In Fall of 2018 and Spring of 2019 and in eight-three-hour sessions, myself and a group of graduate students, language lectors, and Foreign Language Teaching Assistants completed the Distance Language Teaching Program offered by the Center for Language Study at Yale. We felt quite privileged to be the first cohort in this program whose goal is to “familiarize participants with current trends in online teaching and learning, provide them with practical training in synchronous and asynchronous technologies, and prepare them with the technological skills to meet the changing demands of the job market.” During these eight sessions, we started at the basics, learning about teaching and learning in technology-mediated environments. We continued to discuss affordances and challenges, course design, synchronous vs. asynchronous language learning models, assessment and feedback and ended with a multilevel discussion of the future of distance language teaching. In each of these sessions, we had time that was allotted for hands-on assignments, tasks, and activities. We had six different guest speakers whose experience ranges from teaching language in a distance setting to researching this topic; from assessment to technology to administration, and all were extremely helpful and informative. To complete this program and for our final project we had to create a sample unit for a course syllabus that we would teach in a distance setting based on a rational based on what we learned from our readings and discussions during the sessions.
I remember once reading that one of the characteristics of a good language teacher is that s/he likes to explore because s/he realizes that learning happens in different ways at different time for different types of learners. Completing this program was like a mini exploratory journey to an innovative and futuristic world of language teaching that is starting here and now.