One Spanish language student marvels at her remote learning experience

Avery Treend writes about her personal observations

Avery Treends Online Class Session

Avery Treend practices her Spanish remotely with her fellow classmates in Nohelia Rojas-Miesse's class.

By Avery Treend, university communications and news intern

As Miami University quickly had to shift its curriculum to an online platform due to COVID-19, the Spanish department didn’t miss a step and created virtual spaces where students could practice their Spanish.

As a student with a double major in Spanish and strategic communication, I was concerned about how this virtual learning would occur and a bit skeptical. After all, learning Spanish fluently means speaking it a lot. However, I soon realized this would remain possible with the power of technology.

Julie Szucs, a senior lecturer in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, is one of the coordinators for the Spanish 100/200 level courses. Szucs works with a team of people who help with the different level Spanish courses.

After speaking with Szucs, I realized how much time and effort Miami put forward to ensure its students are comfortable and well-prepared for virtual learning.

“Our face-to-face classes are really interactive, and this crisis has presented a challenge for us to recreate in an online space,” Szucs said. “We are very lucky to live in an age we do and use a lot of these opportunities online.”

She shared that there is a lot of support between colleagues within her department, and everyone is willing to collaborate on ideas and give feedback.

“Each instructor has a different approach. Some have used the Student Textbook Supersite; others are using Canvas assignments and quizzes to link to various real-life situations, and many have used web conferencing tools to have small group interactions with students,” she said.

Szucs explained that it is nearly impossible to cover everything in a virtual environment because everyone is learning how to get comfortable with the technology.

“One of the things it has done is that it has focused our priorities in terms of our curriculum, and it has made each of us think about what the key aspects of our lessons are,” Szucs said.

As a Spanish student, I am currently taking conversational classes. I enjoy having the opportunity to continue speaking the language. My current professor, Nohelia Rojas-Miesse, has made it feel like a seamless transition. She provides us with assignments that still challenge us. We are using the Zoom platform for regular class meetings where we can participate.

E-learning experts: Robyn Brown and Leah Henson

Other faculty members are also helping. Two of them are Leah Henson, a senior lecturer in the department of Spanish and Portuguese, and Robyn Brown, Miami Regionals e-campus coordinator of faculty engagement. They are providing helpful tips to faculty unfamiliar with various online platforms.

Brown said, “The team at Miami Regionals used existing data and found quick ways to collect new data in order to make timely, informed decisions on the development of new professional development materials.”

Those materials include: "Keep Teaching," which offers step-by-step guidance on how to make the transition from classroom to Canvas, and a professional development campaign, which helps strengthen and enhance teaching and learning through remote delivery.

Henson has worked with a lot of her colleagues on making their transitions as smooth and seamless as possible by assisting with virtual breakout rooms and providing tech support.

“I have just been so wowed by what the department has been doing and coming up with during this remote learning, and the fact that they are doing this on the fly really speaks to their work ethic,” Henson said.

Learning a second language is hard enough, but the Miami Spanish faculty have made learning from home possible by implementing web conferencing and holding virtual office hours.

I have a lot of respect for the professors and faculty within the Spanish department for dedicating their time to bettering the virtual learning process. I was unsure of how the rest of this semester would go, but I was surprised to see it all unfold so well. I look forward to seeing how my Spanish will continue to improve during this period.