Building Innovative Open Korean and Japanese Courses: A Pilot on Technology-enhanced Curriculum Development

Sarah Jourdain

Project Team
  • Eriko Sato, Stony Brook University
  • Heejeong Sohn, Stony Brook University
  • Julian Chen, Stony Brook University
  • Kayode C.V. Ekwunife-Orakwue, Stony Brook University

Stony Brook University


Tier Two

Project Abstract:

Background Information

East Asian languages are among those less commonly taught languages that appear even more daunting for American students to master--due to the completely different linguistic structures from those in English and the lack of target language immersion within the U.S. Nevertheless, the requests for offering East Asian language courses have been unexpectedly increasing. A case in point is that our Korean and Japanese instructors at Stony Brook University (SBU) have encountered a growing demand for flexible course offerings from high school and college-level students within and outside the local community during the past few years. This high demand reflects 1) the constraints of distance, weather conditions, credit-bearing issues that prevent interested students from attending a regular face-to-face class, and 2) a growing need for transformative learning experiences from a generation of students, referred to as ‘digital youth,’ coming of age within dynamic multimedia environments1. By offering blended/online language courses, SBU will exemplify best practices documented in blended/online course modules in the field of foreign language education. The valuable lessons we learn from piloting the blended/online Asian language courses will also help to prevent pitfalls in the development of future blended/online courses which will benefit faculty who are interested in exploring this domain across SUNY campuses within the OPEN SUNY Network.

Challenges Encountered

Despite the high demand for more credit-bearing Asian Language course offerings, unfortunately, there are no blended or online Japanese and Korean language courses currently available at SBU. That is, Asian language courses are still limited to the face-to-face mode. The problem with the conventional way of delivering language instruction is exacerbated by unpredictable weather conditions that inevitably force SBU to occasionally cancel classes. Faculty and students in those traditional language courses are left with no online instructional alternatives to accommodate instructors’ concerns of lagging behind the pre-set course schedule and students’ needs of continued language practice. The lack of credit-bearing blended/online courses in Korean and Japanese also does a disservice to high school and college students across New York State who are interested in learning more Asian languages but cannot take a face-to-face class at SBU due to the issues of distance, schedule, etc. Additionally, content delivery, task design and assessment tools in an online/blended language course differ from those in other subject matters. Prior studies have indicated key areas of concern in conducting online/blended foreign language courses such as the possible lack of peer interaction, collaborative tasks, teacher scaffolding, and performance-based assessments 2. These aforementioned concerns propel us to propose this project in order to explore, design and implement blended/online Korean and Japanese courses that capitalize on innovative technologies and standards-based curricula to enhance content delivery and critical thinking, asynchronous and synchronous interaction, learner motivation and engagement, cultural awareness and understanding, as well as evidence-based and performance-oriented assessments.

Task Force

Our project team consists of two faculty members from Korean and Japanese Studies in the Department of Asian and Asian American Studies as well as three experts in foreign language education and technology at SBU to initiate this innovative project. Collaborating closely with the Language Learning Research Center (LLRC) and the Department of Technology and Society on campus, our team will develop technology-enhanced modules for the first blended/online Korean and Japanese courses at SBU. Although the target courses are elementary level courses, our curricula can be scaled to advanced language courses after guided modifications. The ultimate project goals are: 1) to transform existing in -class courses into blended courses and to enrich them by incorporating digital tools and online practice activities, 2) to offer complete online courses using standards-based, performance-oriented and technology-enhanced learning modules to students outside SBU, including those at SUNY Korea and other SUNY campuses, along with non-SUNY students both here and abroad in line with the Open SUNY initiative, 3) to offer summer elementary courses even when potential instructors are not physically on campus, 4) to share the best practices, challenges and suggestions of developing interactive online courses with other language instructors on campus through workshop presentations, and 5) to conduct research on the effectiveness of blended/online courses for teaching Asian languages and present results through conference presentations within the Open SUNY Network.

Implementation Plan

We will first conduct needs analysis where students are openly invited to contribute their ideas for creating an innovative student-centered instructional model on Asian language learning. Based on the needs analysis results, our Korean and Japanese instructors will start developing their curricula to align the content, materials and tasks with students’ digital learning styles and interests. The two instructors will also consult with our task force members who are specialized in instructional technology and blended learning to evaluate the feasibility of potential technological applications into online course design. Once the funding is secured, thorough market research and consultation with external online/blended learning experts will be conducted to identify relevant multimedia software and instructional designs that will increase teacher presence3, reduce transactional distance4, and promote online and blended students’ learning outcomes.

To illustrate how innovative technologies can optimize the blended/online instruction for this project, 1) instructors can strengthen telepresence by explaining weekly course materials/content via video presentation as well as simulate real-time oral interviews with students by recording oral tasks with oral feedback provided in the asynchronous mode (YouSeeU Virtual Class); 2) students can use multimodal tools (voice, text, image, video) to provide and receive comments on assigned tasks in the virtual community (VoiceThread); 3) teachers can conduct synchronous sessions and students can interact with peers in real time (Blackboard Collaborate); 4) teachers can create digital flashcards for students to build vocabulary (Digital Flashcard); and 5) students can practice writing and document their learning progress via online journaling (e-portfolio). All the technological tools/platforms will also be integrated into the course Blackboard to maintain consistency.

Project Outcome:

Outcomes TBD