Feng Xiao

The transition to a remote academic program in response to the COVID-19 pandemic came quickly. Here, Assistant Professor Feng Xiao of Asian Languages and Literatures shares some of the lessons he has learned in this transition.

Xiao is well versed in the latest technology and is Co-Chair of the ITS Advisory Committee (ITSAC). As such, Xiao was able to quickly adapt his syllabus to a remote course. To engage students in linguistic analysis remotely, Xiao introduced students to SPSS and R, two statistical analysis tools. Students used online databases such as Google N-gram and Leiden Webo Corpus to analyze linguistic information. Google N-gram charts the use of phrases in books and papers in multiple languages throughout history. Leiden Webo Corpus is a database of the 5m+ messages posted to Sina Weibo, China’s most popular microblogging service, in January 2012. The database was designed to allow users to explore the wealth of data that bloggers generate.

To combat Zoom fatigue, Xiao has diversified exercises for language learning with user-friendly websites such the one he created with three Pomona students, pinyin.pomona.edu. In addition, Xiao has integrated multimodal learning techniques including data visualizations, videos, and infographics to keep students engaged.

While Xiao was able to quickly transition his syllabus to an online format, his biggest hurdle has been keeping students motivated. To address this challenge, Xiao uses Zoom to provide face-to-face interactions with students and offers individualized feedback with synchronous and asynchronous tools. In addition, Xiao has integrated activities that require visual peer-to-peer collaboration to help students motivate one another.