Students Develop Online Board for the World

By: Rand Huck

(WARWICK, RI) - A new forum may be a great help to students of foreign language and those studying abroad. "[it] is an important addition to the world of websites," says Dr. Brown, a professor of Spanish and Portuguese at the Community College of Rhode Island. The online discussion forum she is talking about, at , contains 10 categories directly related to foreign language and culture, and 14 total categories, including two categories for users to discuss books and film.

Discussion forums are online locations where visitors may register and talk, much in the same way as email, except that instead of writing to one person, they are writing to the other visitors. It is different from chat rooms, since in chat rooms you are talking in real-time, whereas in a discussion forum, you are replying to a message that was posted anywhere from a few minutes ago to a few years ago. Discussion forums usually revolve around a central theme, such as cooking, a computer game, or jokes.

This discussion forum revolves around foreign language and culture.

Rand Huck, who developed the software and made it a possibility for the faculty, says, "It's not just about teaching students about language and culture, it's about giving those students an outlet to discuss it in a world wide medium." Huck is a former student of the Community College of Rhode Island and a current student at the University of Rhode Island. The faculty's objective is to make the discussion forum an attraction not only for students, but for those who live in those foreign countries to give their insight. "Most students learn about language and culture in a classroom where they rarely get a hands-on experience with it," Huck continues. "By discussing foreign language and culture to, not only other students, but those living with the language and culture, I think they get a lot more out of it. It's important to know how to communicate in other languages online, since that is where global business is taking us in the new century. More often, workers are making trips to their email client to communicate to other countries, rather than using a telephone or traveling."

"For now, in its initial phase, it serves as an excellent vehicle for students to communicate with one another about their interests and/or questions pertaining to their language courses," Brown states.

There are thousands of discussion forums on the Internet, but very few concentrate on language and culture, which is why the professors at the foreign languages department are excited about the new website. The forum began in the summer of 2004, but did not get much activity until the fall semester began, when the faculty enthusiastically told their students about the website. Although the website is not officially supported by the Community College of Rhode Island, and is an independent project of the faculty, the project for the idea was read and approved by the Foreign Language Department head, Anthony DiRuzzo.

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