“Livemocha has made my world a lot easier!”
A growing number of Livemocha users are university students who are given full access to Livemocha through their language departments and libraries. One of those institutions is the University of Texas’ McCombs School of Business whose director found that Livemocha was the language learning solution that he was looking for.
In this brief post I would like to share how Livemocha has made my world a lot easier! Among my responsibilities at the University of Texas, I serve as the Associate Director of Business Language Programs, working with the MBA students in the McCombs School of Business. As part of our program, each semester for the past six or seven years, we have offered foreign language tutoring for our MBA students.
Our model has been to arrange private, face-to-face tutoring, 18 hours per semester, which usually was broken down into 12 weekly sessions of 90 minutes. The MBA students would sign up, state the language they were interested in learning, and give us a general idea of their language ability. Then it was our job to find a tutor, take payment from the students, and pay the tutors. The tutoring was offered on a non-credit basis, and was simply a way to practice speaking in a foreign language.
For the beginning students, the 18 hours were enough to learn basic introductions, social niceties, and survival language skills. For most students, the tutoring program provided an opportunity to review a language they had studied previously, but were a bit rusty. And for the advanced students, it was an opportunity to focus on business content and business vocabulary. The program was designed to be informal, unofficial, and low cost (just $300 per semester).
In many ways the program was extremely successful. At times we had more than 50 or 60 students enrolled, and we found tutors in everything from the standard Spanish, French, and Chinese, to the more rare requests for such languages as Hebrew, Ukrainian, and Hindi. Some of the students enjoyed their lessons so much that partnerships and friendships were made, and the same tutors would work with their students during the full two years that they were in the MBA program.
Managing logistics was a challenge
In other ways, the success came at a challenging logistic cost. Among our challenges and problems, every semester we had to find tutors. First we had to wait for the MBA students to register (usually in the first three weeks of the semester). Then we would have to find a tutor who could teach the requested language. Often the people who were most interested in teaching were ineligible. This is because international students with student visas were not allowed to work, or if they worked on campus, they already had appointments that prohibited extra hours. Others tutors had to secure social security numbers, just to be appointed for the weekly 90-minute session. Often we would search all over for a tutor who spoke a less common language, appoint that tutor, only to find out that the MBA student decided that he or she was too busy to complete the tutoring.
The logistics were complex: staff time, registration design, finding tutors, assigning them to students, collecting the fees, keeping track of teaching hours, dealing with a number of cancellations, and keeping everyone happy in terms of compatibility. In the end, our good idea, of which there was clear interest and demand, ended up being logistically more difficult than our capacity and resources to provide.
Why does Livemocha fit so well into your program?
The size, scope, design, and structure of Livemocha provides us with a new option. Now we can use the funds in our budget that used to go to staff and promotion to purchase purchase regular full year subscriptions. The advantages are numerous: now, our students can enroll during the first week of the semester, their subscription is good for a full year, they can choose almost any language, and even in the case of rare languages, there will always be a member of the Livemocha community to practice with.
From our end, we don’t need to use staff time to manage the sign up, find the tutors, hire the teachers, and assign the pairing up of students to tutors. We offered the new option for the first time during this fall semester of 2012. We purchased 100 one-year subscriptions, and within a few days they were all taken. Here we are just a few weeks into the semester and some of our students have spent lots of hours practicing their language by completing assignments, submitting lessons, chatting with native speakers.
Thanks Livemocha. We’ve had a fantastic beginning to a new phase in our tutoring program. Come back at that end of the semester and we’ll see how much they will have improved!