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NEWSLETTER: VOL III, #1, September 14, 1998

Nelly Halzen, Lecturer
Department of French:  UW-Madison

Advanced French and Learning Intéractive

Dr. Halzen makes extensive use of the World Wide Web and e-mail in her advanced undergraduate writing-intensive class (French 312 : "Techniques d'expression écrite: Teaching Writing through the Internet and the World Wide Web").  This experimental course was taught for the first time in the fall semester of 1997, with an enrollment of 19 students. It will be offered again this fall and will likely be adopted by the UW-Milwaukee French Department in the near future. Its main goal is to improve the students' written French by encouraging them to cooperate actively and independently with the instructor. This is done through an interactive web page, e-mail, one weekly group meeting, and half-hour individual conferences with the instructor every two or three weeks to evaluate their progress.

The main framework of the course consists of a "literary/cultural trip" through various regions of France (e.g. Paris, Normandy, Brittany, Provence…) as described by well-known French writers such as Daudet, Pagnol, Maupassant, Hugo, Gracq, etc. Recent newspaper and magazine articles of specific social, cultural, or educational interest complement these literary excerpts. (To avoid issues of copyright the web site is accessible only by the students officially enrolled in the course.) Many hyperlinks, photographs and lists of appropriate vocabulary help maximize comprehension and thereby prepare the students for their weekly writing assignment.

CGI script is used to make the web page as interactive as possible with multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank, true/false, or short answers questions to test comprehension as well as knowledge of grammar. Each week, the students choose a point of grammar they would like to tackle the following week. Their choice determines the type of exercise that is made available on the web. Once the answers to those exercises have been electronically submitted, the students receive corrections and/or comments from the instructor. This process stimulates e-mail exchanges with the instructor to discuss mistakes.

The work done on the web serves as preparation for the weekly paper sent to the instructor as a document attached to e-mail. It is then electronically edited, using a system of codes and footnotes developed by Halzen for her department's French Electronic Writing Tutor Service (FREWTS). Each paper is then returned by e-mail with extensive suggestions for revision before the final draft is submitted in hard copy to the instructor. FREWTS allows students to identify their mistakes and to find the references that will enable them to understand and correct them in their grammar books.

For this course to work well, it is essential that the students submit their assignments within the time frame indicated on the program. Monday midnight, Wednesday afternoon (the class-time meeting) and Friday midnight were the required weekly deadlines imposed, remarkably respected by all the students.

In the fall of 1998, French 312 will be offered as a pilot course using a WebCT format. WebCT is a tool that facilitates the creation of sophisticated WWW-based educational environments. It provides an interface displaying the design of the presentation of the course (color schemes, page layout, etc.) and offers a set of educational tools to facilitate learning, communication, and collaboration. It also provides a set of administrative tools to assist the instructor in the process of management and continuous improvement of the course.


        You can reach Dr. Halzen at: