FAU language department learns to adapt to online life

Language department professors speak on their views of how they run virtual learning.


Illustration by Ethan Vogt.

Natalia Ribeiro, Staff Writer

FAU has been in a virtual format since March, when the university transitioned to fully remote learning. When the fall schedule switched to mostly online, professors had to switch gears and make the decision to either have class synchronous or asynchronous.

Professor Rosemary Rahill taught French and instructed her class in both methods of class format. One format was having all the materials online with the professor having office hours only. The second format was having class at the regularly scheduled time, but meeting on a video call. 

“I have some classes that are online and were developed online so those stayed the same,” Rahill said. “Classes that were to be in person, for those classes, we meet via Webex at regular class time.”

While Rahill taught class in both methods, Professor Mary Ann Gosser spent her summer developing a class course on Canvas with Zoom meetings. Gosser taught Honors Latin American Studies and Research & Biological Methods this past semester.  

“I set the meetings up a month in advance,” Gosser said. “I didn’t want them to be recurring, just in case there is an issue.”

Different professors in different departments have specific due dates for assignments, while others give students a set time frame of days to complete work. 

Professor Ilaria Serra taught Beginning Italian Language and Italian-American Cinema.

“They have three days in the language class because twice a week, they have to turn in homework, and once or twice a week in the other class,” Serra said. 

While some professors like to have assignments only open close to the submission period, Gosser preferred to have all her assignments accessible, except for quizzes.

“I think it’s better to give you the stuff ahead of time,” Gosser said. “If you have time, don’t hold back. You can do stuff ahead of time in my class.”

While teaching online is different for professors, they still have rules that they would prefer for students to follow.  However, they aren’t required.

“I would really like them to have the camera [on],” Serra said. “But I’m not policing them.”

In the case that a student does not follow these small rules or isn’t focused, the professors don’t mind letting the student know.

“If that happens, I let them know by email,” Rahill said.

Just because classes are synchronous or asynchronous, it does not mean that it’s any easier than teaching in person. Virtual learning difficulties are not only limited to students, but also the professors. 

Rahill explained that she does not find it more difficult, but more tiring.

“You have to really put more personality and effort into keeping the students engaged,” Rahill said. “It’s more energy.”

For other professors, especially in the area of foreign languages, not having that physical presence is hard. In an area such as learning a foreign language, having someone face-to-face can be beneficial in learning.

“Especially with the language you want to talk, you want to show something,” Serra said. “It’s very limited.”

Like Serra, Gosser also explained that not having a physical presence is not only difficult but disheartening at times. 

“I’m a people person,” Gosser said. “As long as I have been there and they’re talking, I’m happy.”

While professors and students have had their fair share of dealings with virtual learning, there is always something good in a bad situation.

“We can reach them everywhere they are, they don’t have the flood of traffic or the excuse of living in another town,” Serra said.

Other professors see technology as allowing them to deliver classes the best way possible.

“I think the greatest thing that technology, with all it’s free loading stuff, at least has enabled us to [teach],” said Gosser. “To me, that’s a blessing.” 

Natalia Ribeiro is a staff writer for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, email [email protected] or tweet her @nataliar_99.