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Spanish classes to add online component, one credit

BY MARLEEN LINARES | MARCH 29, 2010 7:30 AM

Brenna Norman/The Daily Iowan
UI graduate student Libby Rathmann teaches Spanish I students in Phillips Hall on March 8. Next semester, Spanish will change from a four-credit hour class to a five-credit hour class.
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Students in Spanish classes can expect some changes in how they learn their verb conjugations next fall.

The University of Iowa Spanish department will test a new format in its beginner courses. The new “hybrid” courses will meet three times a week instead of the current five. The other two days will be replaced with online work.

“Students will benefit greatly from the grammar exploration online,” said Elizabeth Guzman, the director of the general-education program in the department. “There are many other resources aside from the textbook available online.”

Courses will shift to the hybrid setup based on their level each semester to ensure only one level is affected at a time, Guzman said.

The changes won’t cost the UI any extra money, because the teaching assistants will work the same number of hours and won’t need to purchase new technology.

In addition to these changes, students will receive five credit hours per class instead of four.
“We decided they do not get enough credit for the amount of work they put into the class, so we decided to change it,” said Guzman, noting the department assessed the amount of time students spend studying through a questionnaire.

Guzman said the skills and content covered in the hybrid courses will be the same as what is covered now. The new courses will just have much more incorporation of technology, she said.

But Juan Herrera, a third-year teaching assistant, said he prefers the face-to-face interaction.

“Human interaction gives another side of the story in language such as accents and pronunciation,” he said. “These things can be in danger of being lost.”

However, he said, he does not see the hybrid classes as a bad thing.

“It will push students to have to do more, such as researching and reading in Spanish,” Herrera said.

He noted that, being in the United States for only two years, he has acquired quite a good grasp on English through reading and listening.

“If the classes are arranged in a way that there is still interaction, such as through video, the classes could be a very good thing for the future students,” Herrera said.

The number of semester hours granted for beginning Spanish courses varies among Iowa’s public universities. The University of Northern Iowa allots five hours per course, and Iowa State University grants four.

UI freshman Christopher North said he does not plan to take any more Spanish classes after this year, but he would have preferred the hybrid method.

“I may have managed it in high school, but going to the exact same classroom every day just isn’t enough variety for me,” he said.

Though some worry that the reduction in face-to-face interaction will be a disadvantage, North disagrees.

“Hopefully, with the two days of online work, more vocabulary would be learned,” he said. “This may reduce shyness during the class days.”

The department plans to have all changes implemented by 2012.


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