This project is encouraging us to look at other ways of making our Intensive language classes accessible to more students.
Donatella Melucci & Louise Hipwell
Professors Donatella Melucci and Louise Hipwell of the Italian department received an ITEL Grant for the development and implementation of a hybrid format course for Advanced Italian I with the goal of offering a more effective learning environment and retaining more students after they have fulfilled their language requirement. Although students report high satisfaction with the curriculum, some opt not to take second year language courses because intensive classes that meet five days a week do not allow them the flexibility they need to fulfill the requirements of their Major or Minor. This project aimed to investigate if similar language learner outcomes can be reached by both the hybrid and traditional face-to-face formats for third and fourth semester language courses. Project Investigators Melucci and Hipwell wanted to know if students taking a course in both formats can attain a comparable level of proficiency in oral production, written production, reading comprehension, listening comprehension, grammar knowledge and vocabulary acquisition.
The hybrid course was piloted in Spring/Summer 2014 and ran Fall 2014. The Fall 2014 Italian I course replaced two days of in-class sessions per week with online instruction. It met the same requirements and goals as the traditional course and used the same assessments (quizzes, tests, and final examinations), but materials, activities and assignments were developed to better suit the online portion of the course. Many of the activities created for the hybrid course were asynchronous so as to maximize the flexibility of scheduling which was a fundamental project goal. Instead of in-class pair or group activities, students uploaded recordings of their reflections on readings and videos to BlackBoard. These activities included both spontaneous tasks and prepared activities. Students also participated in recorded synchronous activities such as collaborative storytelling, interviews and discussions.
To assess learning gains across the hybrid and traditional Advanced Italian I courses, Melucci and Hipwell administered pre-tests to gauge students' level of preparation, and then compared grades from quizzes, tests, written assignment, and oral projects throughout the semester. Students also offered their perceptions in surveys. Preliminary results from the Fall 2014 courses suggest that learner outcomes were satisfactorily achieved in both courses. Students showed mixed responses in their own interest in traditional versus hybrid courses some favoring the flexibility of the hybrid model while others disliking the scheduling of online sessions for synchronous activities. Due to its successful creation of a hybrid course for Advanced Italian I, the project was extended to include the creation and implementation of a hybrid Advanced Italian II course. Intensive Advanced Italian II was run with a hybrid model in Spring 2015.
Melucci, Donatella and Louise Hipwell. "Designing a hybrid format for third semester Italian: methods and outcomes." Presented at the American Association for Italian Studies Conference, Boulder, CO, March 26-29, 2015.