Real Life Stories
An Online Course to Pass the OQLF French Exam
Two Dawson French teachers (Chantale Giguère and Laurent Duval) have developed a new online course called A Tutorial for the OQLF French Exam - Health Sector Students and Professionals. This 45-hour fully online course specifically designed for health sector is now offered by Dawson’s Center of Training and Development (CTD). The students are pharmacists, nurses, doctors, x-ray technicians or students in the health sector who want to improve their French competencies to work in the Quebec health system.
Our motivation from the start was to help health professionals who need to pass the Office québécois de la Langue française (OQLF) French Exam. On one hand, these learners need some schedule flexibility since they are full-time workers who often work on shifts; on the other, we didn’t want to leave them alone with just online material to learn by themselves. The challenge was to offer them flexibility combined with personalized feedback and strategies to increase their chances of passing the exam.
A Course Structure to Meet Student Needs
Therefore we targeted all four linguistic skills which represent the OQLF exam’s four components: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Often, students who take French at the basic French level in cegeps, find that their French is not adequate for the OQLF exam. They need help to improve their level.
When it is time to explain in French what they did the day before at work in an English hospital or clinic, they don’t necessarily have the vocabulary or the fluency to communicate efficiently. So the course really focuses on the specific health vocabulary that allows them to talk about their job.
Testing to Fine Tune
Last spring we ran a pilot course (a shorter version of five weeks) with a small group to test the course format, a mix of synchronous and asynchronous activities. The teacher, Nathalie Maguérès, did a great job making sure every student would participate actively in the course. Overall, participants were happy with this very interactive and cooperative online course and thought the course’s main objective, helping with health vocabulary in French, had been reached. This positive feedback motivated us to launch a full 45 hour version of the course for this fall.
Features for Online Success
Conversation is an important and difficult component of the OQLF and it requires real interaction. That is why, once a week, we have an online session on a videoconferencing platform called VIA. We chose that platform for many reasons such as that all the buttons are in French, the target language of the course, and the technical support is bilingual and very efficient. This platform also allows us to record the class, so if students/working professionals cannot attend a lesson, they can watch it afterwards. Although we prefer that they actively participate in the course, watching the recording is better than missing a class.
Between live classes, we make students work on asynchronous activities, which can be done whenever they want. Our material is available mainly on our Moodle page which is available 24/7, providing access to all course content. It includes reading exercises in their field, writing exercises in a wiki, etc. We have also built some asynchronous communication activities and we sometimes use some external resources like a video from the CCDMD resource La piqûre du français that is particularly effective.
The Moodle Home Page for the Online Course
With this online class, we wanted to ensure strong pedagogical support for students. So during and outside the scheduled synchronous portion of the course, they have access to online support from their teacher who gives them feedback on their own progress every week.
In addition to the online OQLF course, CTD offers also a regular in-class OQLF course each semester. But using information technology in the online course now allows busy professionals who most need to pass the OQLF exam to get the help they need at a convenient and flexible pace. This new online course offered by Dawson’s CTD, is a non-credit course, which means that participants don’t need to register in a program at Dawson to be part of the course. The next online class will take place from January 22nd to April 30th 2015.