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Laptop outsideStudent access to laptops at UNC-Chapel Hill enables departments to offer some courses in alternative formats that accomplish important educational objectives and accommodate students’ needs.

In an effort to bridge the gap between students’ demand for introductory Spanish courses and adequately staffing, the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures found a solution in technology through a progressive process of course redesign.

Using an online instructional program developed by a language publisher, the Romance Languages Department began experimenting with a hybrid, or blended learning course that combines the advantages of face-to-face instruction with the flexibility and rich feedback provided by online learning. This hybrid course replaced two hours of traditional classroom instruction per week with engaging online activities. Based on data demonstrating the success of the hybrid courses, the Department now offers Spanish 101 completely online: students complete interactive exercises online and participate in weekly virtual classes using a Web-conferencing tool.

Technology-mediated learning approaches offer a number of significant benefits for both students and instructors. Students can perform course work at their own convenience, rather than be tied to a rigid class schedule. They receive regular and prompt feedback, making it easy for them to gauge their understanding of course materials. They can repeat online exercises as many times as it takes to master a concept, and have access to a much greater variety of video and other dynamic media in the presentation of course material. Finally, online instruction and resources make it easier for instructors to monitor student progress in the courses; by improving student time on task, instructors are in a better position to determine when students need additional practice on a subject.

Students purchase the instructional program through the student bookstore in the form of an access code, as opposed to a textbook. This code provides online access to course materials that are structured like a Spanish-language textbook and workbook, providing practice in listening, pronunciation, speaking, reading, and writing.

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