Published: 04th May 2020
COVID-19 impact: First time in 65 years, Alliance Francaise of Madras is offering online French classes for teens, adults amid lockdown
The Executive director of Alliance Française of Madras, Bruno Plasse explains to us in detail how this premier institute has shifted to online classes amid the COVID-19 lockdown
When the closing of educational institutions was declared in March owing to the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, Alliance Française of Madras, a 65-year-old teaching and cultural institution had to go online. From classrooms, all the courses had to shift online. How does one institution is known for its friendly atmosphere and interactive teaching with small groups (from 6 to 23 students maximum), and holistic ecosystems with state-of-the-art library and cultural activities make the shift? Alliance Française in India is the biggest network in the world, with over 30,000 students per year, and thanks to continuous training with French teachers of other centres, the information technology tools were already in use. The most advanced trained the other teachers to adapt to online French language training.
“The online-learning framework was established in December 2017 and the entire teaching team underwent training with the deployment of an online learning platform called My Alliance. This learning platform caters exclusively to students of the Alliance Française network through My Class, an online class which has various student-friendly functionalities. Students can access several online resources; upload tasks, pictures, videos; work on auto-evaluation modules, and interact with their classmates and professor through Live Chat and Discussion options,” says Aparna Venson, the co-administrator of My Alliance. Peer training, webinars with colleagues in India, and all over the world – the network is more than 130 years old, helped the less familiar ones to bridge the gap.
We spoke to the Executive director of Alliance Française of Madras, Bruno Plasse to get more insight into how the institute is dealing with this sudden shift, what they feel about it and more.
Here's what we got to know:
When were the only French classes launched?
Actually, the Alliance Française network in India developed a Learning Management System called My Alliance (afinde.apolearn.com) two years ago and finalised a hybrid learning solution mixing direct and online teaching of French Language. For the past two years, all our teachers have been trained in developing and using the platform. This solution is extended to all students of our regular class and has been used as the main platform from March 17, after the lockdown was announced by Tamil Nadu authorities on March 16. In addition to the platform, video class groups were started at the same time slots as the regular class. Our teachers became online teachers in the video class.
How has the response been until now?
All our teachers shifted to the 100 per cent online from March 17 and our students adjusted very well to the new situation and after 2-3 days, especially in mastering new ways of interacting and addressing the technical issues. We saw a similar efficiency we see with the direct teaching classes. Students are attending the classes regularly, we received a lot of positive appreciation and feedback from them, especially since we did not interrupt teaching at all.
Do you feel that the entire education system will shift to the digital platform after this?
I think physical teaching methods will remain the most preferred option for regular individuals. Developing human contact and interaction is important and brings people to the Alliance Française: working with a classmate in the Library, sharing a tea and a chocolate cake during the break, enjoying comfortable building facilities, chatting with other students, spending time with friends in the garden, enjoying a live performance in the auditorium, this is difficult to compensate online. At the same time, some of our students will find that their online experience is positive and that this option will have to be available, especially to professionals or people living far away from our centres. Having quality teaching at home can save a lot of time, hassle but the online option will remain a regular option even after this is over. We are working on developing new online content after feedback received from students and teachers in order to adjust to their needs. The entire education system will shift to a digital platform? I have to say that in times like this the digital platform is a huge helping tool. But we have to have human interaction and live class is needed, which is the best way to learn compassion, etiquette and knowledge. We have to grow in knowledge as well as become a better human being to survive.
What steps have you had to take, for a 65-year-old organisation like yours, to get into the groove amid the changing scenario?
As I mentioned earlier, online teaching has been developing for over two years in the Alliance Française network in India and started with hybrid direct-online teaching. Being a senior institution in teaching French in India, Alliance Française benefits from recognised expertise that makes a huge difference with ready-made offers such as YouTube sequences for self-learning. Our gold mine is our teachers, who are experienced, trained, and dedicated. They remain in the new scenario our best asset and with the trust, we have built among our students for so many years I do not think anything is impossible to achieve.