Twentieth Century French Studies Conference,

Philadelphia 4/1/2000

"From Amherst to Zimbabwe: Distance Learning with French in Action"

Presentation of a case study by Nicole Vaget

Professor of French at Mount Holyoke College

In August 1999, I received a call from Washington, DC, asking me to create a beginners French course on line using the Capretz method "French in Action". The project, sponsored by the World Bank, was a part of the African Virtual University curriculum. I was not familiar with "distance education", but, out of sheer curiosity, I accepted the challenge.
The students were from Anglophone African universities in Ghana, Kenya, Mauritania, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. The task was new to me and at first quite daunting. However, confident in my expertise in information technology, I created a very successful course, personally teaching the first third of the course (nine lessons) and passing the baton to a colleague who teaches French at Georgetown University, for the rest of the year. She can use the Washington studios of AVU, which simplifies the procedure and reduces the coast.

What was the infrastucture of the course?

Course content (syllabus)


"Distance Education," a powerful tool of the future.

This method is cutting edge technology and requires that the professor be a talented webmaster. Web pages must be created in a coherent, attractive, and easily accessible format, which implies fluency in Information Technology. Computer literacy, which requires the mastery of word processor, e-mail, and web browsers, is not enough. Fluency in Information Technology is a must. It involves expertise in the use of desktop publishing tools such as Photoshop, PageMaker, DreamWeaver, or GoLive, to create documents and web pages. It takes time -- lots of time -- and I recommend it only to those who are already addicted to the hypnotic power of their computer screen.

In conclusion, information technologies allow us to renew ourselves and our means of teaching: