Rafa Lombardino, PLD Blog Editor
We all had to adapt during the global pandemic. Still, students are among those who had to drastically change their routines in order to continue making progress in their studies. This change applies to elementary and high school kids, as well as college students and those working towards a T&I degree or professional certificate.
We interviewed some translation and interpretation instructors to learn how they have continued to support their students in the epoch of COVID-19.
I have been teaching translation online since 2009. After working with New York University (NYU) and the University of Denver (DU), I’m currently an instructor at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies (MIIS) at Monterey. I teach Portuguese Translation, and my classes were already online before COVID-19. There were some hybrid classes at MIIS, with face-to-face meetings, but that’s no longer the case. My classes are live. They may be recorded if a student will miss a session, but they are not pre-recorded.
I didn’t have to change anything since social isolation went into effect. Students in my class were already learning Portuguese Translation online, but I guess what they had to adapt to was doing everything online. It’s a bit of a challenge, considering the number of hours they have to be looking at a computer screen, because all other interactions have gone online, including deliberate practice sessions and group projects.
MIIS has been extremely generous in offering platforms and tools to instructors so that we could continue teaching online. They have also been very gracious in offering support and onboarding faculty that may not have had the same online teaching experiences that I’ve been enjoying for years. There have been brainstorming sessions and training classes for instructors to adapt to different solutions, and I’m very grateful for that because I was able to learn some new tricks during this process as well.
I guess the main challenge we all have right now is at the human level. There is a lot of doom and gloom in the media, and there’s this little dark cloud hanging over everybody’s heads. There’s a lot of uncertainty in the air… The economy is suffering… People are suffering… I think all that has a tremendous impact on people’s openness and availability to learn. Stress levels have gone through the roof! So, I think it’s important not to minimize that. We must acknowledge it as a learning challenge, even if students already handled technology very well. Recognizing the emotional factor is very important right now.
I’ve been teaching, off and on, for over 30 years. I teach some language classes at the City University of Seattle, which were all in-person sessions. I also teach T&I classes as part of the two-year certificate program at Bellevue College, which went online in the fall of 2018. I teach Introduction to Translation and Interpretation, Ethics of Translation and Interpretation, as well as Technology for Translations and Interpreters.
I had to adapt the entirety of my language classes to the online environment. I believe there are many more pieces to the puzzle when it comes to teaching online. You have to deal with a lot more technology, not just in the sense of delivering and retrieving the content, but also in how to keep students engaged, how to assess their performance, collaboration, motivation…
As for my T&I Technology class, I had to adapt from a hybrid class to a fully synchronous class. Luckily, for me, transitioning into teaching online was not much of a shock, since it was part of my training when I got my Master’s in Education in 2002. I was also lucky enough to do a practicum on teaching other teachers to transition from classroom to online teaching. Of course, a lot has changed since then, because online teaching was in its primordial stages in the early 2000s. Today, everything is much more advanced and continues to change at lightspeed.
As for my students, it was and continues to be a challenge due to the generation gap. I have older students who are struggling with technology, and it creates stress and anxiety for them, which in turn impedes their learning and progress. The other issue I see is with internet connections. Some of my students live in remote areas and have a poor connection. Hence, most of the time, they have to participate using audio online, which makes it more challenging because they can’t see the slides and other visual materials being used, nor can they see the other students. I believe they can feel overly isolated at times.
We’re using Canvas and Zoom to teach our live classes. The university has provided us with training, they are available to support us when we need it, and they’ve created cheat sheets for us and for the students on how to use these tools and platforms. I guess my biggest suggestion is to ask for student feedback to improve future sessions, and also give them constant feedback and try to help them achieve their goals as much as you can.