This fall, Renison University College launched the first phase of its online Arabic language program, the first of its kind in Canada. Though Renison has been teaching Arabic in a classroom setting since 2010, it was only through the innovative use of technology that this highly interactive language program overcame the obstacles involved with teaching a language online that uses a non-Latin script. Students will begin to learn to read, write, and speak Arabic in this introductory program, which maintains a level of engagement and feedback from the instructor not found in most online language courses at the post-secondary level.
As students in this course are just learning to write the Arabic characters, they submit photos of their written work for grading. They also utilize live video conferencing for oral assignments. The instructor uses a tablet computer and a stylus to superimpose corrections and notes onto the photos of students’ written work, before returning it.
“We needed a way to teach students how to form and join the Arabic letters,” said Melanie Misanchuk of Waterloo’s Centre for Extended Learning, who helped to design the course. “Showing them was easily accomplished by filming videos of the instructor writing, but it was tougher to emulate the idea of a professor walking around the classroom watching students write and correcting them. We solved that by having students film themselves using a smart phone or other video camera and uploading the short videos of their writing for the instructor to grade.”
Professor Idrisa Pandit, Director of Studies in Islam at Renison, believes that offering Arabic online will allow students greater access to language instruction and equip them to engage with their communities and the world in a new way.
“Arabic is one of the six official working languages at the United Nations, is the liturgical language for all 1.7 billion Muslims and is one of the most spoken languages of the world, with over 422 million people speaking it,” said Pandit. “In today's global market, knowing Arabic opens doors for our students in all sorts of professions, both globally and here at home in Canada.”
For students interested in online Arabic courses, Studies in Islam currently offers two Arabic language courses online.