These  eight papers were presented at the Distance Education, Distributed Learning, and Language Instruction Symposium held  July 27-30, 2004 at the University of Hawai’i National Foreign Language Resource Center. The Symposium brought together educators to present and discuss innovative models of distance and distributed learning programs in foreign languages and in foreign language teacher education.


Part I of this report contains two articles that describe the outcomes of courses built using two models of distance education: an on-line course in Spanish, and a hybrid course in German.

In “Language Learning at a Distance: Spanish Without Walls,” Blake and Delforge compare the outcome results from a university-level virtual course, Spanish Without Walls (SWW) which enrolls working adults, with the outcome results of a traditional undergraduate face-to-face course. Despite having taken less high school Spanish, the virtual SWW students performed significantly better on discrete grammar tests than their classroom counterparts, even though both programs teach approximately the same grammar scope and sequence. The authors speculate that there may be several reasons for this outcome: (1) the online medium, which is mostly textual in nature, made the SWW students concentrate more on the written modality and hence pay more attention to grammar; (2) the professional adults, enrolled in the virtual SWW course, may have experienced a stronger motivation to learn Spanish because of the potential benefits of being able to use Spanish in their careers; (3) the virtual SWW students may have tried harder on the grammar tests because the scores affected their course grades, whereas they did not count towards the grades of their classroom counterparts. According to the authors, due to the small size of the sample, this study does not allow the unqualified conclusion that students in the online SWW course perform on a par with the undergraduates in a conventional courses.

In “A Hybrid Business German Course,” Kym describes the planning and teaching of a 2-semester hybrid Business German course that enrolled intermediate and advanced learners. The first part of the paper focuses on the integration of the face-to-face and the on-line components of the course, and on the design of task-based activities geared to the different proficiency levels of the students. Projects aimed at developing cross-cultural competency through on-line discussions with contacts in Germany and in multinational corporations are also described. The second part of the paper presents the results of a student survey and the implications for designing hybrid courses. The author arrives at a number of conclusions: (1) learners have to be self-motivated to succeed in this type of learning environment; (2) the proficiency level of learners should be appropriate to the demands of the course; (3) this type of course requires a considerable time investment on the part of the learners; (4) the instructor needs to invest a considerable amount of time and effort to ensure a seamless integration of the face-to-face and on-line components of the course; (5) the instructor needs to be flexible and willing to make adjustments based on student feedback.


Part II of this report contains two articles describing collaborative partnerships, one in German and one in French, that use Internet communication tools to link language learners in the U.S. with expert speakers of the target languages who are learners of English as a foreign language.

In “Telecollaborative Language Study: A Personal Overview of Praxis and research,” Belz surveys the research she and her colleagues conducted in the U.S. and in Europe on telecollaboration at the university level as part of a larger, collaborative cross-linguistic effort, The Penn State Foreign Language Telecollaboration Project (, designed to (1) investigate the effects of technology-mediated language use on foreign language learning processes and learning outcomes among intermediate-level learners of several European languages; (2) establish optimal practices and models for the incorporation of telecollaborative study into the foreign language curriculum. The article presents an overview of the research findings to date with respect to the German component of this grant, as well as two additional years of German-American telecollaboration, i.e., a total of five data collection cycles. The following aspects are addressed: a pedagogical description of telecollaboration, an investigative methodology for telecollaborative social action, the socio-cultural origins of telecollaborative best practices, the use of telecollaborative discourse in the construction of a contrastive learner corpus, the development of socio-pragmatic competence in telecollaboration. Under-explored areas for  future telecollaborative FL research are outlined.

In “Using Communication Tools to Foster Cross-Cultural Understanding,” Furstenberg describes the Cultura Project. In this telecollaborative project, American students who are taking an intermediate French class at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and French students who are taking an English class at a French university share a common website to analyze a variety of similar materials originating from both cultures. These materials are presented in juxtaposition on the Web, and are subsequently discussed in cross-cultural dialogues in on-line discussion forums. Materials include a series of questionnaires, national polls, films, press coverage of events, photos of cultural realities, and historical, literary, anthropological, and philosophical texts. The author suggests that electronic technology makes possible a new pedagogy whereby students can take charge of their cross-cultural learning by exploring, analyzing and constructing, individually and collaboratively, their understanding of the foreign culture. Collaborative technology makes it possible for them to research, question and revisit issues, make connections and note contradictions, constantly expanding and refining their knowledge and understanding of complex cross-cultural issues.


Part III contains four papers that describe foreign language teacher education courses taught within the collaborative environment of computer conferencing systems.

In “Assessment in an Online Foreign Language Methods Course,” Phillips describes an online foreign language methods course that meets ACTFL/NCATE standards and that can be taken by students as part of an accredited program. The first challenge was finding a way to replicate the various kinds of formative assessments done in a grounded course. Since electronic portfolio submissions are a primary means of faculty/student communication and consequently a chief tool for assessment, three types of portfolio assignments were designed that required increasing degrees of preparation, complexity, and time. The article discusses the problems in designing assessment procedures in an online course. 

In Improving Teacher Quality Through an On-Line Professional Development Course: A Research Study,” Moeller and Koubek present the results of an investigation of how in-service teachers of foreign languages constructed knowledge and how this knowledge transformed their teaching, their beliefs, and their sense of themselves as professionals in an on-line professional development course based on a constructivist approach. The article provides an overview of research on distance education, constructivism, and teacher education with findings from a multiple case study of an on-line graduate course on Instructional Planning offered through GOLDEN (German On-line Distance Education Network, The course implemented a non-traditional, constructivist approach to learning in which students and instructors became co-constructors of new information and knowledge. The data were collected through extensive, multiple sources of information, including interviews, online observations, teachers’ narratives, course documents and artifacts, and e-mail communication between the participants and the instructors. This study provides in-depth investigation of four individual cases. The findings offer important insights for further online professional development and for distance education courses in general.

In her article “On-Line Assessment Through Communities of Practice,” Gonzalez-Lloret presents the results of a qualitative study that investigated whether an assessment framework, based on constructivist and social-interactionist theories of learning, can be used in the evaluation of in-service teachers enrolled in an on-line methodology course at the University of Hawai’i. The proposed framework is described in detail and then applied to one participant in the course. The author suggests that this assessment framework may provide instructors of on-line teacher education courses with an approach that is different from traditional forms of evaluation and one that is better suited for collaborative on-line courses based on principles of constructivist theories of learning.

In her paper “CMC-Based Learning in Language Teacher Education: A German-American Collaborative Project,” Fuchs presents findings from a qualitative research project that integrated computer-mediated communication (CMC) into teacher education to prepare future language teachers to use computer technology in their own teaching, foster electronic and professional literacy, and cross-cultural learning. Groups of pre-service foreign language teachers in the U.S. and in Germany collaborated via e-mail and chat in designing a joint website for CMC-based language teaching. The paper explores institutional, technical, socio-cultural, and linguistic challenges that participants encountered when collaborating over a distance. The article draws on data such as e-mail and chat transcripts, questionnaires, learner logs, and interviews. Strategies to support a cooperative CMC-based learning environment and issues for further research are also presented.



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