Increasing Access to Language Learning Through Language Sharing and Faculty Collaboration
This collaborative project of Macalester College and the University of Minnesota seeks to develop online course materials and create a pilot online course to teach Hindi long distance for institutions where they are not currently offered.
The professors leading this project are James Laine and Arjun Guneratne from Macalester College and Sungok Hong from the University of Minnesota.
Students at colleges and universities around the University of Minnesota have demonstrated interest in learning Hindi/Urdu because their area of study is India/Pakistan, their research language is Hindi/Urdu, or because it is their heritage language. Due to limited resources, their respective schools cannot offer these courses. Hindi/Urdu is a Less Commonly Taught Language (LCTL), and it is challenging to find a place where the language is taught either before or after graduation. Interested students often try to commute, but distance and weather make this difficult, wearing down their commitment to studying, and discouraging them from continuing to learn the language. Online distance education can be a solution to this. The materials we will develop in this project will be the basis for Hindi language classes taught via distance learning methods at the University of Minnesota to Macalester College students.
There is a dearth of language teaching materials for Hindi, especially materials consistent with the current pedagogy. Therefore, this project also seeks to develop materials leading to the production of a Hindi textbook at the intermediate level, which will incorporate the Communicative Teaching Approach and be designed to improve all around language skills. This will be available in two formats: online materials and in book format. The online materials will be used as the main textbook for the Beginning and Intermediate Hindi classes, and available to students free of charge. Language faculty from other universities, in addition to the University of Minnesota, will be involved in developing the textbook materials.
CIC Project Partner
Sungok Hong (Associate Lead Partner)
Assistant Professor, Asian Languages and Literatures, University of Minnesota
Additional Collaborating Faculty
Lakhan Gusain (Collaborator on textbook)
Instructor of Hindi, Syracuse University (previously University of Minnesota)
Rajiv Ranjan (Collaborator on textbook)
Lecturer, Hindi Studies, Michigan State University
Sunil Kumar Bhatt (Collaborator on textbook)
Lecturer in South Asian Civilization, University of Toronto at Mississauga
A Potential Game Changer
Language Sharing has not been an active part of collaboration and faculty development among ACM and CIC institutions, but can be a game changer in the future with the help of evolving technology. Online language courses and distance learning may help with issues such as low course enrollment, shrinking variety in university offerings, and a dispersed student population. We have seen many colleges/universities cancel LCTL courses due to low enrollment. If we utilize online distance learning effectively, we will create a better solution. When it comes to minor South Asian languages, such as Telugu, Bengali, Punjabi, Marathi, Sanskrit and Nepali, distance learning will be an alternative that will enable us to keep the teaching of these languages alive.
This project will establish new opportunities for faculty development and collaboration among ACM/CIC institutions, especially in respect of developing course materials for language teaching. This project will engage expert language instructors from CIC institutions who have been teaching Hindi/Urdu for over 10 years at their respective universities, and provide a platform to collaborate with colleagues from Macalester. The book project will start as soon as an award announcement is made and be completed by Summer 2017. A workshop will be held at Macalester in April 2016.
It is challenging to work together toward common goals of excellent language teaching and developing teaching resources when instructors are physically apart, and when there is no incentive. This project will pave the way for other collaborations among ACM and CIC faculty.
Innovation in Sharing Languages
Once this project’s goals of developing teaching materials for Hindi/Urdu language instruction has been achieved, we will seek to create a platform from which distance instruction can be made available to ACM institutions. Our intention is to do a pilot project at Macalester. The proposed project meets the EMKE goals. The University of Minnesota is collaborating with the University of Wisconsin to make LCTL courses available to U of M students. We will build from infrastructure already in place by solving issues and problems occurring with the distance learning classes and incorporating insights from technical teams. Given the speed of technological change, we will work to employ the most up-to-date technology, using a program called Adobe Connect. This is a web-based service that allows up to 10 connections at a time. We will establish an infrastructure that can be shared by any future distance education offering, and also make our expertise and know-how acquired from the project available to other ACM/CIC institutions who are interested in launching online courses. As for sharing languages, it is still in its infancy, and instructors face many challenges in handling in-class and online activities. We will reach out and contact those who currently offer online language courses and incorporate their feedback into executing the project.
