The CLA Student Board is hosting a Meet, Greet, and Eat event on Wednesday March 12, 2014, 6:00 to 7:00 p.m. in STSS 330. This event will connect second language students with alumni who have a degree or a minor in a language program. This will give our students some ideas about how to put their language skills to good use once they graduate. Students will have the opportunity to talk to alumni either one on one or in small groups so the questions and information can be directed towards personal interests. Treats are provided by Afro Deli.
Recently in Language Courses Category
The Certificate of Advanced-Level Proficiency in Spanish program was recently approved as an option for students to have their language proficiency formally recognized beyond the Language Proficiency Exam (LPE). This is a great option for students of Spanish whose abilities extend beyond the intermediate level and who want to have their advanced-level proficiency formally recognized.
The Advanced-Level Certificate option is open to all undergraduate University of Minnesota students, regardless of their major or college. The certificate program will be administered jointly by the Department of Spanish and Portuguese Studies and the CLA Language Center.
The LPE can assess language proficiency skills up to the intermediate level. The Advanced-Level Spanish Certificate program will be able to assess skills up to the advanced level. The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) guidelines determine advanced-level proficiency. According to these guidelines, students with advanced-level proficiency do not necessarily perform like native speakers. However, they have reading, writing, listening and speaking skills sufficient enough to navigate daily situations, such as routine school and work requirements and can be generally understood by native speakers.
One of the goals of the Certificate Program is to provide students with an internationally-recognized marker of proficiency once they achieve advanced-level proficiency. Another goal is: "To encourage the integration of language and culture learning across students' academic and professional lives, and empower students to be responsible for their own second language acquisition."1
There are several steps required for completing the Advanced-Level certificate, including: passing the Spanish LPE, passing two approved upper-level courses taught in Spanish, completing an intensive Spanish language immersion experience, taking a self-assessment, completing a critical reflection essay, and passing the ACTFL advanced-level exam. Please see the Advanced-Level Certificate informational website for a full list of requirements.
Students interested in learning more about the certificate are encouraged to attend a Certificate Orientation and Self-Assessment Workshop on January 22, 2014 from 3:00-4:30 p.m. in Jones 35. Information about the certificate is also available at http://z.umn.edu/spancert.
Anyone who's studied second language knows the difficulties. One is the discrepancy between book-learning and real-life language use; for example, the dialogues in second-language textbooks are scripted and complete, but real-life dialogues are full of false starts, interruptions, and other complications which are notoriously hard to negotiate on the fly. Also daunting are the cultural differences involved; ways of saying "How are you?" can vary one from one country to the next, even in those speaking the same language. Also, to attain true linguistic fluency, extensive and frequent conversation with native speakers of the language is required. Fortunately, a program exists at the University of Minnesota that allows participants to gain experience in all these areas, without leaving campus or even spending any money.
The TandemPlus cultural and conversation exchange program offers University of Minnesota students and community members the opportunity to use their second language skills with native speakers of the languages that they are learning. TandemPlus has different facets, including the Face-to-Face (F2F) Exchanges and the Class-to-Class (C2C) Exchanges.
The most popular facet is the F2F program, in which individual students voluntarily enroll because they want to improve their second-language skills. After registering on-line and being matched by Tandem staff based on their personal and linguistic preferences, participants meet with one another in person on or around campus on a regular basis. These partnerships often grow into strong friendships. U of M student Sean Nelson, who participated in a Japanese-English F2F exchange during the Spring 2013 semester, stated,
Tandem has helped more than I would have ever imagined. I initially didn't know what I'd gain from a Tandem partner, but it has become such an amazing experience. I have become very comfortable with speaking Japanese, my listening comprehension has improved tremendously and my cultural understanding has improved greatly.
According to Nelson, his F2F partnership has also increased his vocabulary, helped him improve his performance in class, and more:
Along with all that, I've gained an amazing friend. I've gained experiences and information I don't feel I would have ever been taught in class. It has also helped prepare me for studying abroad this summer. And finally, it has connected me to the Japanese community at the University. Without my Tandem partner, I would have never thought about signing up to join the board of the Japanese Student Association, where I am now an officer and love every second of it.
