The use of LISTSERV® software in the FAST (Foundations in Area Studies for Translators) Program at the University of Tampere has enhanced teaching and learning, increased student motivation and performance, and improved program outreach to "life-long learners" and working professionals. LISTSERV has also greatly enhanced the effectiveness of providing instructional material while simultaneously reducing the cost of delivering it.
The FAST Area Studies Program is tailored to the needs of translators, interpreters, and others who seek competence in intercultural area studies focusing on the United States, United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland and Finland in their international English-language contexts.
The program is primarily for University of Tampere students of translation and interpretation, who require expert knowledge in intercultural dynamics of the English language, but it is also open to other University of Tampere and international students who have an interest in the broad interdisciplinary nature and topical appeal of the FAST curriculum.
"LISTSERV is only one component of the FAST program's multifaceted learning environment, but the wide-ranging interactive connectivity it enables in such a user-friendly, efficient and cost-effective fashion makes it the most fundamental and significant component. Without LISTSERV, the program would not have been able to function."
The FAST program objective is to provide a learning environment in which an extensive array of teaching and reference materials is continuously available to students. To achieve this goal, the FAST program has had a strong technology orientation since its founding in 1992, promoting life-long learning skills and habits ingrained in students throughout their training for and involvement in the curriculum.
The program also aims at increasing outreach to and improving interactive relationships with "distance" students, who could pursue coursework even if not physically present in Tampere, as well as program graduates and other professional translators in working life.
The primary technologies used in the FAST program are email and the World-Wide Web, with the two working hand in hand.
Most FAST courses have their own LISTSERV lists. List names are in the form "USA1-L@uta.fi" (for the USA-1 'Introduction to American English' course, for example). Subscription is available to all course students as well as to interested individuals outside the University of Tampere; some lists have sizeable national as well as international memberships.
All students are expected to subscribe to the respective course list while attending class. While there is no compulsion for students to subscribe (they subscribe themselves, as opposed to 'being subscribed' by the instructor), virtually all students join the course lists. Indeed, while they are also free to unsubscribe upon completing the course, many remain on the lists and continue to participate even years later. This provides a 'continuing education' benefit that was not anticipated when the lists were originally taken into use.
Course lists are used by the instructor to relay announcements and administrative updates, distribute electronic articles relevant to class lectures or discussion and respond to issues raised directly on the list or in previous classes where answers required the consultation of outside sources. Students may freely post questions and comments to the list and participate in discussions on course topics.
FAST students are positive about the LISTSERV lists. They appreciate the convenience of having expanded course resources at hand 24/7. The more immediate and continuous contact between teachers and students enabled by the e-lists (as compared to traditional face-to-face teaching) has resulted in more feedback on a greater range of responses to a wider body of academic material. As a result, student projects are being completed with more sophistication and thoroughness than previously.
Other benefits have included an improvement in general written expression and student self-esteem. While the department has always had outstanding students, gifted in language from the day of admission, the intense cross-cultural linguistic demands of professional translation and interpretation had often resulted in students becoming frustrated at a perceived personal inability in English. Perspective was lacking.
Thanks to LISTSERV email list communication, students are writing more than ever, and as all postings are archived, more care is taken with writing than with 'chat' or 'instant messages', for example. The class email reliance forces students to write. To an extent, the more one writes for one's peers and instructors, the more one's writing will improve.
But more importantly, the lists provide perspective. Students are able to compare their writing to that of the international list membership. They see that their ability often surpasses even that of well-educated native English speakers. Thus, as students are learning more academically through list usage, they are simultaneously also gaining confidence in their professional reasoning and writing capabilities.
LISTSERV is only one component of the FAST program's multifaceted learning environment, but the wide-ranging interactive connectivity it enables in such a user-friendly, efficient and cost-effective fashion makes it the most fundamental and significant component. Without LISTSERV, the program would not have been able to function.
Case study written in December 2002 with John Hopkins, University of Tampere, Department of Translation Studies, FAST (Foundations in Area Studies for Translators) Program.
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