Background for Learning Languages at a Distance in the UC system


The UC Consortium for Language Learning & Teaching was established in 2000 by the UC Office of the President and the Executive Vice-Chancellors of all the system’s campuses. One of the Consortium’s principal charges is to extend student access to the less commonly taught languages since the majority of campuses in the system cannot afford and do not intend to provide them (e.g. Arabic, Farsi, Punjabi, Hindi/Urdu, Swahili). Arabic Without Walls constitutes the first instantiation of a framework to offer credit-bearing, distance-learning first-year courses in languages of crucial importance to UC education. The mechanisms for cross-registration in distance-taught courses were approved through Senate Regulation 544 perhaps provide a hard copy of the regulation In the packet? (i.e. “simultaneous” or concurrent enrollment on another campus from the home campus).  In June 2004, the UC Education Policy Committee not only endorsed the use of new technological tools to distribute the curriculum at a distance, but also encouraged and supported distance learning as one of the primary means by which students can concurrently enroll in courses on another campus. 

The present request to the UCB campus is to seek approval for the existing Arabic 1A/1B curriculum to also be taught in a distance-learning format (Arabic 1A-/1B-V[irtual]) in addition to the traditional classroom format.  The new format for the existing courses would be open for enrollment to students at other UC campuses via concurrent enrollment (SR #544). The Berkeley campus may exercise its option to include or exclude students from their own campus from enrolling in Arabic 1A-/1B-V[irtual].


U.S. Department of Education Grant:

In collaboration with the National Middle East Language Resource Center, at Brigham Young University, the UC Consortium applied for and was awarded a three-year $452,622 grant to design and implement Arabic Without Walls. Then UC Berkeley Dean Ralph Hexter authored the principal letter of support for the grant, accompanied by a letter from the chair of the UCB Near Eastern Studies Department, with the understanding that the course would be produced and delivered by Berkeley. Dr. Sonia S’hiri has received course release and GSR funding to design the course and develop the online lessons. The components of the online course are nearing completion with an anticipated launch date for Fall Semester, 2006.  The FIPSE grant will fund four TAs for the online course in academic year 2006-2007 and will offer a summer training program in 2006 for all UC Arabic TAs (May 30-June 4, 2006) that will include specific training for the instructors of the online delivery by leading Arabist and Al-Kitaab textbook series co-author, Prof. Mahmoud Al-Batal.