While the F2F program is individual and voluntary, the C2C program is done in conjunction with a language class at the University. In it, students are paired with a partner in a complementary language class abroad -- for example, students in a Spanish class at the U of M could be paired with students in an English class in Spain. Students communicate with each other in their first and second languages, using Skype or another on-line medium, and learn about different cultures while utilizing their language skills. Rick Treece is a French instructor at the U of M whose students have participated in C2C exchanges for several semesters. According to Treece, the program offers some great incentives for U of M students:
I liked the idea of giving my students authentic contact with native speakers their own age. The experience would be motivational from two standpoints: showing them how much they can really achieve in French already, and showing them what they need to work on in order to be more successful. The chances for cross-cultural insights (which is a big element of our French 1004 curriculum) was also attractive.Treece pointed out that the opportunity did not come without challenges:
The mismatch of the academic calendars is a hassle. When we're putting together our Fall syllabus, the French are on vacation; they're not at work answering their emails, and even when they do reply, they don't know their enrollments or perhaps even their course assignments yet. The delay between the start of our Spring semesters is even worse, so that we end up with only about 5 weeks of course-time in common in the Spring, once you take out Spring Breaks, etc. The solution is just that we've learned to be flexible, to plan based on expectations, and then adjust in midstream.
Despite the challenges that came with the program, the benefits far outweighed the cost, according to Treece. He noted that while a "handful of students found it frustrating, even negative," the majority of his students had "pleasant and cordial" exchanges, and that some even had "life-changing experiences," such as the opportunity to visit their partner overseas.
All in all, TandemPlus is a free program that offers the potential for increased linguistic fluency, greater cultural awareness, or even a life-changing experience. The F2F program operates during all semesters of the academic year, including Summer, while the C2C program operates mainly during the academic year. Students or instructors who want to learn how to participate in these exchanges should get in touch with TandemPlus at email@example.com.
This is the last of a series of articles on hybrid courses. The series began with an interview with Dan Soneson, who coordinates the Hybrid Working Group, followed by a Spotlight on Spanish Hybrid Courses and La Vie Branchée: French Hybrid Classes.
Screenshot from a student's digital story.
German hybrid, first offered in Fall 2012 for German 1003, is the newest of the hybrid courses currently offered at the University of Minnesota. German hybrid is unique in that it integrates new technology such as Avenue, a video recording tool, VoiceThread for digital storytelling, special Moodle tools, and Wimba Voice Board.
In the summer of 2011, Beth Kautz, a German 1003 coordinator, participated in a hybrid course in Munich about teaching hybrid language courses. "This was a transformative experience for me, which led to a year of planning before actually developing the course in the summer of 2012," Kautz said.
A small team of graduates and coordinators received a "Tools for Discovery Grant" and funding from CLA, which allowed them to create new hybrid course materials.
Kautz said German hybrid developers created their own course materials based on reading texts, podcasts, and video clips from the internet. This development allowed the German department to offer two sections of hybrid 1003 in Fall 2012, and one section of hybrid 1003 and two sections of hybrid 1004 in Spring 2013. These hybrid courses met face-to-face three days a week and online two days.
Developers experimented with different technology, including a video-recording tool developed at the University of Minnesota, called Avenue. Classrooms also integrated Moodle tools such as discussion forums, databases, glossaries, and polls, as well as the Wimba Voice Board.
Kautz said the highlight of the semester was using a tool called VoiceThread for digital storytelling. Students received instructions on using the technology. She described the project as an autobiographical essay about their youth experiences that have shaped their current educational and career goals. The student used personal photos and voice recordings to present their stories visually.
"Students focused on presentational speaking skills to make their stories engaging and easy to understand. All the digital stories were linked in a Moodle forum, where classmates could view and comment on each other's creative work... Students were able to complete the project on their own and we were all thrilled with the results! They took great pride in their stories and the sense of community was really strengthened by sharing them with each other."
- Beth Kautz, German 1003 Coordinator
Instructor Feedback and Outcomes
Ginny Steinhagen, German 1004 coordinator, noted that hybrid instructors are learning the benefits of spreading out deadlines for student's feedback in forums, by allowing adequate time for students to respond to each other's posts.
Steinhagen emphasized the importance of instructor feedback for online activities in hybrid courses.
"In 1004, [Meagan Tripp, 1004 German instructor] has created some nice, quick Moodle quizzes that show us whether the students are understanding the reading or the grammar. As teachers, it is important for us to follow up on these quizzes (even if they are self-correcting) and comment on them in class. Integrating the hybrid day activities into face to face discussions continues to be a challenge."
- Ginny Steinhagen, German 1004 Coordinator
Kautz added that there is great variation in how instructor feedback occurs and how students' assignments are submitted. "There are many possibilities and we are still figuring out what works best in which situation," she said.
