Some summer programs to take place remotely, others are canceled

By LILY JONES and ROYA TOURAN

CAROLINE KAPP
The view from Snake Mountain in July 2019.

Middlebury Language Schools, MiddCORE and the Bread Loaf School of English, among other summer programming, will be taught through remote instruction this summer, while the School of the Environment in China, the Museum Studies Program in Oxford, and several other Middlebury summer programs have been canceled, according to an April 17 announcement from Provost Jeff Cason.  

We were most concerned to provide academic continuity and the possibility of degree completion for our largest summer programs: the Language Schools and the Bread Loaf School of English,” Cason wrote in an email to The Campus. 

Rachel Lu ’23, was excited to attend the French Language School this summer to meet the language requirement to study-abroad in France, until she heard of the change to remote and withdrew from the program.

“My biggest concern for online school is that the immersive experience would be compromised,” she said. “I think Language Schools are tested and proven because of the environment it creates, but there is no way that can be replicated in front of a computer screen, unfortunately.”

According to the Language School website, programs will only run if there is enough interest for each online course. Tuition will remain the same, but room and board costs will be eliminated.

Cason said he has received significant positive feedback when the switch to remote learning was announced for both Bread Loaf and Language Schools. He predicts that the online model will draw in new students, including alumni, who can now participate in the programs from wherever they are located. 

After Mariana Zieve-Cohen ’23 learned of the switch to online, she decided to apply to the Spanish Language School. “As I spend all year in Vermont on Middlebury’s campus, I did not want to spend my summer there,” she said. “But with it online, I can stay home while also participating in the program.” She said she works well at home, so is not very concerned about being about to focus on the material, but is wondering how practicing speaking will be affected.

“Remote learning is more accessible for many students so in that sense I think there are benefits,” said Zieve-Cohen. 

Still, Cason anticipates lower enrollment at the Language Schools this summer. This could pose a financial burden to the college, depending on the final enrollment numbers. “Normally, the summer programs provide a significant boost for the college in financial terms,” Cason said. This will add to the already large financial impact of Covid-19 on the college. 

CAROLINE KAPP
Otter Creek in July 2019.

Associate Dean of the Language School Per Urlaub and Director of Enrollment Molly Baker commented on how the shift to remote learning is changing preparation for the summer classes. 

“Preparing for the Language Schools is always a demanding process since we have so many moving parts to create a top-level curriculum, engaging co-curricular activities, and an environment for students with all the tools they need to succeed,” they wrote in an email to The Campus.

Moving the program online not only creates many of the same challenges, but also presents hurdles with technology and engaging students from a distance. But Urlaub and Baker do feel optimistic about the continued success of the program and the faculty’s ability to take on the new challenge of going remote.

“At Middlebury, we are very fortunate to have the absolute best language faculty in the world,” they wrote. “Teaching online will be a new model for some of them and provides an invitation to experiment, but virtually all of them routinely use technology in sophisticated ways at their home institutions to engage with their students.”

While mindful of the limitations technology and remote learning present, including less ability to expose the students during co-curricular activities to their target language and provide them with constant feedback throughout the day, Urlaub and Baker say the faculty and staff are up for the task and that the programs will have the same “rigorous spirit” and “intensive standards” as they always do.

In addition to the Language Schools, the Bread Loaf School of English will also be offering online classes. Cason noted that it was important to continue these classes, since some of the masters students were planning on completing degrees this summer. But two of the three Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences have been cancelled. This includes the Translators’ conference and the Environmental Writers’ conference, both of which take place in June. A decision about the August Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference will be made in June.

“I have generally asked our staff to hold on making preparations for the August conference until we hear further instructions from Middlebury’s senior management and their Crisis Management Team.” said Jennifer Gotz, director of the writers’ conference.

“However, since we have officially canceled our June conferences, our staff is hard at work on that and on setting up some virtual programming that we are hoping to offer,” Gotz said. These programs will be free and open to the entire community.