Policy on Transfer Credit for Modern Foreign Language Courses Taken Online


Language-acquisition courses in the modern languages at Valparaiso University always include significant oral/aural components and significant written components. In daily classwork, students are required to interact with their professor and with each other in the target language at an appropriate level of proficiency. Generally, all production modalities—interpersonal, interpretive, and presentational—are included in each course. Students advance their speaking and aural comprehension skills mainly through daily classroom interaction, but also through recorded exercises and activities. Students are regularly evaluated on their oral production (speaking) skills and their aural comprehension (listening) skills in a variety of ways: 1) periodic evaluation of speaking in class; 2) inclusion of speaking and aural comprehension in testing (quizzes, unit/chapter exams, and final exams); and/or 3) inclusion of oral production and aural comprehension elements in graded homework and out-of-class activities. Writing assignments vary in length and complexity according to course level, but demand that students produce original pieces in the target language (not translated from English).

While we recognize that online language courses can have value, they often do not provide the quantity or quality of oral interactions needed for students to develop oral and aural skills. In face-to-face classroom interactions, students must interact with a variety of speaking partners, learn to interpret the coordination of body language and spoken language, and learn to negotiate breakdowns of communication in appropriate ways, in addition to learning skills of language production and comprehension. Other online courses do not have adequate teaching or assessing of students’ ability to produce written work in the target language.

Additionally, the impossibility of guaranteeing academic honesty in a completely online setting has particular pitfalls for foreign-language courses because of the easy recourse to online translation programs or even native speakers to do work in place of the student.

Because our courses require that students progress appropriately in all four skills, including speaking and aural comprehension as well as written proficiency, students requesting to transfer in credits in online courses in a foreign language must provide a syllabus or other verifiable written evidence that the course includes significant portions of both oral/aural and written work, and that their level of proficiency is tested in appropriate ways.

Thus, to be accepted for transfer credit, a language-acquisition course in a modern language must:
• require that students participate in activities that demand significant and regular work in oral production and aural comprehension;
• require that these activities include frequent and significant oral interaction, both synchronous and face-to-face with the instructor and with fellow students, for a minimum of 100 minutes per week over a 14-week semester (face-to-face can involve a program such as Skype);
• include regular and significant opportunities for spontaneous oral production, not just recording of the reading of pre-written material;
• assess oral production and aural comprehension through regular evaluation of these skills;
• include grading of the skills of oral production and aural comprehension—either explicitly in discrete grading situations such as tests or embedded within a variety of graded assignments—as a significant portion of the course grade; and
• include explicit instructions for proctoring of exams or other methods for ensuring academic honesty.

To be accepted for transfer, online and computer-assisted foreign-language courses must have a significant writing component. A program such as Rosetta Stone that does not require multiple writing assignments of lengths and complexities appropriate to the level will not be accepted. Within the course, writing projects must be regularly assigned and must be graded. Their length will vary according to the course level, but at any level students should have assignments that require them to write paragraph-length and, at upper levels, longer pieces in the target language. Instructor feedback will allow students to progress in their writing skills. Particularly for online and computer-assisted courses, systems must be in place to prevent cheating in the production of written pieces.

Normally, the catalog description of an online course will not be sufficient for the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures to determine the above; additional documentation will usually be required.

If it cannot be documented that online foreign-language courses contain these elements, they will not be accepted as substitutions for Valparaiso University foreign-language courses.

Policy on Transfer Credit for Modern Foreign Language Courses Taken Online
Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures
Valparaiso University
October 2012