New Foreign Language MOOC Set to Launch in January

Since bursting onto the scene one-year-ago massive open online courses (MOOCs) have been plagued with an inability to offer students meaningful feedback””it’s fundamentally impossible for one instructor to grade or interact with the tens of thousands of students who sign up for MOOC.

The inability to scale assessment to match class size is one of the reasons that the first generation of MOOCs tended to be science, engineering, technology, and mathematics online college courses“”classes where the assignments had clear cut solutions and the grading could be done either by peers or computer programs. However, as other departments have begun exploring MOOCs the assessment scaling has become a problem””especially as it comes to teaching foreign languages.

Study Stream Offers Possible Solution to MOOC Assessment Woes

Study Stream, a New York-based start-up, thinks it has found the solution to the assessment problem. The company is planning on combining its Instreamia platform, a still-in-beta, web-based adaptive learning service, with the open enrollment of a MOOC to teach Spanish.

The Spanish MOOC, as it is called, will use existing Spanish language content to teach the language. The mechanics of the Spanish MOOC will rely on close-listening exercises in which students are presented with Spanish language videos, and an incomplete transcript, and asked to translate what was said.

Early Criticisms

However, the class has already drawn criticism from some education bloggers for asking students to pick out the English translations of the Spanish words; instead of the Spanish words they heard in the videos, to complete the presented transcripts. The dual language nature of the content is a hallmark of Instreamia courses, where students are presented with content in both the language being studied and their native language.

While the content exercises have drawn criticism, the interactive nature of the assessment exercises has already excited some ed-tech watchers. On the class’s website instructor Scott Rapp has said that, in addition to participating in conversation, students will be required to do 12 homework assignments, six quizzes, two midterms, and a final exam to receive a grade.

Instructors with High-Level Analytics Tools

Study Stream has said that, in order to provide the backend support such a heavy assessment load requires, that the Instreamia platform will provide instructors with high-level analytics tools that will present instructors with both aggregated and individual student performance data.

Support for Struggling Students

Additionally, the platform is expected to automatically redirect struggling students to additional material and to make it easy for students to do sentence-by-sentence playback on videos they are having a hard time comprehending. The Spanish MOOC launches Jan. 21.

Follow Alex Wukman on Twitter @AlexWukman

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