At the moment, developers do not have specific data on student's performance comparing German hybrid and traditional face-to-face courses. Kautz noted that there are many variables to consider and considerations in terms of how to define performance. However, Kautz said, "I anticipate that students in hybrid sections will become more fluent writers through increased writing practice in online discussion boards, but that's a research project for the future."
World Languages Day 2013 is just around the corner. You can check classes that are now available on the World Languages Day website. There is a selection of 41 classes this year, in 20 different languages. The courses are diverse and vary in themes. A virtual 360 degree tour of Vienna is featured in a German course titled A Virtual Walk Through Vienna. Students can play a fun quiz game about Swedish pop culture and find out surprising facts in Sweden: From Viking Raids to Rap Music. For a quick crash-course in Korean, there is Korean Alphabet in 40 Minutes.
Other courses focus on the influence of many different cultures in one language or country. The class "Parlez-vouz franglais ? Frenglish through the Ages" can satisfy student's curiosity about the origin of English and French words in each language. Students can learn about social and cultural issues related to U.S. Latino groups in United States Latino Theater: Human and Civil Rights.
Extended sessions will also be offered again this year for students wanting to learn about college, in So You Want to be a Millionaire: How Preparing for College Can Help!, Where in the World Will U Go? Study Abroad as a College Student, and U of M Admissions: The Inside Scoop... And there are many more exciting courses featured on the site!
This is a continuation of a series of articles on hybrid courses. The series began with an interview with Dan Soneson, who coordinates the Hybrid Working Group, followed by the Spanish Hybrid article.
With the debut of French 1004 in Fall 2011, French was the second language program to offer lower-level hybrid courses. Since then, curriculum developers have experimented with different proportions of weekly face-to-face meetings with online components at the 1003 and 1004 levels. French 1002 was added as a hybrid course this spring.
One of the most exciting developments in hybrid French 1004 is the integration of TandemPlus class-to-class exchanges between U of M French students and English learners from Troyes, France. Students are assigned to communicate via Skype with their language partners on predetermined topics that complement the themes covered in the curriculum.
Trina Whitaker, French 1003/1004 coordinator and instructor, said "This is, for many students, a very positive experience."
Corbin Treacy, a French 1004 hybrid instructor, also described the online webcam activities as a positive experience for students. "My students got a lot out of the Skype exchanges," he said. "One student traveled to France over the summer and stayed with her exchange partner; other students have told me they are still in contact with their 'correspondent.'"
Experimentation with French Hybrid Format
Rick Treece taught a traditional five-day-a-week French 1004 class this fall. On the first day, he asked students how often they would like to meet, while maintaining the same five credit load. The majority responded that they would like to meet four days in-person and one day online. Treece then revised the syllabus to the four-day-a-week format (4+1), with an optional day when work could be done face-to-face if the students chose to.
Treece found that there was relatively high attendance on the optional days, with over half attending. However, most of his students had expressed interest in continuing past French 1004, which was not typical of other classes. Students who plan to continue studying the language beyond 1004 tend to be more intrinsically motivated.
For instructors and students alike, certain French hybrid formats require more work. This Spring semester, Whitaker is teaching a 4+1 hybrid course after teaching 3+2 hybrid. "I am frankly shocked at how much less time I have to spend on my teaching, when the class meets more often," she said. "The 3+2 classes are a lot more work - there is more grading, more planning... just more of everything that takes a lot of time."
Hybrid French 1002 course, introduced this fall, utilizes the software Connect, a new hybrid interface for the textbook Deux Mondes.
Reactions to Hybrid Content
The French hybrid format allows instructors to experiment with content to engage students. Treece was surprised by students' reactions. "Results didn't always match my expectations: a session on use of online translators, which I expected to be wildly popular, only attracted 4 students."
During the first semester of French hybrid, students could do work based on the individual's level of skill in French, but it did not always relate directly to the course content. This method included using separately purchased software based on readings, video, audio and grammar exercises, Whitaker said.
"There was a disconnect between what the students were being asked to do outside of class and what we were doing in class," Treacy said. "Initially, they liked the concept of independent learning, increased flexibility, and targeted online linguistic support. Before long, however, students began to look upon the online exercises as burdensome and arbitrary."
"Things that seem to work better," Whitaker said, "are having students do readings or watch videos that we select within the department and can make sure are entirely relevant to our course content."
Best Personalities for Hybrid
Whitaker found that, for students motivated and strong in French, hybrid is successful and adds extra motivation. However, she said, "students who are less strong in French, or who are not motivated, can find that the course feels like a lot more work to them." Whitaker explained that for a student who is used to the traditional format, which allowed more reliance on peers and instructors to answer questions, he or she is less successful.
