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As Middlebury College recently announced their new online foreign language programs, Penn also presented an unprecedented diversity of online courses for summer 2010 — including one online language course.

Undergraduates may choose between 10 online courses this summer, up from four in 2009. All internet-based programs are part of the College of Liberal and Professional Studies curriculum, and each fulfills one of Penn’s general education requirements, including sectors.

Though the English Language Program of LPS has offered online language courses for the past decade, Elementary German I will be one of the first non-English online courses through the University.

The increase in course variety this year is due to very positive responses from both professors and students, according to LPS Director of Academic Summer Sessions Eli Lesser.

Professor Ed Dixon will run the German online course — a class he has been teaching to Penn students for the past seven years.

“We’ve been building in the direction of an online course for a while,” Dixon said. “It has developed into sort of a hybrid course that involves technology.”

In addition to being a German lecturer, Dixon is also the technology director for the Penn Language Center.

The “synchronous” — or “live” — part of the German course will be facilitated by Adobe Connect, an online distance-learning tool. Students will be able to participate in online written and verbal conversation with each other and with the instructor from their homes.

In the “asynchronous” parts of the course, students will complete practice work on their own.

“I think it will be a very different learning experience,” Dixon said. “There will be more work and a lot more customization.”

The students create a presentation, participate in weekly one-on-one oral or verbal interviews with Dixon, blog and social network.

Though nobody will be in a physical classroom, professors of online courses still value attendance.

Myra Lotto, who will teach Introduction to Romanticism online this summer, said she tends to call on people if they are not actively participating.

“It’s important for students to be invested in this course because it will prepare them to continue learning online,” Dixon said about German. “They will eventually go to German newspapers and magazines, and perhaps even interact with native speakers.”

This internet-based global engagement is exactly why Penn hopes to continue integrating language courses in the online curricula.

“Over the next academic year, we hope to work with the Penn Language Center to develop new language courses,” Lesser said. “Penn’s so unique in that we offer languages like Persian and African Zulu that nobody else does — we hope to incorporate those into online programs in the future.”

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