Issues to consider when weighing face-to-face, hybrid, and online language courses

Ideally, language classes are taken in person, as the in-person interaction helps students learn the language in a meaningful context. The next best thing is to provide videos of live classes so that you can see language in “action.”

If you live near Augusta and can make it one day a week, I recommend the hybrid option, as this is very helpful and you will feel more connected to the course. Hybrid students can let me know which day of the week they plan to attend.

For students who cannot make a face-to-face or hybrid course, I am offering fully online language courses. The main thing that I ask students to consider before signing up for an online language course is that they are willing to watch the videos of the live class taped (approximately 3.5 hours a week) and do the online homework (approximately 1-4 hours a week). Are you, in general, a self-motivated student?

There are also a number of proctored tests, which can be taken at a campus, site, or center near you. I will provide instructions and plenty of time to set this up. If you are out of state, I work with you to find a location near you. There are also open book take-home tests to make it easier to succeed in the course.

I do offer the option to join the class “live” via Zoom, which is free video conference software. We also have an online tutor who holds “meet and greets” for each class level, as the online students need practice speaking and this helps a lot.

You may also want to think about any local resources you have to practice speaking French, as that is one missing link in the online course. This might be a friend studying the language or a neighbor who knows French (or even a family member!). If not, I am sometimes able to match you with a peer taking the class. Every little bit counts with language!

If you have had any substantial French in the past and want to evaluate your level, let me know and we can figure out which placement test you should take. These are administered on campus, or at a site or center near you and take about 1.5 hours. I do not necessarily recommend that you study before taking the placement test, as you may want to see how you do without that. In addition, I find that students procrastinate taking the placement test until they find the time to study—it is better just to take the test as soon as possible!

The French minor is now fully online. The French minor helps students to learn French and learn more about Franco-American culture and/or Francophone cultures around the world. There are also opportunities to travel to France for short-term immersion at the advanced levels or do a weekend immersion right here in Maine at the intermediate level.

There is a mandatory online Zoom orientation for online students at the beginning of the semester. It is usually held in the evening to allow for maximum attendance. This is to help you access all the resources in the online homework platform and in our online course materials. This is very important and can prevent a lot of confusion later on!

If it is feasible, we do have all students (including hybrid and online) come to class once at the end of the semester to celebrate with the class potluck. You present a short skit that you read out with your partner or with me. It is a lot of fun and we are thrilled to meet our online students that one day!

Let me know your thoughts and if you feel that online (or hybrid if that applies to your situation) would work for you. I will then give you permission if you feel that this would be a good fit for you.


Chelsea Ray
Associate Professor of French and comparative literature
(207) 621-3487


If you want to discuss what level might be appropriate for you, please contact Chelsea Ray at or call (207) 621-3487.

French 103, “Basic French Conversation: Beginners and Beyond” is a favorite for a wide range of speakers, because it is a small time commitment and a lot of fun! We meet once a week for an hour. This informal, multilevel course seeks to connect UMA students with French speakers. The syllabus is tailored to the interests, needs, and abilities of the class members: it doesn’t matter if you are just putting two words together or if you are well on your way to learning French (or re-awakening your French)! Your language skills are reinforced while you learn more about Francophone culture. There are no tests or quizzes; it simply is a class for the joy of learning French.

You are not alone. There are many people who are thinking about re-awakening their French language skills. Ben Levine’s film, Waking Up French, is a great inspiration to those who want to reacquire a lost childhood language. You can start by coming to the monthly French Conversation Table, which caters to the needs of speakers like you who want to connect with the language. You might think about taking French 103, “Basic French Conversation: Beginners and Beyond,” as this class is multilevel; it doesn’t matter if you are just beginning or well on your way to learning (or reawakening your) French. In other words, we start where you are!

They say that people fear public speaking more than death-so what does that make public speaking in a foreign language? In her French classes, Chelsea Ray strives to make everyone comfortable and helps students to take risks in the language. Small group work and conversation partners also help in creating a supportive, close-knit community in the classroom.

UMA offers HUM35, “Franco-Americans: Cultural Identity in Context,” every other year. This course offers the opportunity to learn about the history and culture of Franco-American New England from socio-linguistic, historical, and literary perspectives. Students will be encouraged to think about cultural identity in general, and to personalize the course by reflecting on their own background and identity. This course is taught in English.

In English 389W, “Francophone Literature,” students explore the historical and aesthetic evolution of Francophone literature. Past courses have included works from North Africa, the Caribbean, and North America. The class will examine the socio-political framework of colonization and decolonization for each work as well as a variety of literary traditions. The role of France and its relationship with the people and countries of the Francophone world will also be discussed. This course is taught in English.