The proposed project of digital material development is in line with the EMKE goal of establishing tools that will contribute to developing and sustaining resources that will be valued and which can evolve over time. Some online materials for Hindi/Urdu are available, but they are fragmentary and not well structured. The materials developed in this project will differ from the available conventional books in that it will be comprehensive, focused on improving overall language skills, and will address content from various disciplines of the target country. In this way, students will not only be versed in the language, but also have broad knowledge of the target country. The online materials will be open to students and the public, and is sustainable in that the site will continue to be managed and updated at the University of Minnesota whenever necessary.
This proposed project engages undergraduates in various ways. The language sharing this project has in mind is mainly designed for undergraduate students who have no access to language instruction in particular languages at their institutions. Acquiring linguistic and cultural proficiency while they are immersed in learning is important, especially since they may not have a chance to study any of the less commonly taught languages after graduation. Obtaining one of the LCTLs will make students more competitive in the job market and may improve their chances for acceptance to graduate school.
Additionally, students have the opportunity to contribute to the project, thereby offering them valuable experience. Undergraduate students will assist their faculty members with material development, such as collecting data, organizing materials and typing, etc. In addition, undergraduate students, preferably juniors or seniors, will be asked to work as Liaison Officers, assisting teaching staff by helping to manage online language classes at Macalester, such as collecting exam papers, homework assignments, and so on. Student assistance will be an essential component of the project.
In addition to the above, we will hire an undergraduate IT assistant, who will begin to work as soon as the award announcement is made. There will be two components to this individual’s work: creating a website for the project and a separate webpage for the online material project. The latter might be a bit challenging, as it has to deal with the non-English alphabet issue. We estimate this work will take three semesters to complete.
The project will start as soon as a grant award is announced. Spring of 2016 will be spent laying the foundational work for online language courses. We will use as many pre-existing resources as possible. Our aim will be to produce theme-based instructional resources that use current teaching methodologies. These resources will include various themes/aspects of the target culture, and will focus on increasing proficiency in speaking, writing and reading Hindi. Faculty who currently teach at colleges/universities in the Midwest will be asked to collaborate. To achieve the goal of producing quality materials in line with the Standards, a workshop will be held in the spring of 2016 at Macalester College. This will enable faculty who are involved in the project — both Macalester faculty and Hindi/Urdu language experts from several CIC institutions — to gather and exchange ideas and insights, elements that are crucial to the success of the project. This activity will be initiated immediately following the award announcement, and will be completed by the end of 2016.
Following the successful development of materials, and the resolution of any logistical concerns, we hope to teach the first online language course, offered in the fall of 2016 for students at both the University of Minnesota and Macalester. After the inevitable tweaks, we hope to offer these online courses to other colleges in Minnesota and the Midwest. We anticipate that this project could be replicated at other ACM/ CIC institutions for language sharing to include other less frequently taught South Asian languages.
This project will lay a foundation for Hindi/Urdu teaching that will be shared by other colleges/universities in the Midwest, and yield materials that are sustainable. When establishing a network for language sharing, we will use the resources that are already in place at CIC/ACM. We will first launch language sharing for students at Macalester. After acquiring expertise in implementing online instruction, the language sharing project will then be expanded to other interested colleges in Minnesota, such as Carleton College, St. John’s University, St.Olaf College, and Augsburg College, as well as any other colleges in the Midwest that are interested in making online language courses available to their students.
This project also aims to share language materials developed through collaboration with faculty members at various universities that are members of CIC. These online materials will be available to students at University of Minnesota and Macalester College, as well as other colleges/universities in the Midwest, and will be made available to the public. The structures and outcomes can be replicated to broaden the availability of South Asian languages among colleges/universities in the Midwest and nationally.