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Beginning Norwegian via Distance Education

Dawn Tommerdahl, Project Assistant
Department of Scandinavian Studies, UW-Madison

The UW-Madison Scandinavian Department recently received a grant from the Department of Information Technology and the Department of Continuing Studies to develop a Beginning Norwegian class to be taught via distance education. In order to receive this grant, the Scandinavian Department had to demonstrate to the Regents of the University of Wisconsin the effectiveness of distributive learning. Dawn Tommerdahl, a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, along with her supervisor Professor Niels Ingwersen, had a hand in receiving the grant and is now developing the course for which the grant was designed.

This summer will be the start of Beginning Norwegian to be taught via distance education between UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire by Ms. Tommerdahl. She will lecture from the Medical Sciences building at the University of Wisconsin-Madison during the six-week summer session. Both UW-Madison and UW-Eau Claire students will receive credits for completing the class at their campuses. Ms. Tommerdahl and the department hope that at least ten students register at each site.

Ms. Tommerdahl will use compressed video, a two-way video conference, in order to teach between Madison and Eau Claire. The compressed video will be used for lecture only. Office hours for Madison students will be done face-to-face. Since Eau Claire students won't be able to meet with someone for office hours face-to-face, the program is set up for them to have desktop video at Eau Claire for these office hours. Also, one hour a week will be dedicated to using computers for online class discussions using Realtime. Homework and tests will be placed on the Web. Ms. Tommerdahl is looking for a way to have the University-Eau Claire loan laptop computers to the students so they may have easy access to computers when the lab is busy.

The concept of distance education for language courses is crucial for the survival of many of the marginal languages at the campuses. Marginal language courses are in danger of being lost due to low enrollment, being in competition with languages such as French, Spanish and German which draw larger numbers of students. Ms. Tommerdahl would like to broaden the scope of the view of teaching to show that students don't fall behind in classes because the professor is out of the classroom. This course, if successful, would demonstrate the effectiveness of distance education in teaching foreign languages and possibly help save other marginal language courses from disappearing from the university.

If you would like more information regarding this course, please feel free to contact Dawn Tommerdahl at tommer@macc.wisc.ed