Design Template: Language Course

Class meetings may be conducted on Zoom or other web conferencing platforms.

  • Consider “flipping” the class by making short videos introducing key concepts for students to watch before class, then using class time to maximize interaction and practice in the target language
  • Structure the meetings carefully, making clear the goals and tasks throughout each session
  • Encourage participation and intellectual engagement; use the interactive features of Zoom, such as polls, reaction emoji, and chat regularly 
  • Divide the group into breakouts for small group work. You may wish to intentionally group students in shifting groupings throughout the session and throughout the semester, rather than relying on the automatic feature.
  • To maximize practice and engagement, consider using many short activities in a single class meeting. Each might last only a few minutes, so that the session might rapidly shift from small group to all-group every few minutes
  • Share materials such as images or texts with students via email in advance of class, so they can open them in the breakout rooms when you instruct them to use the materials for discussion
Essential Considerations

Identify course goals and objectives. Start by thinking about your essential goals for the course. Focusing on the high level objectives of this level of language study will help you focus your efforts and time.

Plan instruction for engagement and interaction. Engagement and interaction with you and with fellow students will foster community and motivation. Even at an introductory level, try to include opportunities for peer interaction, small group discussions, student-developed screencasts, peer teaching, brief presentations, etc.. Inviting visitors to the class can also be tools for creating engagement and excitement.

Allow students to exercise creativity and agency, which will increase motivation and commitment. 

Anticipate issues of access and inclusion. Consider sending a short questionnaire in advance of the first class that asks students to share concerns they have about engaging the course, including technology and access. See also the guidance provided by the Office of Disabilities Services.

Prepare Students For Learning

Encourage metacognitive thinking and self-assessment, by using strategies to help students reflect on their own learning.

  • Be explicit about your expectations for students’ preparation for class
  • Direct students to review so that they arrive prepared to engage. 
  • Provide an overview of the lesson at its start. Alert students if some content is particularly difficult or frequently misunderstood. 
  • During class, incorporate short pauses in which you are not delivering new content or asking students to engage in new activities, but during which students can catch up, fill gaps in their notes, resolve confusion, etc. so they can attend fully to subsequent new content. The Zoom chat function might be used to collect student questions during these pauses. 
Encourage Engagement and Interactivity

Get to know your students and encourage them to get to know one another; you might:

  • Send an introductory email or a written or video biography to your students 
  • Invite students to attend pre-semester office hours with you
  • Use students’ names whenever possible, and encourage students to use each others’ names
  • Consider creating a channel for informal communication with you and with other students. Some faculty are using platforms such as Slack for this purpose.

Create out-of-class opportunities for participation and language practice; ideas include:

  • Open the virtual meeting about 10 mins before class, and invite students to chat informally in the language
  • Have students record themselves speaking 
  • Assign discussion sessions with partner as homework
  • Assign video or audio clips for homework to be discussed in class (see Voicethread below)
  • Ask students to prepare written assignments outside of class as the basis for discussion

Use “classroom assessment techniques”; ideas include:

  • Use zoom polls during class to assess comprehension
  • Use chat to enable students to practice writing sample sentences (and you can respond to the group, or privately just to that student)
  • Use games to engage and assess mastery (some options for digital tools below)
  • Conduct an informal mid-semester evaluation
Recommended Digital Tools

Asynchronous discussion 

  • Use the Discussion tool in Canvas
  • Use VoiceThread, a platform for asynchronous discussions on multimedia resources, which makes it possible for students to leave audio, video and text responses

Digital assignments, quizzes and projects

  • Take advantage of Canvas’ media recording assignment submission type, which allows students to respond to assignments with audio or video recordings.  Using the Canvas smartphone app, students can record and submit their assignments from anywhere.
  • Provide students with audio or video feedback on assignments through Canvas’ SpeedGrader
  • Create a collaborative course blog with one of McGraw’s Commons course website platforms
  • Add messages and quizzes at specific times in videos uploaded to Kaltura, the video repository integrated into Canvas
  • Encourage students to work on digital projects using free, online, easy-to-use tools such as ArcGIS Online, TimelineJS, StoryMapJS, or Google MyMaps (see descriptions in McGraw’s Digital Toolkit
  • Invite students to contribute images to a shared map in Siftr. Using the free smartphone app, students take pictures, add them to a shared map, and leave comments on each others’ contributions.
  • Explore Quizlet, a free, online flashcard tool; Kahoot, a game-based learning platform; and EdPuzzle, an online platform for adding quizzes to video


  • Collaboratively annotate course readings (PDFs or webpages) with Hypothesis 
  • Use a course blog on McGraw Commons to comment on foregin-language films. Blog comments can be threaded and reference specific times in the film.

File sharing and collaborative writing

  • Share files in Canvas, or in Google Drive
  • Make use of Google Docs for collaborative writing and peer feedback.

Video conferencing and engagement tools 

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