Did you know that you could actually study a Nordic language even if it’s NOT offered on your own UC campus? Since around 2000, the Department of Scandinavian at UC Berkeley has made that possible.
We’ve been spearheading a unique way of language teaching across the ten UC sister campuses by developing an innovative method of offering less commonly taught languages from a live class on one campus as a distance learning course to students on other UC campuses. Actually, Danish and Finnish from UC Berkeley were the first two languages within the UC System to offer language classes as a synchronous DL version.
The main point of our version of Distance Learning (DL) using the teleconferencing system, PolyComm, in a pedagogical system proposed by Prof. Timothy Tangherlini, UCLA, in 1999). Two or three connected classrooms could work together seamlessly this way. The goal is that after the initial adjustment period – live students (the ones in the physical classroom that transmits the lesson) and the digital students (in the receiving classrooms) should feel like they form one, co-operative class. Students at the distance class will sign up for the DL class via the Registrar’s Office and get the credit from the class on their home university transcript.
Both first and second year Danish and Finnish have been offered as DL classes more or less uninterrupted since 2001. Extensive student feedback does indeed confirm that the format creates a united, “one-classroom-feeling.” Students at both the sending and the receiving classrooms feel positive and enthusiastic towards their language classes.
Whenever possible the instructors try to visit the receiving class once a semester to reverse the student roles: to meet the DL-students in person and to put the “live” students in the role of distance students.
The DL classes are using technology as much as possible to foster learning and connectedness. Office hours are usually conducted via Skype; exams are monitored via teleconference or uploaded on time-sensitive platforms. Students on all campuses have access to the class website and all receive the same credits. We’ve had to adjust for the campuses that follow a different academic calendar from UCB – but by now, that has been systematized.
Here’s a short video to highlight some of the features of Distance Learning – UC style. We hope to see you in either a live or a digital classroom some day!