Embracing Online Learning: A Q and A with a Professor of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages

Hanh Nguyen at computer

In this Q&A with Hanh thi Nguyen, Ph.D., she reflects on how her online course lesson preparation has adjusted and how her class uses audio, chat, screen sharing, and video, maintaining engaging discussions. Working remotely also extends to committee work for Nguyen and her fellow April 23 Capstone Symposium organizers, who embraced the challenge of moving the annual event, which celebrates student achievement, online.         

What’s surprised you about working remotely?

What has surprised me about teaching online is how the medium has forced me to be more efficient and effective as a teacher. I now keep only the essential points, provide more scaffolds to students (screenshots, written steps, handouts given in advance), and rework all my handouts to make them clearer and more attractive (adding white spaces, images, colors, links).  All in all, switching online has required more prep time, but I’m pleased with the outcomes.

Tell us about your virtual classroom environment.

My classes meet in Blackboard Collaborate Ultra. We use audio, chat, screen sharing, and video. The breakout groups are quite lively. When students present, they share their screen and talk to the class. My students really like the chat function, and they’re way ahead of me in the use of emojis! I think there’s a novelty element to this online environment, and students are embracing it.

I know some of my students go to HPU’s Learning Commons to log in to class, so I’m thankful that they can still do that. Some other students are on the mainland and can’t join the live session due to the time difference, so they watch the recorded sessions. One of them told me that watching the Collaborate Ultra recording makes them feel like they are there with their classmates.


I believe that in this time of uncertainties, schoolwork provides a healthy sense of stability and focus.

What are some of the ways things have changed for you at home?

I enjoy cooking all my meals and not having to pack lunch. Not having to commute is another plus, which makes up a bit for the extra time I now spend on preparing classes.

What are you looking forward to the most when we get past our sheltering and distancing?

I am looking forward to going to the beach and shopping for food more frequently.

Do you see any of the changes in your life as a positive that you will carry forward when we rebound from COVID-19?


I want to acknowledge my fellow faculty colleagues, Mary Smith, Noelia Paez, and Ngoc Phan, who are the organizers of the April 23 Capstone Symposium, for shifting quickly to planning an online event. Being a group of professors from Political Science, Business, Computer Science, and Language Teaching,we have just the right technology skills to put the event together: from conference management to judge rating coordination and web publishing. 

Meeting online has been very productive, and I hope committee meetings will be conducted online after this crisis. Now that we’re more comfortable using the technology, we should make it a part of normal life.