Roadmap to Redesign (R2R)


Three Steps to Improved Instruction with Technology

1. Train! Train! Train!

  • Train your instructors to teach with technology as an integral part of the course.
  • Train your students to learn a foreign language and to use your technology.

2. Recruit student collaboration.

  • Let students be responsible learners.
  • Encourage students to help you improve the course.
  • Continue to evolve your course, just as you would any other.

3. Focus human interaction on interpersonal communication and learning strategies.

  • Use the target language purposefully, but let technology grade grammar exercises.
  • Teach students to read and listen, but let technology grade comprehension exercises.

Three Ways to Ease the Transition

1. Get support.

  • Instructional technology staff
  • Other interested faculty
  • Your publisher's sales rep

2. Start at the easiest point and add a little at a time.

Easiest - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - Most difficult
Message Board – Chat – CD-ROM – Online Reading Quiz – Online Listening Quiz – Grammar quizzes

3. Train! Train! Train!

  • Instructor training on theory, methods, technology, and course administration
  • Student training on language acquisition and learning theory, methods, technology, and course expectations

Three Ways to Motivate Students

1. Fun activities

  • Interesting videos
  • Interesting, polemic chat and message topics: religion, dating, jobs, war
  • Have students share their work with peers

2. Extra credit

  • Encourage exploration of online and CD-ROM materials and of cultural events.

3. Educate students about the value of including technology in foreign language study.

  • Show them the existing research.
  • Benefit from 24/7 access.
  • Get instant results during the learning moment.
  • They'll get to know each other, and you, more than ever before.
  • Technical skills acquired here are broadly applicable.

Preventing and Resolving Student Complaints

  • Validate students' concerns about learning and earning credit.
  • Ask students to be specific about quiz problems, preferably with a printout.
  • Ask yourself, What if it had been a paper quiz? We make mistakes with those too.
  • Be flexible, but remember that you expect the best possible answer.
  • Allow students to repeat quizzes, set the Blackboard/WebCT grader to "Average grade."
  • Give extra credit for finding mistakes.
  • Record extra credit in your gradebook, not in WebCT/Blackboard.

Tips for Easy Administration

1. Train! Train! Train!

  • Prior preparation prevents poor performance.
  • In their training, instructors should complete many of the same online activities that will be required of the students. Instructors need to be able to identify with their students' experiences.

2. Make students responsible

  • They're more concerned about their progress than anyone else.
  • Have them assess their own daily participation and homework on an assessment sheet. You can confirm or adjust their grades; this way they'll know what you expect.
  • With the assessment sheet and their online grades, they will know where they stand.
  • Homework should always be shared with peers; they care more about what their peers think than what you think.
  • Have students form their own groups and schedule their own times for group work; otherwise they'll shift responsibility and blame to you.
  • Having them take responsibility will result in a stronger class community.

Other Contributors to Success

1. At Portland State University

  • Highly motivated students.
  • Instructors receive 21 hours of course training specific to the Spanish course before teaching.
  • Highly motivated instructors.
  • Broad course offerings in WebCT; most of our students already know how to use it.
  • Extensive proofing and augmentation of quiz answers.
  • A continuously evolving course site; we add and change each quarter.
  • A support site for instructor training, materials distribution, gradebooks, etc.

2. At University of Illinois-Urbana Champaign

  • Keep everyone informed about the course redesign

Instructors and students, of course, need to be kept informed, but so do the rest of your faculty, the administrative assistants in the department office, the campus computer sites people, the college and the provost. Students do not always go to the instructor when problems arise; sometimes they go to the receptionist and sometimes they go directly to the Dean or Provost.

  • Err on the side of leniency

In the beginning, no matter how carefully you plan, there will be glitches and bugs. Consider your first implementation beta-testing. Pilot testing and partial implementation can be wise choices if you don't have lots of prior experience.

  • Tips for successful use of quizzing

Take a look at the excellent recommendations regarding quizzing from the psychology practice. Just to reiterate a few:

1) The more you ask students to type, the greater likelihood that they will make mistakes (typos vs. errors in thinking), keep that in mind as your develop quiz items.

2) Keep quizzes "low stakes"; don't let performance on any one quiz or set of quizzes significantly affect students' final grades.

3) Let students repeat quizzes to improve their scores and let their highest score be the one they keep.

4) Maintain deadlines for completion of work; allow students to work ahead, but keep deadlines so that no one can fall behind.

  • Student support

During the first year of our redesign implementation, we set up a designated email address and hired an undergraduate (a senior honors student in Spanish who had helped on the project development) to respond to students' email regarding the technology and the online materials. She guaranteed a response to their questions within 12 hours (typically much more quickly), including on weekends. This saved instructors from being barraged with questions, late at night and on weekends when our students prefer to work online.

3. At the University of Tennessee-Knoxville

UTK's locally formatted textbook and workbook material delivered via Blackboard

  • An excellent Instructional Technology Center staff collaborated with the Language Program Director to transfer textbook and workbook material to Blackboard.
  • To ensure familiarity with the online material, all lecturers and graduate teaching assistants (GTAs) were required during pre-service training in August to complete one chapter online and to provide feedback.
  • To clarify and crystallize the instruction lines, we designed a "modelo" for each exercise/activity.
  • The online quizzes reflected online content and format; the in-class quizzes reflected online content/format and in-class content/format.
  • Each semester we increased the amount of lecturer/GTA training.
  • We emphasized interactive and collaborative task/activities in class.
  • We broadened the spectrum of acceptable responses for online exercises.
  • We designed activities to ensure information exchanges occurred via e-mail or chats based on open-ended exercises either from the textbook or workbook. (We refer to these activities as Blue Book Activities.) Learners were required to record information about the class or individuals in the class in a blue book. Some of this information was gather in-class and some online, out of class. The midterm and final composition topics were based on the information gathered in the Blue Book Activities.
  • We designed Collaborative Homework Assignments (CHAs) to foment negotiation of meaning opportunities among learners. Students formed groups of three members. For each CHA assignment, the process of arriving at decisions regarding the final product had to be negotiated online. The online conversation was printed and submitted to the instructor, as was the final product. Final products included a restaurant menu, a greeting card, a poster about an historical Hispanic figure, a graph, chart or diagram synthesizing data from Latin American countries with respect to divorce rate, family size, family housing, etc.

Strengths of the commercially available online workbook

  • Reliability, reliability, reliability of commercial server
  • Effective teacher training
  • Ease of navigation
  • Ability of the teacher to design activities such as crossword puzzles, jeopardy games, etc. because Quia provides templates for such activities
  • Reduced cost for online workbook


  • Make sure you know where the cost savings from your project are being allocated.
  • Ensure that GTAs/lecturers are on board in terms of attitudes because if not, the students will pick up on their negativity related to online instruction
  • If you are using an institutional server, be sure that it can handle the volume of students enrolled in your program. Ours could not in the beginning.
  • Use the commercially provided online workbook to avoid the time and cost of having to redo the course every time a newer version of the course management system (e.g., Blackboard or WebCT) comes out. We had to do this twice!