Skype helps ill student suceed

Posted on April 13th, 2011 by

Emily Eddy & Alex Lyon pose for a shot after class

Sometimes life brings unexpected challenges. This was the case for Senior Emily Eddy, one of my Spanish students this semester. Emily had just finished a J-Term trip to Spain and Morocco when she was hit by the Guillain-Barré Syndrome, an autoimmune syndrome which left her basically paralyzed after just a few days. The symptoms were reversible, but it looked like she wouldn’t be graduating with her class this year.

Emily didn’t give up however and she contacted both myself and Hayden Duncan, the Chair of the Modern Languages Cultureher Spanish professor from last semester. It was very important to us that we do all we could to help her succeed and we came up with a plan for Emily to be able to complete the class first at a distance and then continue on with the course once she was well enough to return to the campus for normal classes.

For those of you unfamiliar with Skype, it is a program which allows two or more individuals to communicate over the internet via text, voice, or video conference- all for free. This seemed like it would be an easy solution to help Emily succeed in the course, and also take an active part in the class-even if it was from a bed in the hospital or at home.

Each day I would bring my laptop to class, call up Emily on Skype, and from that point on it was as if my laptop became her body. I would set her up on the front row, to give her a good view of what was going on when I was talking in front of the class. The majority of my classes are usually spent in pair or group work and so when we broke into groups, she participated (almost) to the same extend as everyone else in the class.

Of course there were challenges, fore example, some activities involving the blackboard or a presentation over the projector were sometimes difficult for her to effectively participate in. If I were to do it again I probably may have tried to do more with virtual whiteboard sharing through a plugin- or with a program such as Elluminate. For a quick, low complication solution, I feel what we did worked however. Another challenge was remembering that this was in-deed a true hybrid/ distance class, and so I needed to make sure I did things such as put all of the class materials for the day on the class Moodle, so that Emily would have the same handouts that the rest of the students had.

Emily recovered quicker than expected and is now joining the class in person. Emily has been a joy to work with and I think that it has been a great experience for all of the students to see what is possible with a little bit of technology. This coming year in Culpeper, we are hoping that our foreign language classes will begin completing virtual language exchange programs using these same technologies to practice their foreign languages with students across the world.

Note: This is a re-post from the Culpeper blog.


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