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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Hybrid Language Courses Expand

hybrid word_cloud

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.

Saoirse: How are hybrid courses adjusted/customized to suit different languages? Is there a specific model for the ideal hybrid course?

Dan: It would be great if there were one model out there that we could all adopt, but the concept of a hybrid course has developed over time and only recently have we begun to think about actually replacing class time with time online. We started the process looking at how Spanish 1022 works, and went from there.

We quickly discovered that the amount and quality of prepared online resources available to Spanish is not as readily available to the other language programs, so French, German and Italian had to find and develop more of their own materials. While Spanish had begun with the intensive elementary course, both the French and German programs decided to start at the second year. The reasoning was that by the second year students have experience with the language and might be able to work more independently in a partially online context.

Saoirse: Will hybrid courses expand to more languages and levels in the future? Are there any more languages that may be experimenting with hybrid?

Dan: That will depend on the success of these newly developed courses. The original plan was to have blended learning or hybrid courses in place for at least semesters two through four of Spanish, German, French, and possibly Italian. If we can solidify the models we develop for these languages, perhaps they can serve as templates for related language programs.

Saoirse: Do you think a hybrid model would work with upper division language courses?

Dan: I definitely think a hybrid model can work throughout the curriculum. A great deal depends on what kinds of activities can be developed to take advantage of the wealth of material and communication possibilities that technology provides.

Saoirse: What are student's reactions to these new courses? Instructor's reactions?

Dan: As you can imagine, reactions have been mixed. One thing we've learned is that students discover quickly that this course involves more work than a strict face-to-face class, even though the expected time commitment is equivalent. While it may be possible to participate less in a face-to-face class, online you need to do all the work and demonstrate your participation. This work, however, can yield greater results, since everyone is participating equally.

Instructors also note the increased workload, primarily due to reading and responding to every student's contributions to forum topics and threaded discussions. However, regular classroom participation can increase as well. One instructor stated recently that once the class gets into the rhythm of online work leading to live classroom activities, the quality of the classroom work improves, with more engaged students and more stimulating discussions.

Saoirse: What are the expectations of a hybrid course? What are the characteristics of a student who will be successful in a hybrid course?

Dan: Basically, a hybrid course represents a transformation from a conventional course that meets exclusively in a physical space (a classroom) to one in which a regular number of classroom hours take place online or through use of technology. In our case, the conventional 5-credit course meets regularly at the same hour, five days each week. The hybrid version reduces the physical in-class hours to three each week, while the other two hours take place virtually, with students engaged with similar activities or with the kind of activities that are desirable, but difficult to accomplish in a large class setting.

The expectation is that these online "classes" carry the same weight as a regular in-class meeting, and that students spend at least 50 minutes focussing on the assigned activities, at a time that is convenient for them. In addition to these online activities, students also complete regular homework assignments for each class period, whether it is virtual or face-to-face.

Successful students are well organized self-starters who can work independently and are willing to work with peers outside of the classroom. Much of the "group" work that takes place in the virtual classroom requires teamwork and an ability to contribute to a discussion in a timely manner.

Saoirse: What are some things the Hybrid Work Group achieved over the summer? What kind of technology were instructors trained on?

Dan: The Work Group met weekly over the summer to share ideas and experiences. The idea was to provide both structure and a support system for all instructors working on the process. We had people from CLA-OIT participate and share technologies in an effort to help the instructors develop activities and format the courses. We experienced the capabilities of Moodle, Kaltura, UMConnect, Google Hangouts, TurnItIn, and Avenue.

One of the major opportunities that I see for hybrid courses is the ability to pair our students with speakers of the language they are learning. Our TandemPlus program is developing connections with institutions abroad, and ideally we can connect our learners with learners of English to engage in mutually beneficial regular exchanges in which each participant has an opportunity to discuss cultural issues with a partner in the target language.

Once we have these networks firmly established, our students could spend 50 minutes online with a language partner instead of in class. The possibility of using the language in meaningful communication in 50 minutes is much greater in this situation than in a large class. There is still much work to be done to bring these internet exchanges about in a regular manner, but it would be an excellent activity taking full advantage of what internet technology has to offer. Pilot programs are already underway in French, Spanish, German and Italian.

Saoirse: Is there anything else you would like to add about hybrid language courses in general?

Dan: This hybrid development process provides a great opportunity to rethink our language programs, to take advantage of the wealth of authentic materials available on the internet and the wonderful capabilities of Computer Mediated Communication, such as threaded discussions, chat, voice chat, and teleconferencing. You mentioned the National Standards above. We have an excellent opportunity now to address all five C's through technology, exploring Cultures, Connecting to disciplinary content, drawing Comparisons through in-depth experience of cultural practices and perspectives, and providing access to a vast array of Communities that function in the target language on the Web.

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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Annotated Film Clips Now Available

Using authentic video in language teaching has always been an engaging, enriching, and pedagogically sound use of technology. Now thanks to the University of Minnesota's participation in a UC-Berkeley library initiative, it's even quick and easy too!

