positioned @ Yale
  • A student assistant is placed with the class in the distant campuses

Project background

  • How not to lose teaching style!
  • Classroom interaction is important

Role of student assistant

  • Setting up classroom
  • Turn on and check the work stations
  • Print and distribute handouts etc
  •  Minor technical troubleshooting
  • Administer quizzes
  • Instruct class in case of emergence
  • Help with promotion/Dutch events
  • Petest new exs/software
  • Give me feedback on class – using google document Most has something to do with technical issues, kids who aren’t in class, something happens, takes attendance. Groups and who is working with whom.

Important Tips

  • Backup plan for videos and worksheets so that people are occupied for when technology fails.
  • Positioning of room – important that all students can see each other all of the time – need to feel part of the class all the time.
  • Most important in languages is communication – need to practise their speaking with communication, therefore needing as much interaction as possible. What are my teaching principles – what do I do in a classroom.

Teaching Principles

  • Students feel safe and comfortable (many feel inadequate cos new to the language)Polycom Video Conferencing Equipment (VC) has  very good audio and video quality. All participants can see and hear each other at all times, therefore relationship with far-site students can be established thru common experiences. Instructor can manipulate camera view. Choose what do I want them to show them my screen or choose what they see.
  • Language input is to be current, rich (preferably authentic) and relevant to the students
  • Students speaking time is maximized
  • Classroom activities are stimulating and engaging – kinda forget you are learning but helps you learn more
  • Students engage in meaningful communication

How can this be achieved – videoconferencing  technology for classroom acitvities and web conferencing technology for group/pair work eg skype, gmail chat etc

Seeing students are not sharing one physical space how to guarantee

  • Students feeling part of the same class and both locations share similar class experience
  • All students speaking as much as possible in meaningful communicative tasks
  • Activities that are inherently interactive

Group work

  • Students need to know and trust each other, therefore they need to talk to ea other and work together
  • All feel equally part of the class

How to achieve this…

  • Student speaking time is maximized
  • Use group and pair work when possible
  • Classroom activities are simulating and engaging.
  • Need interactive games and activities
  • Collborative writing ex – write a story together. Eg

Once upon a time….. There was a class…..  of Dutch students… Where?…. In Ithaca NY

Connect with remote students

  • Assure similar classroom experience for all students (try and step into their world eg share what happens on campus so part of the conversation0
  • Refer to events happening on the remote campus
  • Have (obligatory) online office hours
  • Conduct remote campus visit
  • Have students work together in as many ways as possible (in class, online: blogs, shared documents)
  • Have remote visits if possible.

Also online – student blogs – choose own topics eg own foods. Get students to read each other blogs and comment on each others.

Compile work lists – all have to do 10 words, get translation, etc in google docs

Try and visit students 1 or twice per year. (For Chrissy this is a 5 hour drive but have f2f classes so difficult to do).

Student feedback


  • Less contact with instructor
  • Self-conscious w camera
  • If talk softly people cannot hear you
  • Technical problems are frustrated, difficulty reading monitor or hearing others

Agreed that

  • Class was similar to a f2f class
  • Would recommend it to others


  • One way of doing distance learning
  • Limited scalability
  • Complicated logistis (schedules, breaks, credits, registration)
  • Possibility of technical difficulties
  • Big time commitment for instructor (training, developing courses)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s