"When students are doing the hybrid work, they are on their own, and they must do their best to figure things out without outside help, without relying on others. So it makes sense that it's taking more time [for these students], even if in reality the same amount of time is going by on the clock - it is more intensive time." - Trina Whitaker
Treacy agreed. "It requires a student who can learn independently and engage meaningfully during the hybrid section's more limited class time. Students who require constant, cyclical instruction, and who need more accountability, seemed to struggle in the hybrid section I taught."
Though the French hybrid format requires a motivated student, it also requires concise instruction. Treacy said, "The adjustment required me to be more organized and thoughtful with class time. Particularly difficult was the balancing act between responding to specific student needs (reviewing a tricky concept, for example) and moving forward with new material."
Treece also mentioned that hybrid courses require a special type of student and instructor. "One of the recurring topics in our Hybrid Teaching Work Group has been consideration of what instructional talents, skills and preferences hybrid and online teaching demand or favor vs. face-to-face teaching."
Hybrid caters to a new generation of online learners. Treece noted, "As we begin to face a new generation of learners who have been learning online their whole lives (and who therefore are comfortable with that sort of instructional delivery and competent in that setting), we hope that we will have bred a new generation of teachers trained in that style of teaching and equally familiar with and comfortable with online learning."
Treacy expressed hope in French hybrid as it improves content in the future, despite student's occasional hang-ups related to content:
"I recall that on a mid-course evaluation, students expressed a simultaneous frustration with the specific forms of the online exercises and an appreciation for the hybrid concept. Despite their struggles to integrate in-class learning and out-of-class online study, the students overwhelmingly reported they would take a hybrid course in the future." -Corbin Treacy
Treece described a student's experience with the independence and accountability of the French hybrid format.
"I had a point of clarity when I asked a class about their experience with a (new) video assignment we were piloting. A student remarked that she had gotten a lot more out of it by being forced to do the work on her own. She said that if I had shown the video in class, she would probably have zoned out and waited for other members of her small group to take up the slack, but at home faced with her computer and the worksheet, there was no one else to do the task, so she worked through it herself." - Rick Treece
In addition to continuing the current French 1002 hybrid 4+1 format, Treece said the hybrid French 1003 4+1 format will most likely expand to all day sections in Fall 2013 and will primarily include online video.
This is a continuation of a series of articles on hybrid courses. The series began with an interview with Dan Soneson, who coordinates the Hybrid Working Group.
Spanish hybrid courses first launched in academic year 1999-2000, when the Spanish and Portuguese Studies department and the Language Center received a CLA-OIT Technology Fees Grant to create a hybrid version of 1022. At that time, the format was known as "technology enhanced," and was one option for students taking the intensive first-year Spanish course.
Today all sections of SPAN 1022 are technology enhanced. In this 5-credit class students meet face-to-face three days each week and do online and computer mediated activities instead of meeting physically two days each week.
Frances Matos-Schultz, the 1022 Level Coordinator, has managed and adapted the course since its debut. The course has changed considerably over time, as Frances and her fellow instructors learned from experience, and as technology tools have changed.
Spanish is unique among languages at the University of Minnesota in that it offers hybrid courses for introductory students at the 1022 level. Until recently, the hybrid format was restricted to SPAN 1022. While individual instructors in Spanish have experimented with modified hybrid formats in SPAN 1003 and 1004, replacing one day each week with online activities, a concerted effort to create hybrid versions of 1003 and 1004 along the lines SPAN 1022 was undertaken in the summer of 2011. Spanish piloted 1003 and 1004 as hybrid with three physical meetings and two days of online activities each week in Fall 2011.
Adjusting to Hybrid Spanish Courses
The introduction of new Spanish 1003 and 1004 levels of hybrid has been generally painless for learners. Students who had taken SPAN 1022 were already familiar with the format. However, for students who tested into 1003 or 1004 hybrid courses or transfer students, it may have required some adjustment.
Only half of the 1003 and 1004 hybrid instructors had previously taught 1022 courses, Matos-Schultz said, so the move to hybrid for these instructors was more involved and may have been challenging:
"The move from a fully F2F environment to a hybrid (3+2) format was more involved and perhaps a bit more challenging for the instructors that were completely new to hybrid teaching, even though they were experienced and very successful 1003 and 1004 instructors. It required a repositioning of the instructor/learner roles, redesigning lesson plans, rethinking feedback techniques and strategies online and extending the teaching presence online. It was certainly hard work." - Frances Matos-Schultz
Sara Mack, the new Spanish 1004 coordinator, described a smooth implementation of the hybrid format as a goal to serve students. "One of the challenges going forward is to find the best way to provide support so that everyone, regardless of their comfort level with the Hybrid model or with technology in general, can achieve his or her language learning goals and be successful in the Hybrid 1004 class."
