Remote Teaching Case Studies: Juan Coderch, School of Classics

Thursday 16 April 2020

For the next few weeks, we will be interviewing members of academic staff who have been teaching online since the pandemic began to unfold here in the U.K. We will be listening to what they have to say about the process: the advantages and disadvantages, the highs and the lows; and we will learning about some of the outstanding and creative innovations that they have made along the way.

Dr. Juan Coderch from the School of Classics has kindly agreed to be our first interviewee. From a more or less standing start with technology, Juan has transposed his face-to-face teaching to online delivery he even took his office whiteboard home!  As seen from the image below, he has also developed a method of getting the students to pause and practise during his recordings. Take it away, Juan!


Tell us about your role at the University of St Andrews.
Since 2007 I have been in charge of teaching Latin and Ancient Greek languages at the School of Classics.

How much had you integrated the use of technology into your teaching before the Covid-19 outbreak?
Not much, because language teaching needs a total interaction in the classroom, and the perfect visualisation of anything I write in the whiteboard is essential.

What were your first thoughts when you heard that St Andrews teaching was switching online?
That even if we might be able to do something it would not be the same as being there in the classroom with the students. Language learning needs face-to-face interaction, nothing can replace that. As the University says, what we are doing now is “mitigation,” not “replacement.” The degree of achieved replacement may be total in some subjects but it will always be minor in subjects like mine. Nevertheless, I must say that it is going better than I expected.

How did you manage the process of moving your lectures and tutorials online?
Given that this was new for me, I have got to learn several things: the use of Teams, etc. I spent the Easter Break on this.

Did the process of switching to online teaching make you think differently about your teaching and the best way to deliver it under these circumstances? Did you make any changes?
Well, I had to go with the programme. I can’t make the students work in pairs for a couple of minutes solving an exercise while I walk among the tables solving doubts individually, pointing with the finger to a concrete line of the textbook to make the student realise where the mistake is, while the other students are doing something else, etc.

You are Senior Language Tutor in Greek in Latin. Have you discovered any aspects of the new technology to be especially practically useful for the teaching of languages in particular?
The main advantage is that students can watch the recorded class as many times as they want.

What one piece of advice would you give someone based on your own experience?
If you have to teach online like now, try to reproduce the classroom as much as possible, which in my case has been installing a whiteboard at home (my subject without a whiteboard is like a pen without ink) and trying to behave in front of the camera as if you were in the classroom.

Given what you know now, what would you say to someone apprehensive about switching to teaching online?
Try to reproduce the same kind of teaching venue that you have in a classroom. And try not to make mistakes, because they are recorded!

Is there anything else that you would like to add?
My gratitude to the TEL team and departmental colleagues for their continuous help about the usage of technology.

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