Learning Spanish Via a MOOC

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                Massive Open Online Courses (MOOC) are becoming more common in education today.  If you are struggling to understand a concept, where does the search for information begin?  It used to begin in a library.  Now, it begins with a quick search of the internet.  However, in the very near future, questions might be answered by visiting a MOOC.

As a student of instructional design and a budding course designer, I felt it was important to take a MOOC to determine the usefulness of this new media.  I have been learning Spanish words over the last five years informally.  I have no idea how to spell any of these words or if they are simply part of the local dialect.  Therefore, I felt that formal education in the language is finally in order.  As such, I am currently taking Spanish via a MOOC at http://spanishmooc.com/.

The course begins with a trailer for the course that is very engaging.  It uses screen captures from the course, quotes from reviews and Spanish songs to excite students about beginning to learn Spanish.  As I work my way through this course, I am distinctly reminded of Charles Wedemeyer’s theory of independent study.  This course can be taken anytime, anywhere and does not require a minimum number of students (Simonson, Smaldino, Albright &Zvacek, 2012).  Instead, the burden of learning is placed upon the student.  Each step is followed by report showing my score.  When I receive the report, it is my responsibility to choose to progress to the next step or to replay this step.  There is no instructor telling me to redo the assignment, just my better judgment (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  This feedback throughout the program is individualized and the course actually tailors itself to each student.  If you miss a question in the first section, this specific word is carried over to the next set of questions.  In fact, specific words can be targeted throughout the entire course for an individual student.  That type of individualization makes this MOOC very individualized and learning can only occur via student activities (Simonson, et. al, 2012). 

One of the most effective methods of teaching foreign languages is immersion into the language.  Learning a language is learning to communicate with others effectively.  Since language is conversational, it is important that the lessons focus on realistic types of conversations (Rivers, 1981).  This particular MOOC is designed with communication in mind.  It uses real songs including the actual video from the songs.  The learner is required to find the Spanish word that was used in the song.  The English is on the left and the Spanish is on the right.  The actual answer choices are across the bottom.  As you look at the words, you can hover over a Spanish word to hear it pronounced again.  When you do this, it highlights the equivalent English word.    This type of individualization, immediate feedback and focus on communication makes this MOOC very engaging and appropriate for adult learners (Simonson, et. al, 2012).

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Once you have progressed through the first lesson, you can explore other videos via the explore tab or mingle with other students in the course.  This means that you can actually discuss the learning as it is occurring.  These interactions in a MOOC are very unique and allow learners to include the very important social aspect to the course (Simonson, et. al, 2012).  Although I have only worked through the beginning video portions, there are reading and writing practices embedded throughout this course as well.  It appears to me that this course has been specifically designed to incorporate all of the best teaching practices in language learning and distance education.  Instreamia has created a fantastic course for learning Spanish and I would be excited about taking more MOOCs from Instreamia when I finish this course.

References

Rivers, W. M. (1981). Teaching foreign-language skills. University of Chicago Press, 5801 S. Ellis Ave., Chicago, IL 60637.

Simonson, M., Smaldino, S., Albright, M. & Zvacek, S. (2012).  Teaching and Learning at a Distance: Foundations of Distance Education. Boston: MA.  Pearson.

 

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