SLCTLS 2020 – “Meeting the Challenge”

In 2020, we were unable to hold an in-person event due to the novel coronavirus. However, we were excited to host a virtual SLCTLS event with a variety of speakers who addressed how we can meet the challenge of instruction during these unprecedented times!

The SLCTLS 2020 agenda is available for viewing at this link.

A written summary of the panelists and lightning talks can be found on this page below the video. We also have shared a document below with additional resources and a written summary of the Q&A of each panel presentation and lightning talk.

Please feel free to watch the recording of the virtual event (available embedded below or directly on YouTube)! If you watch it directly on YouTube, the timestamps listed in the video description can be used to jump to different parts of the video.

Highlights from SLCTLS 2020

This section contains short summaries and highlights of each panel presentation and lightning talk.

If you are interested in written summaries/follow-ups from the Q&A session, please see the Q&A section below.


1. Lauren Rosen, University of Wisconsin, “From MASH Unit to Community Hospital: How Language Learning Transitions During a Pandemic”

Lauren observed that the pandemic caught many language teachers unprepared to transition to fully online teaching. This transition also forced every teacher to re-evaluate what they were teaching and how relevant it was to the learners. She noted that due to COVID-19 restrictions, synchronous classes over Zoom would be more meaningful than in-person classes in Fall 2020. These online classes, however, would need to be well planned and be held only a few times a week but be made impactful. For instance, teachers could require each student to engage with content and prepare adequately throughout the week before the synchronous meeting. In conclusion, Lauren said that planning is all that matters and not that the online teaching format really does not affect enrolment. She also added that it is possible that the planning that teachers do right now during the pandemic will have impacts on their courses well after the pandemic.

2. Cory Duclos, Colgate University, “Using the Experiences of LCTL Pedagogy to Inform Pandemic Hybrid Teaching”

Prior to the pandemic, Colgate University had not employed remote learning on a large scale, except for its work with LCTLs. Having pioneered remote teaching techniques, LCTL instructors can lead the way for the rest of the university, and the model of shared remote classes common to LCTL education is proof that this style of teaching is viable. The necessity of instituting remote courses more broadly at Colgate has created a potentially positive environment for the promotion of LCTLs and remote teaching. The newfound awareness of online teaching and learning techniques on the part of other members of the faculty and administration will allow LCTL instructors to better communicate the goals and value of their courses. Duclos also emphasized the necessity of advocating for language education in the face of impending budget cuts by reaching out to faculty in other departments to discuss how FL knowledge applies to their fields.

In the Q&A session, we mentioned the article “The Shared LCTL Symposium: A Call to Action” co-authored by SLCTLS 2018 keynote speaker Stephane Charitos and the LCTL and Indigenous Languages Partnership team. It is published in the Journal of the National Council of Less Commonly Taught Languages and can be found at the following link:

3. Tom Garza, University of Texas at Austin, “Zooming for Proficiency: Online Language Instruction in the Age of COVID-19”

Tom Garza discussed three environments for online language assessment: ‘F2F’ interaction (synchronous Zoom class meetings), break-out rooms, and asynchronous tasks. He emphasized the need for instructors to facilitate online learning by providing learners with prompts for engagement, using authentic materials, and encouraging broad, learner-centered participation. That instructors should think of the interactions in class as mini-OPI prompts and should assemble and provide feedback to learners based on their performance in them. Instructors could also use that feedback for formative purposes such as to plan break-out room activities or assign homework assignments. He shared tips for creating and monitoring break-out rooms, and on how to use one authentic resource to create activities for learners in different proficiency levels. Lastly, he advised that while teaching remotely, teachers should remember to practice inclusivity by addressing the needs of all learners and avoiding biases such as overlooking students of certain demographics and giving preference to others, or in selection of instructional materials that may not be diverse.

