We made a unique decision when we were setting up the Master of Conference Interpreting on the Glendon Campus of York University, in Toronto, Canada. We decided to offer the first year of the program entirely online.
Doing so gave us tremendous advantages. We can recruit students from all over the world. We can hire instructors who have experience in any market, and with any international organization. We train students to be at the forefront of the use of technology in our field.
Yet training online also has drawbacks. This is because people come to us with a number of misconceptions about remote learning. In this video, we discuss three misunderstandings that we have to work against:
- Online learning is easier or less demanding than onsite learning;
- It’s hard to build connections between people online; and
- The online environment is simulation of the physical environment and should be understood that way.
All of these ideas are wrong. Before we can make progress with our students, we need to convince them that this is the case.
Of the three points listed above, it is the third one that perhaps merits more exploration. At present, we have a tendency to think that the tools we use online should look like those we use in the physical world. For example, if there is a switch on a physical console that you flick to hand the microphone over to your booth mate, then there should be a similar switch on an online console that you use to change interpreters.
Yet the online environment is not just a copy of the physical one. It has properties and potentials of its own, ones that don’t exist offline. For instance, one remote interpreting platform the students learn to use actually highlights the name of the person speaking off of a list of participants in the event. That way, the interpreter always knows who has taken the floor.
In addition, when so-called “Internet native” students reach university age, it likely will no longer make sense to explain how to do something online by saying, “it’s just like…” an experience that they have never had in the physical world. At that point, trainers and educators will have to rethink their point of reference in order to work more effectively with a new generation.
These are some of the misunderstandings that need to be dealt with, in order to train interpreters online.
Andrew Clifford, Director of the Master of Conference Interpreting on the Glendon Campus of York University.