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Academics at SLU-Madrid in the COVID Era

by Katie Gortz

SLU-Madrid students have continued to meet their academic goals despite the challenges presented by the global pandemic in large part thanks to the tireless work of the SLU-Madrid faculty. From their homes in the Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, across Europe and the Americas, students completed their spring semester studies online, and many continued to earn credits during the two remote summer sessions as well.

“Faculty had to pivot to online learning in the spring, practically from one day to the next,” said Madrid Campus Director and Academic Dean, Paul Vita, Ph.D. “The online delivery of spring and summer courses ensured that SLU-Madrid’s students earned the credits they needed to continue with their programs. I have nothing but the highest praise for our dedicated professors.”

Fall academics

In addition to promoting health and safety, helping students advance toward degree completion is a top priority at SLU-Madrid. The dedicated faculty have prepared courses for the Fall 2020 semester to serve the academic needs of students on campus as well as those who will be studying remotely. They are also ready to shift to teaching fully online should the need arise.

For weeks this summer, faculty have been gearing up for the fall semester. They have invested countless hours in the development of specialized course materials and virtual science laboratories, explained Vita. All fall courses will use online textbooks and other digital reading materials, to ensure access for students anywhere in the world. 

With the rapid adjustment from face-to-face to online instruction last spring, faculty are looking forward to interacting with students in the classroom, but they are ready to teach their courses fully online, should the need arise. 

“Over 55 professors have participated in the online teaching workshops offered by SLU-Madrid,” reported Hamish Binns, program director for modern languages and ESL, and recently appointed Reinert Center Online Teaching Fellow. “They are working to ensure that the quality of their online teaching in the fall is on par with that of their face-to-face classes.”

In addition to the instruction offered by SLU-Madrid, faculty have participated in specialized training offered through Saint Louis University’s Center for Transformational Teaching and Learning. Faculty are well versed in teaching technology tools such as Blackboard, Zoom, Panopto and Respondus Monitor. 

The academic calendar and course offerings have also been adapted to suit the varied needs of students this fall. The calendar incorporates periods of remote learning at the beginning and end of the semester, which will allow students from visa waiver countries to travel to Spain and study for the semester on a tourist visa. The course offerings include in-person classes as well as both synchronous and asynchronous online alternatives for students who are not able to return to campus due to health concerns or travel restrictions. Remote learners will even be able to take Latin rhythms and Spanish dance classes via Zoom, or participate in "Theatre for the Ear," the fall semester's theatre workshop which sets aside lights, costumes and props to explore the art of radio drama.

 "Asynchronous courses (as opposed to live streamed) accommodate learners from all over the globe ​and in different time zones,” explained Reinert Center Online Teaching Fellow, Katherine Smith. She teaches English composition and ESL, and is ready to accommodate remote learners in her classes this fall. “They will be able to interact with our international community at their own pace and according to their local timetables."