Summer consultations have taken a new shape for ELLS this year. When a few students were heading abroad and taking online JMU classes this May, I was excited to try using Skype and Google docs for consultations. We set up times to meet via email and then both logged onto Skype for the appointment.
The sessions were interesting because they were often held first thing in the morning for me to adjust for time differences. My students got to see my extensive collection of coffee mugs! We had a coffee mug toast this morning to commemorate our last consultation of May session. My mug boasted Chinese traditional calligraphy and the student’s mug said in English, “Behind any successful woman is large amounts of coffee.” Once we decided to reschedule because our appointment time was on Friday night in China and there was a pop concert that the student really wanted to attend. What dedication to even make a Friday night appointment to begin with! Of course, I did not mind rescheduling as I then got to sleep in Friday morning
An interesting challenge we did not anticipate was that the Chinese government has blocked access to Google accounts for people in country. After one session of frustration using an emailed Word Doc, we felt motivated to find a way to access Google. The JMU VPN download allowed the student from inside China to access the JMU server and then from there log into Google. Our tech savvy might not have improved much overall, but our achievement made our consultations a lot smoother.
Thanks to ambitious students and technology that allowed us to connect, I had the unique opportunity this May Session to facilitate 9 virtual consultations with students in China and Saudi Arabia. I love the flexibility this allows me to continue to support our awesome JMU students taking online classes from home. Though I am closing up shop for the summer vacation, I look forward to more virtual consultations next May!