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Lifeprint.com: "ASL University"
ABOVE: Dr. Bill Vicars in his day job at CSU Sacramento.
ASLU is a curriculum resource center. We do not offer a degree. We do not claim to prepare individuals for employment. Nor are not seeking accreditation. Mostly we just offer an excellent (and continually evolving) free self-study ASL curriculum that teachers throughout the world can use to teach their ASL classes. Many people like to dive in and start learning with "Lesson 1," or check out the "First 100 Signs" mini-tour or the Lifeprint Library. American Sign Language is a complete, natural language. In addition to learning vocabulary, becoming truly fluent at ASL involves learning grammar, culture, and history.
Questions and answers with Dr. Bill Vicars:Question:
"For registered (tuition paying) students, do you send the local school district a letter or certificate that states the number of hours completed so that the district can translate those hours into credits?"
Yes, we do. The documentation is sent upon the student's passing of the quizzes, receptive final, and expressive video project.
Do you have a way to account for [the student's] time or do you just estimate that they have done a certain number of hours?
We require the student to complete a quiz at the end of each of the 15 lessons. This is the same course curriculum I use for my ASL courses at California State University that carry 3 units. Technically the course could qualify for 4 units--for example, my wife, Belinda, teaches this curriculum at Sierra College for 4 units (as of 2008 - 2010), but I want there to be no question that it is the equivalent or better of a 3-semester unit college course which involves 3 hours per week of contact seat-time for 15 weeks and is understood to involve approximately 1 to 2 hours of homework/practice time for each hour of class. Thus a student who successfully completes the quizzes and final exam has demonstrated a level of proficiency that would have taken 45 classroom contact hours. I suppose one could call that an estimate. I refer to it as an "equivalent." It is common for school district administrators to accept a 1-semester college course as the equivalent of a 1-year ASL course. Note: I don't personally believe that the two are actually equal. In terms of sheer contact hours the high school course would cover much more information. What I believe about credits however is not as important as what the local school district or program believes about credits. My job is to present the student with an opportunity to participate an organized continuing education experience under responsible sponsorship, capable direction, and qualified instruction. Afterward I, or one of my faculty, evaluate the student's performance and skill level and document whether or not it is the equivalent of that which would be obtained by a typical college student taking an ASL course of a specified level.
What do we get for documentation?
You get a "Continuing Education Units" form. See: "transcript"
Could you tell me how you think a 10 or 11th grader would do taking this class online?
Most 10th or 11th graders do very well taking ASL online. Like a duck to water sort of thing.
Based on those who have enrolled how many have completed the program and earned credit?
Answer: Remember, we don't provide credit. We provide continuing education units only. But we've had over a hundred students receive credit from their local schools. The vast majority who have enrolled have completed the program and received continuing education units. When used in college settings, of a class of 15 typically 13 will pass. Note: One or two out of the 15 tend to fail either the receptive final or the expressive final and need to retake the exam. We have set up the course so that the student can re-take the final exam as many times as needed until they pass the course. This works out well since it allows us to "fail" a student when their performance is not up to standards, and yet they are able to redouble their efforts and upon raising their skills they are able to pass the course. Note: retakes cost $20. We charge the fee to cover the extra time required to grade the retake, but more importantly we do it to encourage serious efforts at passing on exam.
Who do you consider to be a good candidate to be an online learner of sign language?
Someone who likes spending time in front of a computer. Someone who is able to set up and manage their own "Myspace" or "Facebook" account. Someone who feels comfortable reading and following information from a computer screen. Additionally I think that "online learning" is particularly helpful for those students who might prefer to work at either a slower or faster pace than their peers. A computer doesn't get tired of repeating itself. A computer doesn't judge you. You click a button and it shows you again without rolling its eyes or taking a deep breath. This kind of patience (the patience of a machine) can give certain students the confidence to keep trying until they "get it."
Some people feel that sign language is more 3 dimensional and the internet would be too two dimensional.
