Saturday, December 29, 2012

American Sign Language Now Available Online at RSC

ASU Student Ashley Tucker completes her language
requirement with RSC's online American Sign Language course. 
Sign language has grown increasingly popular amongst those interested in learning another language. In fact, American Sign Language is now the second most popular language for online learners at Rio Salado College.

In her 18 years in the language department at RSC, Faculty Chair Angela Felix has watched the teaching of languages transition from traditional in-person classes to an online format. “The online Sign Language class started in 2009,” said Felix. “It was slow going in the beginning, like it was when we started Spanish 15 or 16 years ago.”

The department had experience with online delivery of audible languages like German, French and Spanish, but the sign language class needed unique solutions.

“We had done a lot of work with voice recognition technology for our other language courses online,” said Felix. “When we embarked on this journey with sign language, we honestly did not know what to do.”

The greatest challenge that the school faced was learning how to get the same voice recognition component that existed in other courses to work for the non-spoken language.

“We thought that it was a better idea to use something that was common rather than do something different that would be unfamiliar so we incorporated YouTube,” said Felix.

Most students already know how to use YouTube, so they can focus on learning the language instead of learning new technology.

“We leap frogged over that obstacle,” said Felix. “It has really facilitated the learning experience and students can focus on the content rather than the technology.”

The course follows the same district-approved competencies, so students can be confident they are getting the same quality as they would in an in-person course.

“We’re following the same learning outcomes that are required at the state universities, we’re just finding a more personalized way to do so,” said Felix.

It is because of these requirements that students like Ashley Tucker of Arizona State University is able to take the course without worrying about whether or not it will transfer.

“I found out that Rio had it online and that I could get it done faster through Rio Salado,” said Tucker. “I actually am graduating a semester earlier because I was able to take my classes through them.”

Ashley has completed two semesters of Sign Language and says taking it online and using YouTube is very intuitive.

“I think it’s so easy,” said Tucker. “I’m not super techy and even I can handle it. I’m like a pro now.”

Even without the in-person aspect of the class, Tucker feels her instructors have made it easy to interact.

“Even though I haven’t had the face time, my teacher puts in the effort. She knows who I am, she knows this is important, she knows I’m graduating and that’s been wonderful.”