One of the possible adjustments students should make when taking the hybrid class is to make sure they treat the online portion of the course as seriously as the face-to-face meeting so that they are fully prepared and can perform well in class.
For the most part, online aspects seem to have helped students. "Students come better prepared to class. Research shows that students who engage with materials online come better prepared to the classroom, thus making better use of the face-to-face time," said Pablo Viedma, Spanish and Portuguese liaison.
What Makes Spanish Hybrid Unique?
Some unique advantages of the Spanish hybrid courses in lieu of traditional face-to-face format include online activities such as group writing exchanges, Moodle homework, Wimba Voice Board, and the Tertulias designed by France Matos Schultz and Megan Corbin. These activities allow students to interact more fully with the course content.
"They engage with this format, see relevant videos about it, converse in forum groups, create voice recordings and write short compositions about topics related to each chapter," said Angela Carlson-Lombardi, Spanish 1003 coordinator.
In hybrid versions of Spanish courses, writing exchanges and feedback occur online, where students can practice grammar, conversation, reading, and writing.
The hybrid format also allows Spanish students flexibility and can accommodate different types of learners. "Students engage with the materials when they are alert, which might be at different times than class times," Viedma noted. "Also, hybrid classes are known to engage diverse learners (introverted learners, for instance). We teach the students the same way that they interact with each other and with the media: through the computer, smartphone or tablet."
Advice for Students, Instructors and Developers
Students who are self-motivated learners and have sufficient time management skills are most likely to perform well in a hybrid course.
Matos-Schultz emphasized the importance of community, patience, and humor when adjusting to hybrid.
"[It's important] to be patient and adventurous with the technology. A good sense of humor is essential. Keep in mind that "going hybrid" is a process that takes time. Trial and error are part of it. Engage your community in the process, particularly your learners. Remember that instructors need support too. Make sure to include a space for learners to create community. An instructor's community of practitioners (and supporters!) is crucial as well." - Frances Matos-Schultz
Goals for Spanish Hybrid Going Forward
In the future, instructors are trying to ensure equality among the different formats of hybrid courses and access to materials. "The online modules also ensure students come prepared for the class, which is what we would like to ensure via online assignment for all of our classes," Carlson-Lombardi said.
At the 1022 level, three online learning modules are currently being updated. "In my sections I have been using additional modules connected to other disciplines," Matos-Schultz said. "I am currently working on them with my students (they provide valuable feedback and are amazing sources of creativity)."
Mack highlighted some core goals that are maintained for all language courses: "As we move forward, I think our goals remain the same as they always have been: to give our students the best language learning experience possible regardless of the format of the class, and to help students understand language and culture as a core part of a liberal arts education."
As language courses here at the University of Minnesota and across the country shift towards a blend of face-to-face and online instruction, most teachers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They've worked for years developing strategies and techniques for the traditional classroom, but have little experience as either a student or an instructor in the online environment. The CLA Language Center is pleased to offer this semester a 6-week seminar on teaching a hybrid language course.
The seminar will be offered in a hybrid format, with both online components and 3 face-to-face sessions from Feb. 1st - March 14th. The face-to-face sessions will be on Fridays:
February 8th, February 22nd, and March 8th from 11:15 - 12:05 in Jones 35.
Topics to be addressed include:
- Getting into the course (course preparation, introductions, syllabus);
- Building Community (starting and maintaining discussions, fostering student peer support);
- Blending the Course (integration of online activities into face-to-face content and activities);
- Student Time Management and Coaching;
- Assessment and Feedback
Please register by Wednesday, January 30th. You will receive information via email about accessing the Moodle site before the seminar begins on Feb. 1st.
On December 8, fourteen instructors and staff from the four larger language departments gathered in Jones 35 to participate in the one-day conference held at the University of Pennsylvania, entitled Advancing Language Education Beyond the Classroom. The group heard streaming presentations from Marie-Noelle Lamy in the United Kingdom, Daphne Koller in California, and Carl Blyth in Texas, along with a number of panel presentations at the conference site in Philadelphia.