Reply: They are right. ASL is 3-dimensional. An in-person ASL course is potentially much more effective at teaching ASL than an online course. That being said, it is important to realize that a lot depends on the circumstances of the course: The qualifications of the instructor, the number of students competing for the instructor's attention, the patience of the instructor, the quality of the lessons, the user friendliness of the curriculum, etc. It is quite possible that some students will actually do much better studying online than they would in an in-person course. Online courses allow for asynchronous learning and progress. Students can study nearly any time and nearly anyplace. They can study from the screen of their phone (320 x 240 resolution or higher flash video capable).
Why does Lifeprint have a such a strict 3-day 100% refund policy after which there is no refund?
Dr. Bill Answers:
Sometimes people need insurance that they will be able to fill a language requirement for graduation. So they sign up for this program and breathe a sigh of relief knowing that they are covered and have access to a flexible, online course that is able to fill their language requirement.
Lifeprint then maintains its curriculum, pays the utilities, pays for web hosting, and renews its domain registration service, etc. -- all in order to stay in business. Then later the distance education student decides he or she doesn't need the class, doesn't want to put forth the effort, or can't find the time to do it. But Lifeprint still had to "stay in business" during that time in order to "be around" and provide that "insurance" to the distance education student.
The student's registration fees pay for the following services:
1. I stay available to receive assignments.
2. I keep my website active so the student can study.
3. I make payments to the web host for server storage space.
4. I pay monthly for my DSL connection so I can maintain the site.
5. I keep my email account active and maintained (which takes hours!) so I can receive student emails.
6. I make payments on ASLU's physical office location.
7. I pay money to upgrade and keep the office computers working.
8. I pay money to the domain name registration service to keep the website name registered.
9. I pay the electric bill each month so I could operate the equipment.
etc. These and the many other costs all add up.
Since I'm stuck with these expenses whether or not the student decides to study and complete the class--I have to handle the finances very similar to the way "health clubs" and "gyms" handle their membership fees. They charge their fees up front and provide a brief reconsideration period after which there is no refund. That way people don't come back later and say, "I never exercised and I want my money back." Otherwise the health club would go out of business.
On the bright side, please know that your registration fees do indeed go toward keeping Lifeprint up and running and many tens of thousands of people all over the world use the ASL dictionary and lessons to learn how to communicate with their deaf friends, coworkers, and children. As often as I am able I fly to places (like Guyana South America) to donate my time to teach Educators of the Deaf how to use the Lifeprint Curriculum to teach sign language to their Deaf students.
Lifeprint.comIn a message dated 6/6/2006 12:13:22 PM Pacific Daylight Time, a person from Canada writes:Dear Dr. Bill,You mentioned there is no guarantee in passing the course and I am concerned about this. Is it that difficult to pass?-- Canadian (name changed)
It takes work to pass, but it is not difficult -- if you set up an actual schedule, dig in, invest 45 to 60 hours online and another 20 or so doing the quizzes, research paper, expressive video, and receptive final.
The difficulty is not in the material, but in the self-discipline to schedule your time accordingly.
So far I've only failed a few students (out of well over 100) due to "lack of ability." Let me tell you about a typical case. It was a woman in her late 40's. Her mistake was in going through the quizzes as mere assignments to be completed instead of as tools to prepare for the final. She would visit the lesson pages long enough to identify the signs on the quiz, type them, submit them, and then move on. She did not practice the sentences enough. The signs were simply going into her short term memory and being forgotten the next day. At the end of the semester she had earned credit for the lesson quizzes but she did not know the signs and grammar she covered in the lessons well enough to recognize them on the comprehensive final (receptive) in sentence form, and thus could not pass the final exam with a C or better (which I require of my students to pass my class).
But if a person will set a goal to learn the material, including the facial expressions and grammar they will be able to complete the receptive final and expressive video and will pass the course.
Would you believe many of my students (online) are Special Education (developmentally disabled) students?But they tend to complete the course with flying colors because their local aide sets up a schedule for them and schedules time for them sit down and get to it.
If they can do it--I'm sure you can do it.
William G. Vicars, Ed.D.
Associate Professor, Deaf Studies and American Sign Language
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