University of North Texas Trims Foreign Language Study

From NTDaily.com, October 3, 2012:

While it is known that UNT has had to make some tough financial cutbacks this semester, cutting back on the quality of classes is unacceptable.

This semester all lower-level French, Spanish, German and Italian language classes have been reduced from a 4-hour course to a 3-hour course. In-class labs have been replaced with online labs, and the hours of instructional class time have been reduced. Although the number of course hours is lower, the amount of course work is the same.

The university claims that these cuts were made because of scheduling issues. As a 4-hour course, language classes were taking up too many time slots on students’ schedules, leaving little room for other courses. Now that the labs are online, more students can enroll in each class. Basically, UNT is claiming that they have reduced the quality of classes for the students’ own benefit.

Let’s face it – these cuts to the language classes seem to be a direct result of UNT’s budget cuts. Although administrators are trying to spin it so it looks like they are trying to help students, they are really just cutting corners wherever possible. Who do they think they are fooling? Eliminating in-class labs does not benefit students because of scheduling issues – it leaves students with more work and less learning time. In-class lab is needed for students to use and learn in person.

In the past, students have been able to work through verbal assignments in groups with their peers or ask their instructor for help. If something was incorrect, students had the chance to be corrected and learn from the mistake.

With the new online labs, students are given the same assignments and asked to complete them without any assistance. If an answer is incorrect, students do not have the chance to learn from their mistakes. It is simply counted wrong.

A foreign language is difficult to learn, especially for beginners. These students need a conversational atmosphere where they can receive immediate feedback and interaction. With the online labs, students are easily distracted by their surroundings and cannot focus or absorb as much information as they would in a classroom.

Obviously, in-class labs were not eliminated for the benefit of the students. They were eliminated so that UNT could save money by packing more students in classes with fewer professors. With online labs, the school was able to reduce the faculty size by replacing lab professors with teacher’s assistants who grade hundreds of students’ assignments each day.

Budget cuts not only lessened the quality of the language classes, but created more work for both the students and the teacher’s assistants. Perhaps when the semester is over and UNT sees the poor grade results in these classes, administrators will open their eyes to the issues they have created.

Mallory Scudder is a journalism senior. She can be reached at malloryscudder@aol.com.

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