Presenters shared their experiences with completely online language learning in the United Kingdom, and the inexpensive options of MOOCs and Open and freely accessible learning materials. Instructors from U Penn shared their experiences with the Coursera system and with teaching completely online language courses. Our group in Minnesota had the opportunity to view and participate in the presentations and we were able to discuss among ourselves options and possibilities for online language learning here at the University of Minnesota. In all, it was an excellent experience, opening up new possibilities for accessing current and evolving technologies in the service of teaching and learning languages.
As language courses here at the university and across the country shift towards a blend of face-to-face and online instruction, many teachers find themselves in unfamiliar territory. They've worked for years developing strategies and techniques for the traditional classroom, but have little experience as either a student or an instructor in the online environment.
The CLA Language Center is pleased to announce a 6-week seminar on teaching a hybrid language course during Spring Semester 2013. The seminar will be offered in a hybrid format, with both online components and three face-to-face sessions from February 1 to March 14, 2013. The face-to-face sessions held on Fridays, 11:15-12:05pm in Jones 35 on the following dates:
- February 8
- February 22
- March 8
Topics to be addressed include:
- Getting into the course (course preparation, introductions, syllabus)
- Building Community (starting and maintaining discussions, fostering student peer support)
- Blending the Course (integration of online activities into face-to-face content and activities)
- Student Time Management and Coaching
- Assessment and Feedback
Look for more information and registration forms in January!
The Language Proficiency Exam (LPE) is integrated into the fourth-semester courses of many languages. Students in fourth-semester Spanish take the reading, listening and writing portions of the LPE during regular class periods, and beginning Fall 2012, they are the first language classes to take the three parts of the LPE online. Until now, the LPE reading and listening have been taken online as the final exam. However, the LPE writing test was still on paper in the students' classroom. The writing section is rated by instructors, whereas the the reading and listening sections are computer-graded.
Last week all students in Spanish 1004, 1014, and 1044 came to Jones Hall during a regular class period to take the LPE writing test online in one of the computer labs. This change is possible due to upgrades to the online LPE delivery system that allow students' exams to be linked to a specific course section. This means for example, that all exams taken by Spanish 1004-006 students can be linked for grading purposes. When the new system is fully implemented, instructors will be able pull up student exams by section through the grader interface and evaluate the individual tests.
Hybrid language courses, made up of both online and classroom-based instruction, are growing at the University of Minnesota. French and Spanish are piloting refined second-year hybrid courses this semester, while German is piloting its first ever hybrid class this fall in 1003.
Spanish was the first to offer hybrid courses, starting with 1022 over a decade ago. Concentrated efforts to expand hybrid course development began in 2011, when Spanish created hybrid options for 1003 and 1004 and French piloted a hybrid version of 1004.
A Hybrid Working Group was formed during the Spring 2012 semester. It includes representatives from French, German, Italian, Spanish, the Language Center, CARLA and CLA-OIT. The goals of this group are to share resources, compare experiences and learn from one another without producing identical classes for various language programs.
The group worked diligently over the summer and continues to meet this semester. Meetings typically feature at least one technical training and exploration opportunity.
The new hybrid courses address the five national standards for foreign language learning, known as the "Five C's": Communication, Cultures, Comparisons, Connections, and Communities.
I sat down with Dan Soneson, coordinator of the Hybrid Working Group and spokesperson for ComSLE, to learn more about hybrid courses and the process of the work group's collaboration.
This is the first in a series of articles planned on hybrid course development. Look for future blog entries concentrating on hybrid courses for Spanish, French and German.
The French program debuted two sections of hybrid French 1004 this Fall semester. The five-credit classes meet three days per week, and have two online contact hours. Other language programs have also experimented with online learning, and Spanish has a long running hybrid 1022 class. French hybrid 1004 is distinguished by its incorporation of TandemPlus partnerships into the curriculum, as well as the fast pace of development. The majority of curricular development occurred over a single summer.
I spoke to the lead developer, Rick Treece, about the development process and plans for the future.
Students enrolled in the hybrid sections have a TandemPlus partner in France with whom they they communicate using Skype, and they are expected to complete seven activities during the semester. How will this opportunity enhance their acquisition of French, and their understanding of French culture?
There are three important benefits of the Skype exchanges:
1. Students in class speak for only a few minutes during a typical class session. And a disadvantage of small-group work is that weak students may have a too-sympathetic partner (who understands their English-influenced French too readily) while strong students may be frustrated by weaker partners who fail to understand their more advanced remarks. With TandemPlus partners who are native speakers of French, students get at least 15-30 min. per week of French conversation (often far more) in a situation that is far more authentic. This more than compensates for the speaking practice they're missing Tuesday and Thursday in class.
