Outside the Distance Learning Classroom

A checklist for instructors outside the classroom

Web-based Course Development Tools

The following information is a guideline of the path you might follow in order to construct online course activities.  With the advances in software and programming, many formerly time consuming, labor intensive aspects of Web design have become matter-of-fact and, in some cases, nearly instantaneous.
Below are some steps you should consider.

The Center for Digital Humanities (CDH) provides every department with an Instructional Technology Consultant (ITC) whose job it is to assist you in designing and exploiting your course Website.  Since every undergraduate course taught receives its own Website on E-Campus, there is little reason not to make use of the technology.  In addition, you will find that it is relatively easy to access the site yourself and post links to relevant Websites, upload documents, pictures, voice recordings, etc.  You will need "designer access" to log in and make changes to the course Website, and by default that goes to the instructor of record.  CDH can extend designer access to the individual teaching the course, e.g., a TA, if that person is not the instructor of record.

Remember: your ITC is your friend… really! Find yours at http://www.humnet.ucla.edu/itc/

On-line pedagogical resources are limitless.  The following are examples of the technology you can incorporate into your course, but please remember, this list is only a small sampling; sites referenced under the "Links outside UCLA" section can take you to many others. The success of on-line pedagogy depends to a large extent on your willingness to experiment and make use of it.

You might begin by surfing the net to see how other instructors have organized their Web-based initiatives:

  • At the University of Pittsburgh, the traditional first-year Polish course has been redesigned in a Web-delivered self-paced format
  • At Cal State Long Beach, the first- and second-year Chinese courses make extensive use of Web-based modules and electronic transmission of student work

These and similar sites can serve as examples for rethinking how your own courses run and can suggest the tools you may need carry out changes. As ever, consult with your ITC.

As with music or any performance art, practice is crucial for a foreign language – for pronouncing and understanding the sounds, in the first instance.  Several voice recording software applications (e.g. PureVoice,® available free from Qualcomm here [your browser willl open in a new window]) are as easy to operate as a portable cassette player, and allow you and your students send each other high-quality voice recordings as email attachments.  This opens up several possibilities. For one, instructors can send via email or post on Websites recordings of selected readings so that students will benefit from exposure to the sounds of the language. Further, it makes it as easy to include spoken exercises in regular homework as written work, freeing it from reliance on special language lab sessions. We encourage the use of this technology in order to foster students' speaking ability and gauge their progress.

Then considering online learning tools, it is important to keep it simple.  Browse the Web yourself and find sites that you think will interest students.  For example, locate a foreign language TV Guide and prepare an activity that students can research themselves.  Newspapers published in the target languages and universities located in the target country also provide a wealth of resources.  The principle is to keep students active and engaged, and by seizing the initiative to secure sites that will appeal to their interests, you are less likely to see their participation wane.  In dealing with LCTLs, bear in mind that you yourself represent something of a pioneer in the field.  What you contribute to this small but growing field of research will, in the future, benefit other instructors.

Textbook orders

Students enrolling in a UCLA class from another campus can buy the texts and materials online, directly from the UCLA Student Store, and have them shipped. The surest way to get to the bookstore's official list of requistioned materials is to start, in a Web browser, from the online Schedule of Classes. Navigate through the course selection process to get the display of the actual course. One of the links listed will be 'Textbooks,' which will take the user directly to the list of books at the UCLA Store's Website. The 'shopping cart' application lets the user choose whether to pick up the purchases or to have them shipped. (Note that as of this writing, trying to start directly at the UCLA Store site may lead to a dead end, with no courses or books listed.)

Other campuses' bookstores may or may not offer online purchasing with shipping at this point. Berkeley's does, for example, but San Diego's does not appear to (only reservation for pickup).

Mailing Materials and Testing

Instructors have the responsibility of sending course information to the remote campus.  If materials are not available from the course Website, they may be mailed, sent as e-mail attachments, or faxed.  If the instructor chooses to fax materials, a contact person at the remote site must be secured.  Often it can be as simple as asking the videoconferencing staff person doing equipment setup to handle it, or perhaps a Student Affairs Officer.  In the case of LCTLs, the usually low enrollments should not cause problems in areas such as photocopying.  For students, keyboarding in the foreign language is a highly desirable skill, so exchanging homework as email-attachment word processing files should be encouraged.

So far, the simplest means of testing, as for much of the written homework, has been to make arrangements for faxing. Students can fax their handwritten tests from the receiving campus for evaluation.  Faxing handwritten material works well when testing composition writing and grammar.  However, to the extent multiple choice or true false questions are useful, either as student self-check exercises or as quizzing, you may want to consider other tools such as online authoring tools like Hot Potatoes™ (free for educational use: ).  The simple quizzes you create with it – multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill – run off your course Website.  The UCLA Humanities course management system, WebCT, includes some powerful quizzing modules for instructors, but you will need to consult your ITC for guidance in using them... and of course they will help with Hot Potatoes™ or other tools.

Office Hours

Students at remote locations may feel they are at a disadvantage when it comes to personal meetings with instructors.  Encourage the use of e-mail as the principal way to maintain a sense of contact.  Also consider the use of instant messaging.  IM offers the possibility of holding virtual office hours.  The service is available free of charge from many ISPs (like AOL), and once class e-mail accounts are set up as contacts, the instructor merely needs to set a day and time to instant message with students.  A good solution involves the use of Web cams.  We are currently testing cross-platform software that we expect will make Web cam use simple and practical, which will allow instructors to begin holding virtual office hours.  In this fashion, real-time interaction can take place between the instructor and individual students at remote sites.