Course Content Tailored to Students

In French, there’s an expression that goes, “coûter les yeux de la tête,” which means that something costs “the eyes in your head.”  Whether it’s your eyes or an arm and a leg, the price is just too high. A textbook instructors considered to be “les yeux de la tête” is one of the main reasons the way second year French is taught at Northwestern has been completely rethought.   

Weinberg professors Patricia Scarampi, Christiane Rey and Aude Raymond made the choice to flip their course and design the materials themselves rather than have the students buy a textbook. This meant writing content, creating videos with built-in feedback, and finding contemporary, stimulating cultural examples to engage their students. Flipping the classroom will allow more time for the important work of practicing language together, which is vitally important for students in a foreign language class. Students will be able to view videos and materials that explain the grammar points before class and use their valuable time with the instructor to work on interactive exercises. 

“We are particularly excited to start implementing the grammar/exercises component of our project,” said Rey. To do so, the instructors used the Lightboard studio to create videos that explain grammatical concepts that they would otherwise use class time to explain. “We believe these videos will be helpful to everyone, but in particular we wanted to present the material in various ways for different learning styles.”

The instructors also took special care to ensure the videos would be useful to all students. “In accordance with the principles of Universal Design and in consultation with Accessible NU and the Multimedia Learning Center, we chose colors and fonts to best respond to the needs of visually impaired students.”

In 2015, Scarampi, Rey and Raymond joined the Educational Technology Teaching Fellows program (ETTF) where they began working on their video projects.  A hiccup occurred early on when the program they were using to provide in-video quizzes was sold and went off the market.  One advantages of working with the ETTF program was that their consultant was able to help them identify a similar tool they were able to utilize instead.  More recently, the three instructors were awarded a Provost's Digital Learning Fellowship, which they’re using to develop their own tools for the course. 

With content individualized to the students’ needs, French students are expected to increase their retention and comprehension and have more fun as well.

“The grammar activities will provide different individualized pathways based on students' performance on an initial diagnostic exercise,” they explain. “That will allow the student who has already been exposed to the material to sail through the activities while reviewing the concepts and the student for whom the grammatical rules are new to get as much scaffolded practice as they need to master the material. Each exercise includes formative feedback so that students are being taught as they are guided toward the correct answer.” 

That’s a result that might actually be worth “les yeux de la tête.

For more information on bringing down textbook costs, please see: