About UA's Online Japanese Courses or "Nihongo Web"
Who Can Enroll?
Nihongo (Japanese language) Web courses are offered through The University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa for current college students, graduate students, high school students (through Early College only, and they will only receive college credit from UA, not high school credit), and adult learners. High school students will need to qualify (go to the Early College website link above), but anyone else with a high school diploma or equivalent can enroll. If you are not a high school or current UA student and wish to enroll, you will need to apply to UA as a Distance Learner. There is a separate tab on the home page of this site on how to enroll, but please continue reading for now!
A Little History and How the Courses Work
The University of Alabama began offering Japanese language via distance education back in 1989, when it was a live via satellite TV course called Japanese Close-Up. This award-winning course (Best Distance Learning Program K-12 Live Programming, TeleCon Magazine, 1992) continued on uninterrupted all these years, eventually evolving into a web-based curriculum only in 2002. Many find this the best scenario because Nihongo Web is an asynchronous class, meaning that students can study anytime, anywhere (that there is Internet access) and receive live instruction on demand. When we do get entire classes of students to enroll who meet in a synchronous classroom situation we still tutor each student individually and privately, but group video conference tutoring is also available. For this reason, Nihongo Web is entirely self-paced and individualized for each student. We do, however, encourage only motivated individuals to enroll since the bulk of responsibility for completing assignments in a timely manner rests squarely on the student, and the courses must be completed within the university's academic term schedule. The student must be good at self-organization and self-motivation.
Who are the Instructor and Tutors?
Your head instructor, Laurie Arizumi, is also a classroom instructor of Japanese at The University of Alabama. She spends half of her workday with local students and the other half working with online students tutoring, grading workbook and other assignments and tests, collaborating with your proctor when a test is needed (your proctor emails test requests when you are ready to take a test), and maintaining the web sites. If you have any questions at all you can email Laurie-sensei. Tutors are mainly hired from among the population of UA students. Some tutors are native Japanese speakers, and others are American students who have lived in Japan and are either majoring or minoring in Japanese. They are chosen for their patience, reliability, and ability to speak both Japanese and English fluently.
What Learning Materials We Use
Nihongo Web courses use a mix of learning materials: online, print textbook with accompanying workbook, email, and live, private tutoring sessions over Skype. Workbook and other assignments (such as a sakubun essay and final project) and written tests can be snail mailed or scanned and emailed if the student is not in the continental US. All of the learning materials except the textbook for JA 101/102/201/202 and workbook for JA 201/202 can be accessed through UA's Blackboard Learn system. Once a student has enrolled in a course, he or she will be given password access to The University of Alabama's online campus-wide system. Students will access MyBama, just like any UA student, and from there can use the Blackboard Learn System. This system is also used to access grade points and chat with fellow students and interact in the Discussion Forums.
How Do Students Practice Speaking?
Speaking practice is done live through Skype with a headset and web camera. By using a video chat during our tutoring hours, students can ask the instructor and tutors questions, practice the material, or do a graded oral quiz. The student always initiates these conversations and requests what kind of tutoring he or she wants (just practice, ask a question, or do a graded quiz). We do not limit the number of practice sessions a student can do each week -- the tutoring is both scheduled and open for extra optional practice. Most students receive at least one hour of scheduled time a week, and more if they want during open hours. We suggest students contact us at least twice a week for about 30 minutes to practice Japanese. There are only 5 to 6 mandatory oral speaking sessions for each course. These Speaking Quizzes last about 15 minutes each and can easily be done during a break at school or in the evening at home. We try and accommodate everyone's time zones and schedules by offering morning, afternoon and evening tutoring hours. This is not an immersion course, and students may ask questions about Japanese grammar and culture in English. Our tutors are all fluent in English as well as Japanese. Students rarely feel intimidated to talk freely with us!
How Do Students Take Tests?
Students take written paper-pencil tests with a local proctor they themselves find. Proctors can be current or former teachers, media specialists, counselors, or military superiors etc. Students local to Tuscaloosa can come to campus and use our free Testing Services. There are between 5 and 7 written chapter tests (depending on which level the student is in) and a final written exam. Our tests use a variety of items including short answer, multiple choice, matching, short essay, and kanji writing. Oral (speaking) quizzes are given during the student's scheduled Skype sessions.
What is the Tuition Cost?
The cost for the courses is determined by The University of Alabama. Since tuition changes frequently, visit this link to check on current tuition prices for distance learners. JA 101-901 and JA 102-901 are both 4 credit hours each, and JA 201-901 and JA 202-901 are 3 credit hours each. Early College students (high school students enrolled for college credit) will also need to take a preliminary "readiness" Gateway course" before taking any online UA courses. More information on that can be found on the Early College website.