New teaching experience
I’ve taught ten and six-week EAP pre-sessional courses at UK universities since 2011. In 2020, I was supposed to be teaching my tenth course, but I wasn’t keen on travelling and mixing with so many people for extended periods in the classroom or staffroom. Fortunately, the course came to me 🙂 So instead of spending the summer in the UK, we rented a house with a fruit garden in a beautiful village hidden up in the mountains, but still close to home.
I always believed the pre-sessional courses could and should be taught in blended mode. Some universities have been offering all or parts of their courses in blended mode or (partially) online for a while now. This year all universities had to go online. I really enjoyed teaching the course online, and I can say it was the least stressful one ever. I co-wrote an article with Zoe Smith for The English Teaching Professional, reflecting on the the challenges and opportunities of online pre-sessionals.
New role as research manager
A couple of months ago, I decided to change directions in my work. I started digital authoring and editing back in 2013 and it’s been really a rewarding and interesting seven years in which I’ve learned new skills and found a new community of wonderful people: editors, writers and publishers. When content and copy editing, I found it really interesting to go through a complete course and see how it was built, designed and what the writers had created. I like editorial work, even style guides and spreadsheets up to a point! I even sometimes experience some kind of flow when copyediting…Yeah, I know what you’re thinking 😀
But I felt I needed a change, or rather something in addition to what I had been doing. I felt I wasn’t creating anything and I wasn’t making much use of what I had spent years learning and experimenting with. I missed being involved in the planning and development of a blended or online course, doing research, exploring new things and writing about them.
As nearly all teaching and learning had gone online this year, one thing I noticed was often missing in online courses was the social element. Lessons also quickly start to feel the same in a video conferencing environment, and role-plays don’t work as well as in a face-to-face setting. So I started exploring how these things could be done better online. Which is exactly why I had started experimenting with language teaching in a 3D virtual world more than a decade ago. I started reading up on the latest developments in the field of virtual reality and building new connections on Linkedin with people working in this field. And this is how I met my lovely colleagues from Immerse. Their enthusiasm was so contagious that I had to join them when they asked me whether I’d like to work for them as a Research Manager. The good thing is that my role with them allows me to follow my interests in VR: read about research, meet researchers and other people who are doing great work in VR, facilitate research and help disseminate knowledge gained about language learning and teaching in VR.
I still accept editing jobs because the skills set an editor needs, such as paying attention to detail, are useful in any job, and as I said, it gives me insight into how others design courses and write content. I also hope I can do some teaching too, because whether you are developing courses, writing lesson plans or doing research into teaching and learning, having recent experience as a teacher gives you invaluable insights.
I’m really looking forward to what 2021 will bring in terms of work and new experiences.