4. Cathy Baumann, University of Chicago, “The Only Thing That is Certain is That things Will Change”

Just like the rest of us in higher education, the UChicago language center had to act fast to adapt their courses and teaching styles in response to statewide lockdowns. The center worked to make long-term plans to address the crisis, but had to deal with a lack of information and centralized decision making from the university. Prior experience with teaching LCTLs remotely helped the language center reach the decision to move language classes online. At the request of the university, the center also developed a plan to run hybrid language classes. The center created sample hybrid class schedules, compiled a list of communicative in-class activities that could be practiced while maintaining social distance, and selected an online testing system, Qualtrics, to administer high-stakes exams effectively. Interestingly, moving certain meetings and events online has markedly improved attendance, opening the door to potential changes that may be adopted more broadly once in-person events resume.


1. (Anna K. Dyer)

Dyer shared about learning apps ( that can be used to ‘spice up’ online language instruction. The website has plenty of templates for a variety of activities e.g. matching, fill-in-the-blank,etc. A teacher can go to the website and create their own activities or copy the already existing ones and modify them to fit their needs. Activities are created on the website. The instructor then copies the link and sends it to students or embeds it to an LMS.

2. Blogging as formative assessment (Alice McLean)

McLean used blogging as a formative assessment tool for her Portuguese 103 class with stellar results. Worth 10% of the grade and graded on completion, the blog provided students with a low-stakes outlet to practice their language skills. The blogs provided the instructor with a view of student progress over time, and students were motivated to look up new vocabulary words. The best part: students enjoyed it!

3. Project Based Learning (Suheyla Demirkol Orak)

Orak implemented project-based learning (PBL) while teaching remotely to promote student autonomy and the 4Cs (Communication, Creativity, Collaboration and Critical Thinking). She used Zoom for synchronous meetings and Whatsapp to maintain contact with students and keep them on task. Disadvantages were that she couldn’t monitor students’ dynamics and use of L1 vs L2 in completing their PBL tasks.

4. Collaborative note-taking (Shaheen Parveen)

Parveen instituted collaborative note-taking with her students. The notes were then used as review sheets, references for future assignments, and supplementary notes. The method encouraged peer learning and gave students the opportunity to take more responsibility in the class. Students rose to the occasion and most participated.

5. Annotate Function on Zoom (Runqing Qi)

Qi shared ways of utilizing the Annotate function on Zoom such as matching or fill-in-the blank exercises, listening exercises, reading exercises. The feature allows for variation of activities depending on student levels (e.g. speed of speaking in listening exercises), and promotes participation of students who would otherwise feel shy to ask questions in class.

6. Student Success Videos (Shiva Rahmani)

Rahmani runs the German Immersion course at UChicago and implemented an innovative initiative to increase enrollment in the course. Current students made “student success videos” on a voluntary basis. The videos covered tips and tricks to succeed in the course as well as moments of success to show students what they have to gain by studying a language. This initiative increased enrollment by 150%!

7. Native speaker conversation partners (Eman Saadah)

Saadah shared about integrating native-speaker conversation partners into the curriculum through online programs (NaTakallam). This became very useful after learning became remote as meetings were held virtually. In her university, conversation sessions were aligned with the curriculum and were required for students. Overall, students were impressed with the program.

8. Comprehension check video (Meejeong Song)

To keep track of attendance in a 40-student zoom lecture for her Elementary Korean course, Song asked students to make a 1-minute video to be submitted directly after class. The video addressed a prompt given verbally during the lecture as well as a summary of what the student had learned that day and of any points that were unclear. These videos gave the instructor the chance to check each student’s comprehension and offer feedback, and students liked the assignment so much that many of them suggested that the assignment continue once in-person classes resume.

9. Teaching handwriting on Zoom (Shannon Spasova)

Shannon presented on how to teach students to use handwriting on Zoom. This can be done using a stylus or a finger on a tablet or phone on the Zoom whiteboard. The phone or tablet joins the Zoom meeting and then the instructor allows the tablet to share their screen, which displays the content to the students. The feature is especially useful for languages that do not use Roman alphabet.


We created a summary for the questions answered both live and in follow-up conversations, which is accessible here. The document also contains additional resources that were shared by the speakers.