2. Research shows that language acquisition and retention are enhanced by the process of "negotiating meaning" in the target language in real communication. This is exactly what is occurring in the TandemPlus class-to-class exchange.
3. The over-arching theme of French 1004 involves comparing French and American cultures and their influence on personal identities. The Skype exchanges are based on detailed worksheets on which students prepare for their Skype sessions, take notes during the interview, and then follow-up on the personal and cultural insights acquired with meaningful Récapitulation assignments, which are evaluated with rubrics tailored to each type of assignment.
When students first learned that their sections would be partially computer-based, and that they would communicate with a partner in France, what were the general reactions?
General reactions were positive and even enthusiastic. Only one or two students said that they would have preferred meeting every day.
Did any students decide to switch to a standard section of 1004?
Spanish 1022 has been offered as a hybrid-only class for several years. How were you able to use the experiences of the Spanish developers and instructors as a model, and what did you find was different when targeting higher-level students?
Because higher-level students bring more skills to the process, we thought that we could let them have more flexibility in their assignments, so we gave (or imposed) much less structure on the assignments than Spanish 1022 typically does. This has worked out for the most part, but in the case of at least one major large-group assignment, I think that we should have been more "hands-on" in the early organizational phases. But frankly, I don't think that the issue was lack of French skills, but rather just general generation of the escape velocity to get the project off the ground.
Spanish 1022 makes significant use of online exercises in My Spanish Lab, which is apparently quite good, but we found that the French equivalent was not up to our standards. The online substitute that we adopted, Tell-Me-More, is a bit pricey and has had a mixed reception from the students (and from us, truth to tell). We're meeting soon to decide on a strategy to tweak or replace it.
What has surprised you most about the Skype exchanges and the activities that students are doing as part of those exchanges?
I've been surprised to find that some students on both sides of the Atlantic simply fail to show up for their scheduled Skype sessions. Though overall the number is probably fairly small, every instance is a moderate to major irritant to the student inconvenienced by the missed rendez-vous.
Right now, Spanish 1003 is being developed as a hybrid class, and German is exploring options for hybrid development as well. How has this simultaneous development impacted French 1004, and provided opportunities for collaboration?
The coordinators of French, German and Spanish are meeting regularly to share updates on successes and challenges. In fact, our current French 1004 TandemPlus model was developed in imitation of one that Italian used last year, so we're all open to consideration of models and experiences from a variety of levels and sources.
Moreover, the Language Center Instructional Team addresses issues relating to hybrid-course development at our bi-weekly meetings. German, Scandinavian and Dutch liaison Beth Kautz and I will meet regularly with the Director this year as a particular task-group to foster hybrid-course adoption.
What is the most important piece of advice you would give a student enrolled in a hybrid language class?
Allow me to quote from a message that I sent to my students and posted on our Moodle site at the beginning of the term:
The student that will thrive in this hybrid setting is:
- regular and disciplined
- a good time manager
- comfortable using the web
Conversely, this approach could be perilous for a student who:
- puts off things to the last minute
- relies on regular class attendance or personal over-qualification for the course level to skate by without doing much work outside of class
- does not work well independently
- is a technophobe
For more information on hybrid courses see this recent article on how sustainability content is being integrated into several classes, including lower-level hybrid Spanish.
Two sections of LGTT 5101, Applications of Technology in Language Teaching are offered Spring semester:
The course focuses on the use of technology in the service of teaching and learning languages. We demonstrate and employ various Web 2.0 technologies to reinforce the communicative focus of second and foreign language curricula. The course is organized according to the three communication modes of the ACTFL National Standards: interpretive, interpersonal, and presentational. Participants will use computer technology to develop activities and tasks that address each of these modes.
The course is appropriate for graduate students and P&A's teaching in the various language programs. Both sections are 50% hybrid, which means that approximately half of the time they will meet online in lieu of classroom meetings. Please email one of the instructors or firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
When the French, German and Spanish language programs had the opportunity to collaborate on the creation of sustainability-themed content for their courses, they jumped right in. However, curriculum developers from the three programs had a different visions for how the content would ultimately be integrated into their university languages courses.
This spring semester, University of Minnesota language students will have several new opportunities to learn about sustainability at the same time as they continue second language acquisition.
Part of the curriculum development was funded by Title VI to create Foreign Languages Across the Curriculum Content (FLAC) resources for K-12 and university courses. The team working to get these initiatives off the ground is:
Elaine Tarone (CARLA)
Patricia Mougel (French)
Charlotte Melin and Beth Kautz (German)
Susan Villar and Frances Matos-Schultz (Spanish).
