Starting in Summer 2018, the first term of the program will be completely online. All three of the first core courses will be taught via the internet. The new online schedule will be as follows:
- LING 510 Language, Mind and Society (Weeks 1-4, June 25-July 20)
- LING 540 Linguistic Principles of Second Language Learning (Week 5-8, July 23-August 17)
- LT 535 Language Teaching Methods (Weeks 1-8, June 25-August 17)
Each will provide a flexible, interactive learning experience. In addition to daily opportunities throughout the summer term for interaction with course instructors and classmates, students will also meet other LTS faculty and continuing LTS students through various online social activities.
We asked LTS Program Director Dr. Keli Yerian about the rationale for making this change.
What was the inspiration for the program to shift to all online courses for students in their first term? “Research on online teaching over the past decade has shown us that well-designed online curricula can be highly effective, and our LTS faculty have already designed and taught similar online courses in the past with great success. Also, because only the first Summer term will be online, LTS students will still have plenty of opportunities to have an immersive, face-to-face experience in the program during the rest of the program, so we are getting the best of both worlds. We are very excited about this development.”
What advantages will going ‘all online’ in the first summer bring to LTS students? “The main advantage will be that LTS students can reduce their expenses because they will not be obliged to be on the University of Oregon campus during the first Summer term (the months of June-September). They will not need to pay for travel to or lodging in Eugene, which can reduce costs for out-of-state and international students in particular.”
LTS students and faculty also weighed in on this switch to online courses in the first term. In a recent survey of the program’s current students, several confirmed that having their first term online would have provided some welcome flexibility. One student described it as a “huge advantage, especially for international students. The students don’t have to arrive on campus until Fall term starts and can study at their leisure- at home, in another country, etc. For me, it would have been really nice to have this option.” Another explains, “I think it may help international students of L2 English adjust to the curriculum if they are able to focus on their studies without having to adjust to living in a new country at the same time.” A third student noted that in addition to being able to “take part in the summer courses from anywhere in the world, which most likely will save money, students will also see how online classes are successfully conducted.”
LTS faculty are excited about the change. Dr. Julie Sykes (who serves as director of the Center for Applied Second Language Studies) is the instructor of LING 540 Linguistic Principles of Second Language Learning. She reports that she is “looking forward to implementing some interactive pedagogical ideas that work really well online.” Based on her extensive experience with online learning, she describes one of its key strengths as providing “more opportunities for individualized attention.” She explains “I really find a lot of value in community building and spending time together learning…[there are] many opportunities for interaction between students as well as with me.”
The online courses will serve as an interesting complement to the variety of offerings in the on-campus terms of the program. Most of these are face-to-face courses using a ‘flipped learning’ approach, which allows students to maximize in-class time for student-centered workshops. And LT 608 Computer-Assisted Language Learning, offered as a series of 1-credit courses throughout the program, is delivered in a blended format (partially face-to-face, partially online).
Another innovation to the program will take place this summer. In addition to the online switch, there will be a curriculum change. LING 594 English Grammar, formerly taken by many students in the first summer, will be replaced with LING 510 Language, Mind, and Society. We asked Dr. Yerian for more information about this.
What was the motivation for the change in curriculum from the English Grammar course to Language, Mind, and Society? “Because some of our incoming students do not have a prior background in linguistics, we decided that we needed to devote more attention to linguistics in the first term, which is what we are doing with the new course Language, Mind, and Society. However, this course is not a typical introductory level course – it is a graduate level course that connects linguistics closely to both sociolinguistics and cognitive linguistics. Thus it will be highly engaging for our incoming students who already have a background in linguistics as well. Another reason for replacing English Grammar is that not all students in our program plan to teach English, so some of our students were already exempt from this course. LTS will continue to integrate a focus on pedagogical grammar throughout the program.”
The primary developer of Language, Mind, and Society is Dr. Mokaya Bosire of UO’s Linguistics Department. He is particularly enthusiastic about the opportunity to explore themes related to language and social class, speech impairment, machine languages, linguistic profiling, universality of language, and forensic linguistics. Questions guiding some of the course content include the following: How does human language differ from other forms of communication? How does machine language (and assistants like Siri and Bixby) work? Where is language stored in the mind and in what ways? Why does some speech sound gendered? What is slang? What’s the best way to learn a second language? With its emphasis on applying up-to-date findings in the field of linguistics to current trends and events in society, this course promises to be an excellent addition to the LTS program.
Prospective students can find additional details about the program on the LTS website, including guidelines for the application process. The priority deadline for applying is February 1, 2018. The changes described above should appeal to a number of people seeking an MA in language teaching. Dr. Sykes told us: “I’m looking forward to working with a great new cohort of students.”