Friday, January 28, 2011

Can you learn a language online?

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The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill grabbed headlines last October in deciding to offer its introduction to Spanish classes exclusively online.

The increase in high-band Internet access at home, revolutionary software programs like Skype, and an explosion of convenient online opportunities have combined to force brick-and-mortar universities to compete in cyber educational arena.

Online Language Learning Works?
While some subjects like calculus and history may be adaptable outside the traditional classroom, what about languages?

Modern languages can indeed take their rightful position along with other university classes online.

While not privy to the setup of the Spanish classes at UNC-Chapel Hill, introduction classes for any language are delicate. Students need to be able to listen and mimic the language to speak it. Thus, a heavy audio and/or video component would be necessary.

From experience, as both student and teacher, online courses are customarily divided into self-contained modules in which students are exposed to new material every week. Homework is submitted by school-based email using Blackboard or another content management system.

In the case of a language program, students could record an audio file and upload it for the professor to grade.

And for office hours? Fire up Skype or MSN. My Skype ID is professorwinn. Notice the Skype button in the lower right column.

A pioneer in online education was MIT's Open Courseware Project. Its free modern language offerings include Chinese, French, Spanish, and German. Unlike the UNC Spanish class, no university credit is given.

Other institutions have joined MIT's lead as learning a plethora of subjects online becomes a reality.

Spanish and Portuguese speakers also have a key to online courses via Universia.

Have you taken a language class online? What was your experience?

*** If you are in São Paulo and need English lessons, or Elite English Services including translations (Spanish/French/Portuguese to English), please contact Professor Winn by sending an email to for a prompt evaluation. Buy your English-language texts today!

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