This fall, a new University of Pennsylvania open learning course will teach elementary German online. The free course will offer students a way to learn the language while widening their circle of German speaking friends and followers via social media.
âAuf Deutsch: Communicating in German Across Cultures,â a six-week, non-credit course will launch Oct. 6. Offered though Pennâs Open Learning Initiative, it is one of the first open online foreign language course offerings on the Coursera platform.
The course was developed by Edward Dixon, the director of technology for the Penn Language Center and a lecturer for German language and culture in the School of Arts & Sciencesâ College of Liberal and Professional Studies. In the summer of 2010, he developed and taught Pennâs first online distance learning foreign language course for LPS.
Through video-taped lectures, online exercises and short readings, students taking the new open learning course will acquire basic language skills to create personal Web profiles in German that describe who they are, what they like and dislike, where they live and some of their daily activities.
Class members too shy or apprehensive to share their personal identities on the Web will construct virtual online personas to use instead.
Dixon says that the personal and virtual profiles are an integral part of the language learning process for âAuf Deutsch.â
In addition to creating online profiles, students will engage with German society and with the societies of their fellow students.
The German language MOOC has a syllabus that consists of daily assignments on topics such as âFamilien und Beziehungen,â families and relationships, âHobbys und Interessen,â hobbies and interests, âErnĂ¤hrung und Wellness,â nutrition and wellness, and âReisen und Urlaub,â travel and vacation.
Dixon says the course wonât be the traditional language course.
âThe course will be informative and entertaining. People will hopefully be learning something new about German culture,â he says. âStudents will learn about the different lifestyles Germans have. Thatâs where the entertainment part will come in.â
âAuf Deutschâ video lectures will cover weekly themes, basic vocabulary and grammar structure with an embedded comprehension checklist and downloadable worksheet with vocabulary and sample answers to questions. Several online readings about German celebrities, cities and contemporary social issues will also accompany each unit.
Students will get automated feedback as they complete online exercises, as well as feedback on their essays and VoiceThreads from Dixon and the teaching team. VoiceThreads are Web-based message threads of recorded video and audio files and typed comments between students and instructors.
As an undergrad, Dixon initially pursued an English major, but, because he âhad such a fantastic German teacher,â he switched majors. He later earned his Ph.D. in German from Penn.
In 2011 Dixon was honored with a School of Arts & Sciences LPS Distinguished Teaching Award. One student described him as âthe best language instructor I have ever had.â
Registration for Dixonâs âAuf Deutschâ class is at https://www.coursera.org/course/deutsch.