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Building Students’ Confidence through En Vivo!

December 8, 2017

Portrait of Frances Matos-Schultz

Portrait of Frances Matos-Schultz
Photo by Jacob Van Blarcom, CLAgency student

Frances Matos-Schultz and her colleague Adolfo Carrillo Cabello want to change the way that students become proficient users of the Spanish language through a virtual environment. By integrating a new online instructional program called En Vivo, Matos-Schultz and Carrillo Cabello hope that students will build confidence in their Spanish-speaking skills by interacting with a native Spanish-speaking coach in another country through video chat.

The conversation of implementing an online teaching program started between Matos-Schultz and Carrillo Cabello about a year and a half ago. Matos-Schultz expressed her interest in helping students develop more proficiency with the language outside of the classroom and her colleague suggested the integration of online coaching. The inclusion of En Vivo was implemented in sections of the alternate second-semester Spanish classes (SPAN 1022) this semester, and full implementation of the program will happen in fall of 2018. 

What is En Vivo?

En Vivo is a video chat program that provides guided online coaching for students who are studying Spanish. It is run by trained, native Spanish-speaking coaches with the idea that when a student engages in nonscripted conversation practice with someone who is more proficient than they are, the speaking proficiency level of that student will most likely increase. Students build confidence in their ability to speak Spanish outside the program and utilize their acquired skills in the classroom. 

Together, these two want to ease the pressures and anxieties for students when they are required to produce the language on demand. By making it known that En Vivo is not a graded assignment, but instead focused on conversation, with attention to production and communication, students will be able to not only produce the language more effectively, but actually enjoy doing so. “This is not a quiz, this is not a test, this is an incredible opportunity to discover your potential, strengths, and weaknesses,” says Matos-Schultz. 

What Makes this Tool Unique? 

En Vivo matches trained, native-Spanish-speaking coaches with students—something that other online instructional programs aren’t doing. This allows students to be exposed to different Spanish speaking accents, dialects, and other pragmatics of the language as it happens in the real world. 

Another aspect that En Vivo employs is flexibility for the students. Students can schedule and reschedule their video chats, changing times in order to fit the demands of their classes and outside jobs. “We live in a world where everyone is busy, and this program allows for that flexibility, which is a big plus [for students],” says Carrillo Cabello. 

Self-assessments are built into the SPAN 1022 course, which allows students to not only report what they think about the program but how they rate the perceived benefits to their language practice. The program creates participation reports after every video chat session that are then passed on to the instructor. With this information, instructors can communicate to their students about what they can do to become more proficient users of the language.

A More Confident Student 

Matos-Schultz and Carrillo Cabello are analyzing En Vivo from their students’ points of view. “We are trying to see how En Vivo affects the way they perceive their skills and the development of their speaking skills and how it translates to their interactions in the classroom,” says Matos-Schultz. 

They have established two rounds of data collection, which includes quantifying the students’ self-assessments with En Vivo’s participation reports. The first set of data collection started in week 5 of the semester, and the second in week 12. Within those six weeks, students had six exposures to the online coaching program, which allowed them to practice using the language in contextualized scenarios. 

“What we want to get from our students is confidence and tolerance to produce language on demand,” says Matos-Schultz. At the end of the semester, there is an activity in which students will need to converse through an unrehearsed interpersonal exchange with their peers. Matos-Schultz and her colleague are planning to identify differences in the students’ ability to produce the language on demand in classes where En Vivo was utilized and where it wasn’t in order to measure the students’ perceptions of  their language production and participation in class having been exposed to En Vivo

“I think it’s going to provide our students with a different perspective of their language learning process and their involvement in their own language learning process.” Matos-Schultz believes that this new integration will allow students to be able to explore and converse in ways that they would not do in the classroom. 

“I hope it becomes their favorite part of the course,” says Matos-Schultz. 

This story was written by an undergraduate student account executive in CLAgency. Meet the team.