While many schools and instructors were in the process of adding more blended learning before March 2020, they have now clearly made the shift. Instructors and students have become more comfortable with technology, such videoconferencing and eBooks, and are putting best practices into place to effectively engage students. How effective hybrid and virtual learning is depends on how instructors are able to combine the best of face-to-face and online learning. Each academic specialty are finding ways to best teach their subject matter, with hybrid and virtual Spanish instruction no different. Annie Galvin Teich recently summarized another way of looking at this new shift in her 7 Practical Ways to Create Effective Blended Learning:
- Put students at the center of the learning.
- Set clear expectations on goals and objectives.
- Be deliberate in linking face-to-face and virtual learning.
- Boost interactivity.
- Provide collaboration tools and opportunities.
- Create interactive resources such as quizzes and online games.
- Assess students in new ways.
How does this relate to world language education, specifically hybrid and virtual Spanish instruction, where listening and speaking are crucial skills in the language development process? Let’s paraphrase Teich’s suggestions and look at each one individually for a Spanish course taught in a hybrid or virtual format.
In order to put the student at the center of their learning, it is vital to build relationships first. Relationships between instructor and individual students are important, but being that language is centered around communication, students must feel comfortable with each other before taking risks in another language. Instructors can build relationships and their online learning communities through activities, such as this list of ice-breakers.
Clear goals and objectives
Instructors should over-communicate their goals and objectives for their students. Acknowledging that this format may be uncomfortable for students and the instructor alike is important to encourage risk-taking, knowing there will be mistakes. By setting clear expectations, encouraging risk-taking, and allowing students to ask questions, students will all grow in their comfort level and language ability.
Link face-to-face and virtual learning
If the class is offered in a hybrid format, instructors should decide which activities are best in a classroom environment. Make the most of the time which instructors can physically see the students, such as having authentic conversations and student interaction to build relationships. In a virtual setting, these conversations can also take place in the video conferencing platform (Zoom, Google Meet, etc.). For example, the instructor can do a short 10-15 minutes presentation, students review an eBook or other material independently, followed by online small group discussions in a break-out room.
Instead of meeting in large groups, instructors can facilitate a few small groups to listen and speak the language. There is also the private chat feature, where students can respond to the instructor or to the class. Many students are initially more comfortable answering questions in the chat feature versus having to speak their answer aloud.
Provide collaboration opportunities
In addition to the chat features in videoconferencing, utilize the power of your Learning Management System (LMS) or tools such as the Google App suite for students to collaborate. Students can work together in a Google Doc in real time, present using Google Slides, or collect data using Google Forms or Survey Monkey.
Find interactive resources
Find content available on the Web to hear and read Spanish spoken by people from a variety of regions and cultures. Some of my favorite YouTube sites are Easy Spanish, Spanish and Go, Spanish Playground, Why Not Spanish?, as well as the Spanish Proficiency Exercises at the University of Texas at Austin.
Assess students differently
Tests and quizzes may not be the best way to assess students in a hybrid or virtual environment. Instead, play to the strengths of online education by utilizing digital resources to create podcasts or FlipGrids that demonstrate their understanding.
These practices can enhance a student’s experience and create engaging experiences for students. Hybrid and virtual learning can expand opportunities for students who may find it difficult to make it to a classroom. Using these tips, instructors teaching a blended learning Spanish class can simulate an in-person classroom environment to make it just as engaging, if not more so.
Pronto Spanish offers Spanish eBooks to support instructors and their students in hybrid and virtual instruction. In addition to their eBooks, they currently have over 140 vocabulary and grammar modules where Spanish instructors can use to customize into an online curriculum for their needs.