Recognizing a demand in the Boston area and beyond for credit-bearing first-year instruction in less commonly taught languages, this pilot project of hybrid/online courses in Turkish and Zulu (originally Hindi/Urdu and Korean) seeks to meet two key objectives:
- Offer a systematic approach for faculty to redesign and teach their first-year courses online using a hybrid-online format.
- Serve as a catalyst for other institutions to evaluate the effectiveness of online learning in less commonly taught languages, and to embark on similar development based on the Geddes Language Center model.
While approximately half of the students in both Zulu and Turkish experienced technical difficulties in using Adobe Connect at varying intervals, the use of this synchronous conferencing tool successfully permitted instructors to meet with their students in a live, online setting. They shared Powerpoints, PDFs, videos and MS Word documents as primary teaching materials, and marked them up with Adobe’s many drawing tools in order to best simulate face-to-face learning. Furthermore, screen sharing and whiteboard use added to the options, making it possible to have engaging classes online.
German for Reading Knowledge, although it was not funded by this grant, serves as a useful comparison measure because it made use of the same technologies. Students in that course were older (average age 24), and the course-wide use of Adobe Connect with webcams and microphones experienced a 99% success rate over 15 weeks, with up to 9 students in sessions at a time. Breakout rooms were created for pairs of students to work on activities without interference by their instructor or their fellow students, usually for 15 minutes at a time during a 2-hour online class in Adobe Connect.
A natural outgrowth of this project was organizing the second annual Mini-Conference on Developing Language Proficiency using Technology on April 15-16, 2015, with 5 sessions and 63 attendees. One of the highlights was a keynote address by Prof. Fernando Rubio, a nationally recognized expert on foreign language pedagogy and technology and ACTFL Board Member. Faculty from BC, Brandeis, MIT, Northeastern, Wellesley College, and Stonehill College attended.