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22st Annual OLC International Conference
November 16-18, 2016 | Orlando, Florida | Walt Disney World Swan/Dolphin Resort

OLC Innovate 2016 - Innovations in Blended and Online Learning
April 20-22, 2016 | New Orleans, LA | Sheraton New Orleans Hotel

Bridging the Language Gap on a Budget: Increasing Spanish Proficiency At HBCUs Through E-Learning

Racheal Brooks (North Carolina Central University, USA)
Session Information
October 14, 2015 - 11:45am
HBCU Innovations (Historically Black Colleges and Universities)
Major Emphasis of Presentation: 
Practical Application
Institutional Level: 
Universities and Four Year Institutions
Audience Level: 
Session Type: 
Information Session
Asia 2
Session Duration: 
45 Minutes
Concurrent Session 1

This highly engaging session utilizes real-time collaboration software to provide practical suggestions to develop interactive, engaging, and immersive virtual environments for successful online Spanish instruction.

Extended Abstract

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) consistently demonstrate a commitment to foreign language education and campus internationalization. Nevertheless, some factors prohibit the growth of HBCUs and threaten their continued existence. In 2009, the NAFEO assessed 53 HBCUs and other predominantly Black institutions and found that many allocate institutional resources to financial aid and student retention efforts, since they primarily educate mostly low-income and first-generation students (NAFEO, 2010). Additionally, few foreign language programs at HBCUs receive grants or other funding to advance their area or international studies programs (Berger, 2010).

HBCUs have a history of overcoming financial shortcomings in order to provide a high-quality education to America's underrepresented populations (Mixon et al., 1995; National Center for Education Statistics, 2014; Outcalt & Skewes-Cox, 2002; St. John, 1998; St. John & Hossler, 1998). It is this commitment to the education of students who are traditionally underrepresented at predominantly white institutions that supports their legitimacy as members of the American higher education system in the 21st century (Apart No More, 2010; Clark, 2009; Mann, 2011; Nealy, 2009; Reid, 2011; The White House, 2010). Research suggests that as a result of minority students' increased interest in college attendance and national initiatives regarding internationalized educations, HBCUs must remain at the forefront of the movement (Berger, 2010). One factor that may contribute to the success of minority foreign language students is the expansion of foreign language instruction to the online environment.

Research regarding the study of foreign languages in American institutions of higher education demonstrates that the amount of students enrolled in Spanish courses is greater than the collective enrollment for all other foreign languages (Alonso, 2007; Furman, Goldberg, & Lusin, 2010; Welles, 2004). The results of a 2009 study conducted by the Modern Language Association determined that 864,986 students who were enrolled in two- and four-year colleges and universities matriculated in Spanish courses (Furman, Goldberg, & Lusin, 2010). This statistic accounts for 53 percent of the total foreign language enrollment at the collegiate level for that year. The popularity of the Spanish language in American institutions of higher education is most likely reflective of the emergence of Hispanics as the largest ethnic minority population in the United States, perceptions that Spanish is an easier language to learn, and students' desire to continue the study of the same language they chose in high school (Alonso, 2007; Leeman, 2006; Majeed, 2013; Pomerantz, 2002; Pratt, 2010; U.S. Census Bureau, 2006).

Research shows that, due in part to apprehension regarding start-up costs and limited instructor training, HBCUs are less inclined to offer courses online (Allen & Seaman, 2011; Beasley, 2010; Smith, 2011). Nevertheless, in the current economic climate, online instruction particularly in the foreign languages appears to be a viable solution to increasing enrollment, generating revenue, and graduating more students prepared to participate in an increasingly global society (UNCF, 2005). Therefore, this session will provide practical suggestions on how instructors at HBCUs and other minority serving institutions can develop interactive, engaging, and immersive virtual environments for successful Spanish instruction. To this end, the session will explore the following guiding questions:
- How can instructors promote a sense of connectedness with their students?
- What activities can instructors incorporate to generate dialogue among students?
- How can instructors utilize online resources and other technologies to enhance their Spanish language students' learning experiences?

This highly engaging session will utilize real-time collaboration software to share comments and questions during the course of the presentation. Participants will use their own mobile devises and laptops to collaborate in real-time. Instructors are also encouraged to share websites, resources, and teaching strategies through the collaboration software in order to develop a resource bank for attendee use up to one year after the presentation date. The presenter will demonstrate a variety of collaborative activities, online language resources, and online teaching strategies recommended by successful Spanish language learners.