In foreign language courses at CDL, we encourage students to interact with visual content in order to immerse them in the language by providing context and meaning to their learning experiences.
The traditional ‘flash card’ approach to teaching and learning foreign language relies primarily on memorization and subsequent translation. Through the use of visual and dynamic content (shown above), instructors and students can rely on ostensive learning. That is, students are able to manipulate and change visual images in order to learn, define and translate any given vocabulary word or phrase.
The use of visual tools can augment the curriculum of any language course by offering students a chance to interact with the language, and derive meaning through the provision of familiar context.
Above is an Everglades National Park virtual tour. We recommend selecting the full screen feature (found on the tool bar) for the best experience.
Students in the Plant Ecology course must participate in ‘virtual field trips’ to better understand the ecology of several national parks. Previously these exercises would entail visiting a park’s website and providing written labs focused on unique aspects of the park, followed by a class discussion about the findings.
Plant Ecology has undergone an upgrade that includes a redesign of the field trips, which now harness the most current web technology. Students are presented with an interactive visual collage that is integrated within the course. The collage presents students with open questions and a learning space in which to explore aspects of the park though audio, text presentations, hyperlinks, slide shows, video, and live web cams. These immersive presentations bring the national parks to life. Students can listen to the tour guide present information on the Florida panther while watching a video or a slide show of the park.
Through the use of interactive maps, students gain a better understanding of the Francophone world as part of their work in the foreign language course, French 2. This highly interactive learning activity provides a geographic and demographic view of French language and culture throughout the world.
Students select to explore various regions that are highlighted on the map in order to identify historically and culturally significant events, places and people, and examine how they influence and represent the evolution and use of the French language.
Developing new and innovative ways to teach foreign language, CDL is incorporating VoiceThread into various courses, including Spanish for the World of Business. VoiceThread is a digital medium for housing, displaying and distributing nearly any type of media (images, documents and videos). VoiceThread allows students taking the Spanish course to collect media files, display them, and comment on them in 5 different ways – by using a microphone, a telephone, using written text, an audio file, or recording a video with a web cam. Students can create and share their media with anyone, anywhere.
Additionally, VoiceThread hosts group conversations, allowing students to practice their Spanish by sharing their thoughts on their media collections – in this case, their most loved and most hated foods.
Students taking this course also use VoiceThread to market a product of their choice, in Spanish. The product can be food, computer software, services, a store, etc. Students write their own advertisement and present it to the class, while the instructor and other students will record and share their own comments, in Spanish.
A photo of a lego car built by a student in the Invention by Design course, as part of an online lab.
Laboratory experiments are often considered the defining characteristic of science courses. Engaging CDL students in active scientific experimentation as part of their distance learning coursework not only fosters scientific cognition, but provides evidence for the effectiveness of the design and delivery of online science courses that include a lab component.
Exploring how experimentation can be integrated with content in distance learning courses for non-science majors, a research team comprised of CDL faculty and instructional design staff is currently analyzing selected activities from three online science courses that have been developed by an interdisciplinary team at the center.
Each of these courses – Invention by Design , Contemporary Environmental Issues, and Energy: the Issues and the Science – are designed to promote scientific literacy and provide students with direct, hands-on experiences with science, all while using an online delivery platform.
Held at 113 West Avenue in Saratoga Springs, the 2010 Curriculum Retreat fostered meaningful conversation and highlighted the ongoing collaboration between Center for Distance Learning (CDL) faculty and Curriculum & Instructional Designers (CIDs). On February 9th , faculty from across the disciplines gathered together for a full day of discussion and contemplation on the current and future state of the curriculum at SUNY Empire State College’s Center for Distance Learning.
New to the retreat this year, members of the Technology in Action Committee took the initiative to demonstrate the flexibility and unique capabilties of the Angel Learning Management System (LMS) currently being used at CDL. Members of the CID group were called upon to present alternative content design approaches using the Angel LMS.
Highlights included presentations on the following content design approaches in Angel:
Dr. Nicola Martinez, then Director of Curriculum and Instructional Design at CDL, also gave a brief overview of processes related to the infusion of creative design elements in courses, and encouraged faculty from all areas of study to continue collaboration with the CID group and promote ongoing innovation in courses offered by CDL.