The COVID-19 pandemic and social distancing have made language learning mostly remote at Arizona State University, something that students and professors say they are not used to.
Since the start of the school year, ASU has been in modes of in-person/hybrid classes, completely in-person, or as an iCourse.
Professor Paul Quinn's American Sign Language class has been completely remote using Zoom technology to teach class.
"My experience teaching over Zoom has been very frustrating and difficult," Quinn said. "I can't move around, write on a whiteboard, or point at a student. This is a very social language and it's hard to recreate online."
Student Yareli Molina's experience taking ASL over Zoom has been completely different than what she expected.
Molina said Quinn has been great by trying to put her and her classmates into breakout groups to understand the language more.
"Overall the experience is just awkward and feels as if I'm missing an important connection with the professor and my classmates."
In an interview with Northeastern University, Lori Whynot, director of ASL said wearing a mask and communicating in ASL "is like listening to a muffled message."
"Movements around the mouth—the puffing of cheeks, or the pursing of lips, or a sort of grimacing, showing of teeth" are used to modify certain verbs and nouns", she said.
Quinn said he notices students have a harder time maintaining attention during online class.
"They are at home. No one is around them, and communicating has to be done with the Zoom chat box."
Quinn also said it takes longer to develop a relationship with the students when teaching from online.
"I am just now, in October, getting a sense of who they are and their learning styles," he said.
Molina said she was hesitant to do the course over Zoom, but said she was adapting well and learning new ASL concepts.
"I had my initial regrets when I noticed that the professor would not be attending his in-person lectures, but as the semester went on I saw how I'm still able to communicate with him and my classmates," Molina said.
Both Quinn and Molina said to reach out to a professor or teacher assistant if a student is struggling in class.
Molina said she and another classmate have recap and study sessions after class to connect the course material since ASL is not in person.
"I suggest reaching out to a professor or TA because students may need help that they never needed in the past due to COVID-19," Quinn said.
Overall, Quinn said teaching ASL over Zoom had been a rough start, but really thinks the course is coming together smoothly now.
"Although we are living in a crazy time, there are many resources available to students who are struggling," Molina said. "Sometimes the best resource is another classmate."