UM’s Language Centre, BabeliUM, began its activity in the second semester (February 2020) following a standard regime of face-to-face teaching with little to no support from digital platforms, except for the one developed and used for logging attendance and lesson summaries. However, due to the closing of all educational institutions and period of confinement under the Emergency Law decreed by the Portuguese Government as a result of the outbreak of the COVID19 pandemic, the entire institution, in all its Schools, Institutes, Departments and Research Centres, were forced to adopt, in one way or another and within a very short period of time, methodologies, strategies and tools in order to proceed with their primordial educational mission and goals.
In the case of BabeliUM, all language teachers were given leeway to adopt the tools deemed most suited for their own classes, sometimes engaging in more than one platform according to the level, nature and background of the students accounted for in their classes.
Therefore, and as a whole, BabeliUM made use of the following distance learning platforms: Microsoft TEAMS and Google Classroom, mostly for class management (Blackboard was also applied in some of UM’s schools). As to video conferencing, Zoom was the platform most prevalent, albeit on some occasions Skype and Hangouts represented an effective alternative, mostly due to the security issues Zoom found mid-March.
Other apps and online resources include those used in interactive/shared learning such as Kahoot, Quizziz, FunTrivia, not only within the dynamics of the online lessons themselves but also for consolidation and prompting of self-study. For collaborative writing, apps such as Google Docs and Etherpad were used, as well as Zoom’s Breakout Rooms for group/pair work, role play and research activities.
As to formal assessment, some of the teachers chose to adopt dedicated platforms, such as Classmarker, to then integrate the scores into their class management platform of choice.
As of today, BabeliUM offers its courses as b-learning and e-learning programmes, while having permanently implemented the use of online class management platforms such as Microsoft TEAMS and Google Classroom, even in those courses with a face-to-face/frontal component. The Language Centre is also implementing the latest edition of the digital/interactive textbooks recommended for its courses, as well as the inherent online practice resources of such publications.
We have also taken part in a consortium that allowed several Portuguese Universities (among which the University of Minho) to offer online Summer Courses of Portuguese language and culture. Said consortium is set to offer an online Winter Course during the month of December.