Multimodal, multicampus instruction: Sharing foreign language courses to meet student needs

Concurrent Session 7

Brief Abstract

Hear how one multi-campus institution is sharing live, synchronous courses across the state, with keen attention paid to equity for all learners. Multimodal instruction presents challenges, but also opportunities for regional service institutions and community colleges to offer robust languages as we approach a demographic “cliff.” 


Renee loves her job! She is part of the multitalented eLearning Design & Services team at Indiana University, where she has the privilege of supervising 7 instructional designers. eDS supports hundreds of priority online courses per year. Renee has worked on creditbearing, not-for-credit, and more courses on both Canvas and the edX LMS. She also serves as chair of IU Women in IT.
Alex is an instructional designer with eLearning Design & Services at Indiana University. She loves supporting faculty and making their lives easier. She has a special interest in multimodal, hybrid, and otherwise blended instructional practices.
Green Sensei teaches all levels of Japanese language, including J101 to J402, as well as Japanese literature and culture courses. She combines her interest in Second-Language Acquisition, Japanese art and culture, and K-12 education through volunteer activities and cultural presentations. Green Sensei is also the faculty advisor for the Japanese Club and a resource for students seeking information about study abroad in Japan.

Extended Abstract

In Fall 2022, our institution started delivering courses in multiple modalities (bimodal synchronous). This was not a pandemic pivot, but an intentional decision to ensure that students had access to the courses they needed, no matter which of our campuses they attended. 

We are a multicampus state institution with both R1 campuses and teaching-focused regional service campuses. The regional campuses are already experiencing the beginning of the high ed demographic “cliff.”  This led to class cancellations, which put some students at risk of needed courses being canceled due to low enrollment. Our institution found that other campuses within our university often offered the same course numbers, but it was too far for these students to travel in order to attend. The solution? Video attendance for the remote students. 

When we say multimodal, we mean that students attended in multiple ways depending on how they registered for the course. They may be in person or via video conference. The students onsite with the faculty registered for an in-person course. The virtual students registered for a distance education course. 

In Fall 2022, we piloted shared sections of Education: Science Methods; Education: Math Methods; and Second-Year Japanese. The different disciplines and pedagogies provided lots to learn from. 

The biggest challenge was language learning across multiple modalities. Audio had to be incredibly clear so that students and the instructor could hear one another. Video needed to be clear to see the sensei’s mouth movements and ensure proper pronunciation. Students needed to be able to easily submit their homework and handouts, no matter which mode of delivery they were registered for. And we wanted to allow for conversation partners across modalities so that the distance students did not feel isolated. Our Japanese instructor is excited to share the experiences she had with other institutions. 

Previously, two campuses had collaborated to offer in-person language instruction from a distance. That course-share has lasted almost a decade. This builds on the collaboration by allowing students from more campuses to participate, and at a lower equipment price tag. 

This requires collaboration of multiple units: Instructional designers, audiovisual experts, campus academic leadership, campus IT leadership, business intelligence team, the faculty themselves, centers for teaching and learning, and more! 

Lessons learned (interaction - will present a situation and ask the attendees to guess which one was the solution we found)

  1. Fully multimodal courses need a strong case, because that requires a lot more resources. Sometimes, synchronous online is the best approach. 

  2. Sometimes, less is more. A traditional conference room may be the best bet for multimodal teaching that ensures equity of participation.

  3. Data analysis is helpful to select the best candidates for course sharing. 

Based on our pilot experiences, we identified 7 success factors: 

  1. Faculty selection

  2. Course selection

  3. University-level support (instructional design, business intelligence, IT)

  4. Communication with students 

  5. Equipment

  6. Onsite specialists 

  7. Physical room selection

We will address the interplay of these items in our presentation, and how we collaborated to problem-solve within our institution and across silos. 

Additional interaction:

We also recognize that not every institution has the infrastructure that we have available. So we will have a group brainstorming period during the presentation for “big ideas” on possibilities for multimodal instruction and course sharing at their institutions. A “Big Ideas’ session requires that all ideas are initially considered, rather than falling into the knee-jerk reaction of “yes, but that would never work here!” The goal is to find creative solutions by being open to new ideas.