Building a Model for Online Distance Courses Through Social Media and Networks

Building a Model for Online Distance Courses Through Social Media and Networks

Ed Dixon
DOI: 10.4018/jvple.2012070105
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This article describes the affordances of social media and networks for online Elementary German courses that have been taught at the University of Pennsylvania since 2010. These online courses were created to provide students the opportunity to take Elementary German as part of the language requirement for Penn credit during the summer months when students are away from campus. Like their face-to-face counterparts, the online courses are grounded on the principles of communicative language teaching and learning but clearly reveal the potential of these principles to maximize participation, promote learner autonomy and influence student outcomes when applied to collaborative online learning spaces. This paper explains the pedagogy behind the online courses, outlines their relationship to the face-to-face language classroom, and describes how student interactions are key to the learning process. It considers the importance of electronic and digital literacy (Warschauer, 2006) to the growth of new methodologies, materials development, assessment, articulation, intercultural competence, and student progress. This paper also compares the instructor’s experiences of teaching in the online environment with those of the face-to-face classroom and discusses how these distinct and separate learning spaces are in many ways related and can inform each other. Finally, the author considers new possibilities for language learning through emerging technologies.
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“Classroom techniques and procedures used to teach languages have reflected responses to a variety of historical issues and circumstances.” Richards and Rogers (2000, p. 14)



The textbook selected for the online course was Deutsch Interaktiv, an online course designed by the Deutsch Welle (DW) with a focus on listening and reading. The program consisted of authentic videos, slideshows and audio texts and gave a contemporary overview of the culture and language in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. The audio, video and written texts from Deutsch Interaktiv provided the content for class conversations and student interviews. They also provided topics for essay writing and assignments on Facebook.

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