Message from the Mat Schulze, LARC Director
I am writing to you with some information about the summer intensive language courses at San Diego State University's Language Acquisition Resource Center (SDSU-LARC).
First, my best wishes for your health and socioeconomic safety and that of your families and friends in these challenging times of COVID-19. Second, I am assuming that all university students all over the country have now had some experience with taking courses online. And as a professor, I am aware that this experience has not always and everywhere been a good one.
My name is Mat Schulze and I am the director of SDSU-LARC. I have been teaching languages for almost 35 years (I am not that old; I started very young.). Since 2001, I have developed online language courses, taught them, and supervised teams of developers, instructors, and assistants. From this experience, I know that it can be done and done successfully and enjoyably. And I know that you will be able to learn Arabic, Persian, Portuguese, or Russian successfully this summer.
This is a big change, and I will provide some more initial information; and detailed information and support will be provided all the way. There are also a number of things that will not change:
(1) Most of our team of instructors have been teaching the Project GO summer courses for many years. They are looking forward to teaching them again this year.
(2) The courses remain intensive. The course dates are the same and the length of the day is the same as in previous years. Most importantly, the group size is the same. As in the years since 2007, there are maximum 12 students in a class. We will not admit more than 12 students to any of the classes (and in most cases it will be less than 12).
(3) The objective of the courses remains the same. As for other university courses – not just in languages – you will have to show that you can do the assessed work to earn university credits.
(4) The communicative interaction and group collaboration with the group and the instructor remains the most important component and characteristic of our courses. (Read on to see how this will happen.)
(5) The courses use the same learning materials as in previous years and as in many other university courses throughout the country. We are implementing the same transparent structure of learning and instructional sequences.
(6) Finally, you can get between 16 and 20 university credits (depending on language) in less than 11 weeks.
Now, what is changing to make this work online?
(1) We are starting the day earlier (7:30am (PDT)) and we finish earlier in the day (2:45 (PDT)), to ensure that students participating from the comfort of their home on the east coast have a reasonable daily schedule. Students in the Eastern Time Zone will start at 10:30am EDT and finish at 5:45pm EDT at the very latest.
(2) We are adding one-on-one tutorials / conversation sessions of half an hour about twice a week with a Teaching Assistant. We also have the resources to offer individualized linguistic, pedagogic, and technical support for all courses.
(3) Each day, there will be group conversations, oral and written collaboration, presentations, discussions, games, and competitions in Zoom for part of the time. (We call that synchronous computer-mediated communication.) These times alternate with individual work – doing tasks, performing activities in the virtual learning environment Moodle and using other digital and online tools.
(4) Each class will have not one but two instructors and at least one teaching assistant. This, combined with the small group of maximally 12 students, allows each and every student direct and frequent access to an instructor through a variety of communication media (Zoom, Moodle, phone, WhatsApp, FaceTime, messenger services, online social groups, ...).
(5) You will not be able to enjoy the beautiful campus of San Diego State University, but you will be able to study successfully from the comfort of your home or wherever you will be residing during the summer.
This message is already long enough, but it is very reasonable if you have more questions at this stage. Feel free to get in touch with me by email. You can also set up an online or phone conversation with the Summer Intensive Language Program team by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Please be assured that my team and I are working very hard already to make your summer courses an enjoyable, productive, and successful experience.
Be safe and all the best,
Dr. Mat Schulze