After more than five terms of online instruction, language classes transitioned to in-person instruction at the start of the spring term, becoming the latest group of classes to move away from online learning.
As most classes have oscillated between remote and in-person learning for most of the 2021-2022 academic year, language classes have been conducted under a consistent policy, according to German studies professor Elizabeth Bernhardt ; while a masking requirement for students and educators speaking in class remained in place, language classes would remain online.
“We were just worried that muffling the sound of these foreign languages would be good for learning,” said Bernhardt, who is also director of the Stanford Language Center.
As the transition to in-person learning approached, many professors expressed hesitation. according to Bernard.
“There was considerable trepidation about coming back in person mid-year because a lot of instructors said, ‘Hey, you know, we’ve been doing this for so long – let’s hold it for the year and start again. in autumn. ‘ But it was clear that we had to get along with the rest of the University.
Six weeks after moving, teachers and students are enjoying the transition. For speaker Ana Vivancos, who teaches Spanish and Catalan, returning to an in-person format felt like “coming home.”
“I feel like I connect better with the other students, and I also think I connect better with the professor,” added Michael Carpenter-Newmark ’23.
The decision was a welcome change from online classes, where many students have found link building to be their biggest challenge. Carpenter-Newmark said on Zoom there wasn’t as much “in-person connection being established” and “there wasn’t as much back-and-forth chat” between him and professors. of language.
“It feels like a little transition to normalcy for me,” Cesar Rodriguez ’24 said.
Some of the professors’ hesitation turned out to be true, Rodriguez said. Although not a requirement, many students taking in-person language classes still choose to wear masks while speaking, making it difficult for some to hear their peers properly, according to Rodriguez.
Still, in-person learning has unexpected benefits that were carried over from Zoom. For example, when classes were online, students were not required to take midterm and final exams, a policy that was retained for in-person instruction.
“Instructors found that it actually improved student proficiency because students weren’t freaking out about those important exams all the time,” Bernhardt said. Students also said they learned more this way because they didn’t feel pressured to prepare for larger assessments.
While Bernhardt is proud of the success of teaching languages online, she ultimately emphasized the importance of in-person learning and her gratitude for this term’s transition.
“There is nothing that will ever replace face-to-face student knowledge,” she said.