Playing short film clips in the second-language classroom or sharing them outside of class can be a simple and efficient way to demonstrate a linguistic function, introduce new vocabulary, show a cultural setting and much more! Short clips allow an instructor to get immediately to the relevant point and watching an interesting clip from a target language film can be culturally enriching for students.

Unfortunately, anyone who has ever located and digitized film clips for class will attest that this work can be labor-intensive. Either the clips need to be prepared well in advance of a class or you cannot use them at all.

The Language Center, on behalf of the College of Liberal Arts is proud to introduce a new resource for University of Minnesota language, culture and film instructors. Our university is now one of several participants in the Berkeley Language Center's Library of Foreign Language Film Clips (LFLFC). This web-based collection features high quality tagged and structured clips from a wide-range of foreign language films. Many clips offer optional subtitles.

Films with tagged clips are currently available in the following target languages: Arabic, Chinese, Finnish, French, German, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian and Spanish. If your language is not available, check back! New content is constantly being added. Films in the library include classic and modern films such as Raise the Red Lantern, Caché, Xala, Bella Martha, City of God, Burnt by the Sun and Y Tu Mamá También. Berkeley does not provide a public list of all films available through the LFLFC, but clips are available from close to 350 feature films. The number of clips per film varies considerably, but for most films there are more than ten individual clips available.

Because the database is searchable by both keyword and target-language vocabulary, an instructor can quickly select clips based on the particular instructional topic of the day and play or share an existing annotated clip. For instance, a French instructor looking for examples of introductions can choose from thirty-seven clips. A good choice to consider might be the clip named "Introductions" from Entre les Murs, which has the description "Old and new faculty introduce themselves in a summer meeting prior to the start of classes." The work to find the right video clip is almost done before you've even hit play on a single film.

Some clips even come complete with educational materials. Instructors can also upload and share their own lesson plans for particular clips.

Since the U of M is now a participating university in the LFLFC, all U of M language and culture instructors now have access to these tagged and structured clips for their own classes. There is a catch: in accordance with U.S. copyright law, U of M instructors only have access to those clips in the LFLFC from films for which a university department at the U of M has purchased a physical DVD. This means that instructors can access films owned by the Language Center, CSCL, the Smart Learning Commons and the East Asian Library. Instructors who register with the LFLFC will only see those film choices. As other films in the LFLFC are purchased by university departments, they will be added to the options available for university instructors.

Film clips that instructors request are available for up to two weeks. Instructors can "reserve" the same film clip more than once, so it is possible to use a clip several times.

There is a two-step process to access the LFLFC: first apply for an account at the Berkeley site, second, email elsie@umn.edu and request approval of your application. You must register both with Berkeley and with the Language Center. The sooner you sign up, the sooner you can begin easily integrating short film clips into your class!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

TandemPlus Roundup!

TandemPlus is pleased to announce that it has had a very successful fall semester! There was an approximate total of 481 language partnerships through Tandem's Face-to-Face Exchange program. The most popular language partnerships were Chinese seeking English, English seeking Spanish, and Arabic seeking English. There was also an exciting amount of Korean/English partnerships this year. It was a great fall semester and we are eager to start spring semester off on the right foot. Registration for TandemPlus this spring semester is expected to open during the first week of classes (late January).

Small World Coffee Hour with TandemPlus on November 30

TandemPlus will be hosting its third, and final, fall semester event with Small World Coffee Hour on the evening of Friday, November 30 from 4:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in the Yudof Hall Club Room. The event will be a celebration of multiculturalism and multilingualism with an "Americana" theme of corn on the cob, mashed potatoes, other American foods, and of course limitless coffee, plus multicultural themed games such as Taboo. We hope you can make it!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Update from Jenise Rowekamp, Former Language Center Director

Jenise Rowekamp, the former Language Center Director and instructor in the Minnesota English Language Program, is now in Sri Lanka serving as a Senior English Language Fellow at the University of Ruhuna in Matara, which is on the southernmost tip of Sri Lanka.

She and her partner Margaret have a blog. You can follow their adventures in Sri Lanka, and see lots of beautiful pictures of the local sites and wildlife (including both of them riding an elephant) at http://margaretjenise.blogspot.com.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

World Languages Day International Music Playlist

Have a favorite non-English language song? Now's your chance to share it! The World Languages Day team is currently working on an international music playlist for the event. Music will play while students are waiting for the welcoming remarks and at other transitional times. We are looking for songs that are in a second language, and are modern, upbeat, interesting and relatively short (less than five minutes). The lyrics should be in a language other than English and appropriate for high school students. In particular, we are looking for additional song suggestions for Arabic, Dutch, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian and Russian, but all ideas will be considered. Please email wld@umn.edu with the name of the song, artist, language and purchasing information. All songs must be available for digital purchase in the United States.

Monday, November 5, 2012

TandemPlus Punch Pizza Party a Success!

We are pleased to say that the TandemPlus Pizza Party at Punch Pizza in Dinkytown on Friday, November 2 was a great success! Approximately 40 people showed up, enjoying pizza and great company while playing conversation games such as Taboo in Spanish, Korean, Chinese, and English. The next TandemPlus event is Small World Coffee Hour on November 30. Stay tuned for more details.