New digital technologies and innovative hybrid teaching models transform how we teach students language skills both inside and outside the classroom. All four language competencies (reading, writing, listening, speaking) and subject courses can be taught in an enhanced way, especially with oral proficiency dramatically improving with digital pedagogies compared to the traditional FL classroom. These tools provide the individual student with more speaking opportunities, in pairs or in small groups, and task-based follow-up exercises, which then allow for constructive and structured feedback from the teacher.
Such tools as video-conferencing platforms like Google+ Hangouts and Zoom with their multifunctional interaction tools (screen sharing, chatting, etc.), blogging and webpage creation sites (WordPress, Google Sites), file sharing tools (Google Drive, Dropbox), and more have made online hybrid learning uniquely interactive, intuitive, inexpensive, and inviting for both students and teachers. This pedagogical approach has shown to be especially beneficial in a globally connected learning context, where students increase both their linguistic and intercultural competencies. Students also learn digital skills and dialogue etiquette in a global context.
Quite early on, I came to the realization that if we can use these digital tools to create effective digital pedagogies and teach and learn with and from each other across the ocean in a global setting, we should certainly be able to connect with students in our more immediate physical vicinity. This idea propelled what is now the GLCA Crossroads Shared Languages Program forward. In its essence it allows students from partner schools to take advantage of course offerings not available on their own campuses, such as lesser-taught languages or cancelled courses due to under-enrollment, while the program aims to offer consortially shared resources (guest speakers, faculty development, faculty diversity, globally connected courses for a broader student body, and more). These efforts also have a great potential for saving money across institutions while preserving at-risk and expanding course offerings in language programs.
What does it take technologically to make this course sharing program happen?
We need a set of viable tools that specifically can be shared across GLCA institutions. All the tools I will discuss below are free of cost or already in place on the various campuses.
Learning Management Systems (LMS)
LMS (Blackboard, Canvas, Notebowl, Carmen, Moodle, etc.) are widely used in academic settings and while individual campuses benefit from these course management systems within their campus communities, they are less practical, if not prohibitive, for the Shared Languages inter-institutional environment.
Security considerations determine how institutions set up their technology infrastructure. Campuses, such as Denison, with single sign-on (SSO) access to all available apps and databases would not wish to grant access to students from other campuses to their LMS.
A protected folder on one’s Google Drive, on the other hand, is available to all invited participants. Most campuses in the GLCA are “Google schools” (an exception for example is Earlham), which means that users can work with their regular sign-in access and email address (in other words Google is behind the scenes). All that is needed for users from non-Google schools is a Google account, which the majority of our students and faculty already have in place as an alternative to their campus email account. This folder, organized into a set of sub-folders for a better organization, will enable instructors and students to exchange course materials, assignments, videos, images, etc. thus in effect avoiding the limitations of a LMS for the Shared Languages environment.
Another useful tool for file sharing is Dropbox. It is very user-friendly and free – except it has limited space on the free version, which makes it not as useful as the Google Drive, which has unlimited capacity.
Blogging and Website-creation tools
WordPress (less suitable for Arabic, Font issues)
Google Sites (especially beneficial for Arabic)
Video-conferencing platforms: Zoom and Google+ Hangouts
Note: On Aug 16, 2016 it was announced that Google Hangouts on Air is now being moved from Google + to YouTube Streaming.
Zoom Room at Oberlin (Mudd Library 456)