Blended Basic Language Courses: Making Pedagogical and Administrative Choices about Technology
AuthorAnderson, Hope M.
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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EmbargoRelease after 13-May-2017
AbstractDigital learning is becoming increasingly prevalent in colleges and universities in the United States (Allen & Seaman, 2013; Godev, 2014), including in the social field of second language learning. In larger language programs in particular, online and blended (partially online) courses are gaining popularity, such as the recently cited "hybrid revolution in Spanish-language learning" (Long, 2014, p. 1). Administrators look to digital solutions to tight finances, a lack of classroom space, and student demands. A current challenge in the field is helping instructors and students adapt to digital pedagogy and a new perspective: Technology provides innovative possibilities for instruction and interaction, not solely a distance replication of face-to-face courses (Blake, 2009, 2013, 2014; Goertler, 2011, 2014). To be successful, digital learning must include pedagogically sound course design and adequate support for both instructors and learners, requirements that may make this trend not as economical as originally believed (Godev, 2014).Responding to Hermosilla's (2014) declaration that "a pending task is to gather accurate data on existing hybrid Spanish programs in US colleges and universities in order to carry out comparative studies" (p. 3), this dissertation examines lower-division blended courses of languages other than English currently or recently taught at U.S. colleges and universities. The dissertation follows Wu's (2015) assumption that the courses appearing in the prior research literature might not be representative of the vast number of blended courses that now exist. The dissertation draws upon an original survey of 121 instructor and administrator participants representing 52 language programs and 13 languages, interviews with 21 of these participants, and surveys of 35 students in 4 participants' classes. Conducted using mixed methods and thematic analysis, the dissertation provides information about blended course designs so that other institutions can learn from them and emulate them. The study explores the choices that underlie the selection and development of curricula, materials, and technologies in blended language courses; student, instructor, and administrator perspectives on these courses; and support (training, professional development, and resources) available to participants. Most participants (98 in total) reported being very or somewhat satisfied with the current setup of their blended courses. Variables correlated with instructor satisfaction included a greater number of years of instruction (overall and in the blended format), instructors' amount of influence over the curriculum and materials, their choice of teaching blended classes, and the availability of technology training in their programs. Themes emerging from the interviews included an emphasis on the communicative approach, the use of textbook website packages and (in a few cases) open educational resources, a frustration with inadequate student preparation, instructor autonomy, and varying levels of support for instructors and students. Blended courses in basic language programs are best served when instructors choose their level of technological integration, contribute to the course design, and are offered preparation and support related to both technology and teaching methods. The study recommends ways that institutions, departments, instructors, and students of languages can make the most of digital pedagogy, not only in officially blended courses, but also in courses across the spectrum of technological integration, from fully face-to-face to fully online. Useful strategies include selecting and creating technological materials that align with the skills that instructors and administrators want students to develop, providing training and support for both pedagogy and technology to new and continuing instructors, and offering technological support to students. The lessons of this study are applicable not only to courses that are officially blended, but also to all language programs considering or evaluating new technological integrations.
Degree ProgramGraduate College
Second Language Acquisition & Teaching