ASL program switches to online during pandemic

April 22, 2020 | Jacob Williams | reporter
Screenshot from ASL class
TR ASL instructor Cheryl Sohns signs to her students during one of the Zoom
sections. The sound is turned off to imitate the quiet classroom.

The shelter-in-place order due to COVID19 forced all TCC courses to transition online,
but one course that had never before been offered this way is American Sign Language.

TR ASL student Devin Jones says the course experience helped him become more interested in the culture of sign language rather than just taking the class for credit.

“At first, I was taking ASL as a required language for my degree plan, but I’ve learned it is so much more than a language, it’s a culture,” Jones said. “The tutors are friendly and patient with us even though we aren’t face-to-face anymore, which is helpful in practicing signing outside of class.”

Zoom meetings with the sound turned off replicate the quiet classroom environment.

Colten Taylor, a tutor and interpreter, says learning sign language is a unique experience because of TCC having deaf and hearing instructors who are high-level professionals.

“The deaf instructors and tutors help give students a cultural understanding of the deaf community, with also having hearing instructors that have been teaching students for longer than 20 years,” he said.

Whether it is in the classroom or online, students taking the course can be able not just to learn to sign, but also have a whole new perspective and respect for people that are deaf.
TR ASL student Mercedes Chavez said ASL has helped her appreciate the language more and has been a great class to take.

“ASL has taught me new manners,” Chavez said. “Before taking this class, I did not find myself around deaf people often, so it has taught me new behaviors that are appropriate for different situations of being in class, working in person with tutors, or online in Zoom meetings. ASL is just a great class to take.”