For many professors across the globe, the move to online teaching was a bit of a leap. That said, ISI Florence professors were pleasantly surprised with continued student engagement despite the ocean and 6 to 8 hour time difference between them and their students. Lorenzo Picchi (Writing for the Media) reported that often the students who had been the quietest in class were the most active and thoughtful in the online discussion groups. Simone Testa (Florence: Story of a City) also noted how the digital environment strengthened some of the students’ study skills: they had to pay more attention to Testa’s written prompts and given the slightly longer period in between writing assignments, their writing improved after leaving Florence.
Thomas Brownlees (Digital Branding: Italian Fashion and Luxury) agreed that the online environment actually helped the students follow him in the pivot to make his marketing classes “a real-time lab where students could instantly apply what they learned to their own projects and enterprises.” The digital format even allowed a new, potentially even more careful look at the Renaissance art that fills Florence. Francesca Marini (The Art of Florence) reported that her use of virtual visits to galleries, where students had—ironically—a much closer look at the details of the Uffizi’s paintings or the Sistine Chapel’s frescoes actually improved their recall of the details. By building out a set of links that the students’ could peruse out of class, Marini was able to draw more parallels between Renaissance and contemporary art and delve deeper scientific examinations of artwork based on restorations.
Professors also noted that given ISI courses’ small size, moving to Zoom allowed them to largely maintain the intimacy of a discussion-based class.
As ISI Florence professors reflect on their teaching experience this semester, the Institute would like to thank all of them for their hard work this semester as they weathered unpredictable circumstances. Their positivity and continued dedication to learning deserve special attention on today’s Teacher Appreciation Day.
ISI Florence would also like to thank its students for their resilience in the face of unpredictable circumstances that impacted study abroad globally this semester. We greatly appreciate what each one has shared in and out of class as they transitioned to remote learning and reflected on how this experience has contributed to their personal growth.