Here is an overview of the two approaches the programs took for integrating academic content with second language acquisition, focusing on examples of classes offered Spring 2012:
French and German: Upper-level course enhancement and redesign
FREN 3022 The Language and Culture of Business in France
GER 3501 Contemporary Germany: Environmental Debates--Food, Energy, Politics
Patricia is currently teaching her French advanced oral communication class as a new content-based language course on the theme of water. For Spring 2012, Patricia is revamping her ongoing business course, integrating new content on sustainability while keeping the focus on business overall. In the course students will learn about and discuss sustainable business practices in France through case studies of businesses that have moved towards sustainability in terms of resources selection, product development, marketing and human resources management.
During Spring 2011, Charlotte taught a German course with an environmental literature theme. For Spring 2012, she has completely redeveloped an existing course on contemporary Germany. Students will be able to use this course towards the completion of the Sustainability Minor by petition. Here is the course description:
Public concern about environmental issues is driving social, political, and cultural change in German-speaking countries today--a trend visible in the successes of the Green party in recent elections and plans to decommission nuclear power plants over the next decade. This course (taught in German) looks at the ways environmental imagination is expressed through language and contemporary culture. We will examine the evolution of the environmental movement and European conceptions of sustainability through the lens of nonfiction writings, literature, on-line resources, and film. Historically, concepts of ecology arose out of early 20th century discoveries about interconnectedness, epitomized by the term Umwelt (surrounding world), which was coined by Jakob von Uexküll. In keeping with this systems perspective, we will study examples like food production, energy consumption, and urban design. To take into account the divergent opinions that surround these topics, assignments will include debates, expository writing, and creative projects that probe differing positions.
Spanish: Integration throughout the lower-level curriculum
SPAN 1022, 1003, 1004 Second-Semester and Intermediate Spanish
Spanish has begun integrating sustainability content modules into all of their hybrid Spanish 1022 and 1003 sections. The program also plans to integrate the content into hybrid Spanish 1004, once that class debuts. This means that as more Spanish sections switch to the hybrid format, as many as 900 to 1000 students will interact with sustainability content each semester.
Interested in learning more? If you are an advanced student of French or German, or a beginning student of Spanish, take a class Spring semester! Registration for FREN 3022 is open for students of French who have completed 3015 (3016 is recommended). GER 3501 is open for German students who have completed 3011W. All sections of SPAN 1022 are hybrid, as well as some sections of 1003. Contact the appropriate department for more information on these courses.
You can also read more about the development of the German class, and how some of the content debuted at World Languages Day at Elsie Speaks, and Charlotte wrote an article about her Spring 2011 class for Neues Curriculum.
Pablo Viedma and Frances Matos-Schultz were awarded a CLA-OIT Tech Fees Tools for Discovery Grant for the project titled From a Face-to-Face to a Hybrid Model in Second-Year Spanish: a Dynamic Template. They will be developing a hybrid second-year Spanish course to follow the very successful first-year accelerated one developed by Frances years ago. They will have a graduate student research assistant working on the project.
This fall marks the launch of a new curriculum in Italian at the University of Minnesota. The previous textbook, Prego is being phased out in favor of Avanti!, a new textbook from the same publisher (McGraw-Hill) that is more communicative and less grammar-focused, co-authored by Diane Musumeci of "performed culture" fame. The textbook is being adopted for use in Ital 1001 through 1003; other materials, still to be determined, will be adopted for 1004 starting in Spring 2012.
The new initiative exploits technology in its pursuit of a more communicative, student-centered approach. Student blogs, hosted as Moodle Forums, are an essential component of the courses. Even more stimulating is a pilot in two sections of Ital 1001 using Google Video to facilitate student-to-student exchanges with liceo students in Ancona and Ravenna, Italy. Because of the time difference, students use email to set up a time over the weekend to video-chat with their partner in Italy. The exchange, coordinated through professional contacts by Italian DLI Carlotta Dradi-Bower with a hand from Kate Clements, Director of the Language Center's TandemPlus program, is 50% in Italian and 50% in English, so that both sides benefit. Students, though beginners, are excited to discover that they can communicate successfully in Italian, and teachers are gaining skills in serving as coaches to prepare the students (theme-specific vocabulary, etc.) for the weekly exchanges.
The Avanti! materials provide cultural context for the content presented through web-based video (also available on CD-ROM). The workbook is accessed through Centro on the Internet. Students (and teachers) find the new culture-based approach challenging, but tests scores are high, even though exams now assess culture and content as well as grammar and vocabulary.