Back in June, I gladly waved goodbye to Avenue campus, having spent the last few months hunkered down in its corridors hunched over my laptop, exasperated in my efforts not to write 8,000 words of waffle in lieu of a dissertation. Yet, I found myself not a month later returning to campus to start a 3-month internship with the online MA programme in English Language Teaching.
For many students of English and French progressing into teaching is the natural next step, nourished by working abroad with the British Council in their third year or taking part in language outreach programmes with local schools. However, as someone who had decidedly avoided anything to do with linguistics or teaching for fear of classrooms full of screaming, snotty-nosed children (not that many of my classes at university were much different), I was surprised to find myself quickly hooked by the programme and the work at hand.
I think it is fair to say that the position was somewhat undersold, with the task at hand advertised chiefly as content migration. Previously hosted on Moodle, myself and another intern were responsible for transporting the course to Blackboard. Thankfully, this turned out to be a smaller portion of the work than I’d imagined and the summer was not spent mindlessly clicking copy and paste.
The move to Blackboard presented the opportunity to refresh the course a bit, and our goal was to create a welcoming environment and try to create a sense of community and identity for the course through its online learning environment. Students and tutors of the course are based across the globe, therefore it was important to create a (virtual) space that linked them to each other and made them feel connected to the university itself too. To this end, we’ve spent time a lot of time editing videos and graphics for the course, creating personal and study support materials for the students, and exploring and testing various sites and computer programs for educational interaction.
The internship also afforded the opportunity to reflect on my own language learning at university. Skimming through the course checking for broken links and other glitches I had numerous lightbulb moments where the theories and concepts explored in the course content shed light on my experiences in French classes over the last 4 years.
Overall, the experience has been engaging and massively educational. I’ve learned a lot about virtual learning environments, teaching and education, and language acquisition, which has ignited a keen interest in an area I had previously overlooked.