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MOOC: Introduction to Dutch

Sincerely this is one of the best language online courses I have attended. It is all very simple and easy to get and practice. As a linguist I find no remarks for now.

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In March 2015, the University of Groningen Language Centre launched an Introduction to Dutch course in the form of a MOOC on the Futurelearn.com platform. Studies have shown that a basic knowledge of Dutch is essential for people who want to feel at home in the Netherlands. In addition, the Language Centre wanted to showcase Groningen as an attractive city and university.

Course design

Our course is currently the only foreign language course on FutureLearn. It focuses on acquiring receptive and productive language skills as part of A1 (A1 is the first level (of six) in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages). The course works by using video and audio clips to convey dialogues. The basic premise is to teach people the absolute basics needed to feel comfortable in a country with another culture and language. We selected a number of relevant subjects, such as introducing yourself and talking about your work or studies. Language and grammatical practices were then linked to these subjects (explained in special videos and tested via a quiz). The video and audio clips allow participants to listen not only to native speakers of Dutch but also to other people who have learned Dutch via the Language Centre, to show them that they too can learn Dutch. A link to Quizlet has been incorporated into the course to broaden their vocabulary. Quizlet is a good way of learning vocabulary in various contexts. The course teaches participants a range of language skills. Written skills, for example, are taught by asking the participants to write a piece in English at the start of every week. At the end of the week, they are asked to write a piece on the same subject, but this time in Dutch. The idea is to show them what they have learned during that week. Participants practise verbal skills in every part of the course by following the recurring instruction to listen and repeat. At the end of the course, they are invited to post a recording of themselves speaking Dutch on Soundcloud.

Results of first run in March 2015

A total of 33,887 people registered for the course. Most of them came from the Netherlands, followed by the United Kingdom and the United States. Not all of them actively followed the course. This is typical of a MOOC; a lot of people register for any course that looks interesting but do not actually take or complete it. In this case, 18,412 people actually took the course, and 3,546 of them completed it. The number of participants completing the course is still rising as course material remains online and people can take as long they need to finish. Some of the participants are very keen. Many of them did the written assignments and a lot of questions were asked. The course was met with great enthusiasm. Quote: “Sincerely this is one of the best language online courses I have attended. It is all very simple and easy to get and practice. As a linguist I find no remarks for now.” A survey came up with the following scores: 51% considered the course to be excellent, and 41% good. The course is therefore progressing as we hoped and the participants are extremely positive. However, the number of participants who complete the course is a point for special attention. The analysis of the steps shows that people tend to drop out when required to learn vocabulary. We have therefore decided to change the instructions for Quizlet. We now advise people who really want to learn Dutch to learn all the words, and people who are only interested in a general introduction to Dutch to learn the most important sentences from the dialogues. We will review the results again after the second run in June 2015 to see whether this change has encouraged more participants to finish the course.

More information about the course.

Last modified:22 December 2017 10.51 a.m.
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