The day everything changed?

Even since I wrote Create Your Own Economy, which was not so long ago, I've come around closer to Alex's position on on-line instruction.  Today I read:

After several years of experimenting
with “hybrid” Spanish courses that mix online and classroom
instruction, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has
decided to begin conducting its introductory Spanish course exclusively
on the Web.

Spanish 101, which had featured online lessons
combined with one classroom session per week, will drop its
face-to-face component in an effort to save on teaching costs and
campus space in light of rising demand for Spanish instruction and a
shrinking departmental budget.

Adios a mis amigos!

Addendum: Elsewhere on the "everything changed" front, no one wants to buy The Boston Globe and Barnes and Noble's new e-Reader — Nook — will allow e-readers to "lend" copies to their friends, albeit in sequential fashion.


just curious -- how will they give feedback on accent and how will they evaluate listening skills?

Yeah, could you elaborate on what Alex's position *is*?

Babar, if students and instructors have microphones and speakers attached to their computers, then instructors can give feedback on accent and evaluate conversation/speaking/listening skills. However, they will miss out on all the body language cues and facial expressions that are part of communicating in any language, and which are a vital part of foreign language instruction.

There is an approach to teaching introductory foreign languages called Total Physical Response (TPR), which has a great deal of appeal. Essentially, the instructor plays a sort of fast-paced "Simon Says"-type game with the students, in which they have to respond appropriately to various commands in the foreign language.

Without elaborate video hookups, it's hard to see how this would translate to an on-line class.

As a UNC alum, I can tell you that the real issue behind this is that they dropped the graduate program for romance languages. A few years ago my Portuguese "professors" were relaying information that they were the last class of graduate students in the program. All of the entry level foreign language courses are taught by grad students (I think most study comparative literature or something to this extent); get rid of this program and you have no cheap teachers left to do SPAN 101-201 grunt work.

It is very strange that they chose to cut this grad program, when there is such a high demand for the introductory Spanish courses (all undergrads have to take 3 semesters of a foreign language, and well over half take Spanish) and such cheap supply for instructors. I am curious of the type of technology they are using for these online courses--it could end up being a good deal for the bottom line of the school if its highly automated. However, I could see this cauing many students to take the courses for credit elsewhere, as many already place out of two semesters of a language from a high school AP courses, and the third required semester could be taken at a community college during the summer.

Noah, I'm sorry you had a bad experience (not a trite phrase, I really do wish every school would adopt high quality methods and technologies to deliver the best instruction) but the majority of online courses are actually higher level. The majority of enrollment, for obvious reasons, are in entry-level undergrad courses. More graduate seminars and research courses are online in hybrid form because the medium allows for more information management and research access.

Worth mentioning that Yale now offers full intro courses online for free: and MIT is headed the same way.

Once-overhyped virtual worlds like Second Life would seem to be an ideal environment for language learning. Avatars using voice and text and walking through an environment that includes objects in context whose names are vocabulary items... I think the Goethe Institut of Germany is active there, but not too many other organizations so far.

While I am all for e-readers, I doubt it that people want to walk into a B&N store to browse digitally. I can do that at home. I would want to go to B&N more for the physical retail experience.

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