Published Wednesday, September 13, 2000, in the
San Jose Mercury News
Cal State system to
BY Ken MCLAUGHLIN
Students at the Monterey Bay campus of California State University
soon will be able to learn Japanese in a Web-based "virtual language
The virtual lab is the result of an agreement between a Finnish
6 technology company and the Cal State system that will eventually
allow students to communicate with language teachers from their
CSU officials said Tuesday the initiative will serve as a model
for similar "remote-learning solutions" in colleges across the country.
In addition to Monterey Bay, three CSU campuses -- Chico, Long
Beach and San Diego -- will offer Japanese. The Sacramento, Dominguez
Hills and Los Angeles campuses will offer French. Other languages
will be phased in over the next several years.
Hopes for growth
CSU hopes the virtual labs will spread throughout the 23-campus
system, where almost 25,000 students are already in some type of
"It's where education is going," said Tuomo Lehtovirta, presider
of Teleste Educational Ltd., a division of Teleste, the international
Lehtovirta said he envisions a day several years down the road
when Internet connections on cell phones, Palm Pilots and other
hand-held devices will be fast enough to hook into virtual labs
Traditionally, foreign language classes have been available only
in individual learning centers on CSU campuses. Through local computer
networks: students can talk only to language instructors on their
But the virtual language lab will allow students to tap into databases
at many Cal State campuses and download a range of interactive learning
materials developed by CSU and Teleste.
The system will enable students to communicate using Internet
voice technologies both offline and online with the instructors,
The initiative initially will take advantage of the high-speed
T-l lines on Cal State campuses, he said. But eventually, he said,
students with high-speed Internet access at home will be able to
download video and audio files and have live video conferences while
in their slippers.
One problem facing language students at the 360,000-student CSU
is that classes -- with the notable exception of Spanish -- can
be hard to fill. But combining students from several campuses will
make it easier for Cal State to offer more classes.
"Realistically you can't offer a course for a handful of students,"
said Ken Swisher, spokesman for the CSU chancellor's office. "But
if you get five handfuls, that's a lot."
Swisher said the Japanese curriculum for the initiative is being
developed. The French curriculum will be developed in the spring.
In January, he said, students will begin testing the new technology,
and the first virtual language labs be ready next fall.
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