Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Learning Asian Languages Online

The last presentation I chaired at Moodle Moot Au 2010 was "Moodle and the flexible delivery of small enrolment languages" by Dr. McComas Taylor (Australian National University). He gave an inspirational presentation about how he teaches Sanskrit in blended and pure e-learning modes.

McComas humeriously described the problem that there are only about five students for Sanskrit in a typical city. To make a viable course he uses a blended course technique, with Moodle for the content delivery. Because Sanskrit has not changed for the last thousand years, much of the course content can be recorded and provided to the student unchanged each year. This frees up the lecturer from delivering the same lecturer over and over again. This time can be spent with students individually.

This I believe will be the essence of how to apply e-learning at leading universities, such as the ANU, and I have described as "e-oxbridge" style.

administrators who have difficulty with a format which breaks the boundaries between on and off campus students, local and overseas. The on campus students meet in a physical room and the off campus students meet using McComas asserted that the impediment to this style of education is not the students (who like it) or the technology (which works fine) but the university adiministration.

In addition to Moodle, McComas uses tools such as Wimba classroom and also prerecorded audio lessons, with accompanying notes. The audio can be downloaded to an MP3 player for practice. Also the assessment is aligned with the course material, which McComas claimed is not the case for many courses. Students are required to record their own voice and upload it for assessment. Live tutorials are also videoed using ANU's own DLD and Podcast.

One thought which occurred to me with this and the previous work, these courses neatly break into a traditional textbook, media additions and then the interactive components. These might be done using separate tools, such as an e-book for the text.

McComas argues this techniques can be applied to Asian languages important to Australia's security. As an election is about to be called I have suggested to McComas that he prepare a short proposal to create an online institute to teach languages important to Australia online. Such an institute would be much cheaper than one fighter aircraft and much more effective in protecting the nation: by being able to talk to people in our own language we can turn enemies into allies.

No comments: