University rolls out online language program, connecting Twin Cities to Morris

The program offers Latin and Dakota classes

Hailee Schievelbein

Hailee Schievelbein

by Audrey Kennedy

A recently-launched exchange program aims to connect the Morris campus to less commonly taught languages that are available on the Twin Cities campus. 

The University of Minnesota  Language Center’s program, which currently offers an intermediate Latin course and a first-year Dakota course, began this fall. It provides a way for University of Minnesota-Morris students to enroll in language courses taught by Twin Cities instructors that were not previously offered.  

The classes are considered in-person for both campuses and take place in real time in rooms fully equipped with audio and visual technology. Students can see students from the other campus on the screens while the professor at the Twin Cities campus broadcasts their lecture. 

According to Nanette Hanks, assistant dean of curriculum, the idea for the program started when a Morris instructor contacted a Twin Cities Latin instructor asking if there was a way her students could take Latin classes that were not offered at Morris. 

“This is what we’re calling a pilot, but similar things have happened at other universities. We were looking at the University of Wisconsin campus as an example,” said Stephanie Treat, the program’s coordinator. The program’s success will be determined after the fall classes are completed. 

Stephen Smith, senior lecturer in classics and the professor teaching Intermediate Latin Prose through the program, said his curriculum has largely stayed the same.

“It’s mainly a matter of getting used to the technology and keeping a constant awareness that not everyone is in the same room with me. With the nature of [Latin] classes, there hasn’t been a whole lot to adapt to,” he said. 

The University has offered exchange programs before with TandemPlus, a program that connects students speaking different languages for conversing opportunities. But Treat said the Morris program differs from TandemPlus in several ways.

“TandemPlus is more of a co-curricular opportunity …[it] goes along with the language course. With Morris, this is the course and they receive credit for it,” she said.  

While the intermediate Latin course is available in person at the Twin Cities campus and remotely for Morris students, the Beginning Dakota class is offered in person, remotely and online. 

Joe Bendickson, a Dakota language teaching specialist whose online class contains students from North Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, said the program has made the language more accessible. 

“The Dakota people … are an American Indian population, and a lot of our people live in very rural areas. It’s not feasible for them to travel or move to the Twin Cities, so it’s better to have this online option to learn,” Bendickson said.

While the program has faced challenges like technical difficulties and different academic calendars, Hanks considers the program successful so far.

“We’re really happy with it, and the students seem to be happy with it,” she said. “This program is allowing them to continue on with their language learning with no gaps, and that’s really important.”