Published: April 4, 2016

Peter KnapczykPeter Knapczyk, a visiting Assistant Professor in the Asian Languages and Civilizations Department, completed the Fall 2015 ASSETT Teaching with Technology Seminar. He implemented the use of a flipped classroom by using Urdu video tutorials and online web assignments in order to teach the Urdu script without interrupting in-class time used for Hindi instruction.

CU Boulder offers a three-year course sequence in Hindi through which students achieve advanced proficiency in the language. My project for this fall’s “Teaching with Technology” seminar focuses on how to use technology to introduce the Urdu script in our Hindi courses. Hindi has a close relationship with Urdu, in that these two languages are nearly identical in their grammatical structure and colloquial vocabulary. This close relationship presents a unique opportunity for students of Hindi, who can achieve basic proficiency in Urdu with relatively little additional study. For this reason, many universities have experimented with incorporating elements of Urdu into their Hindi curriculum.

The biggest obstacle that prevents students of Hindi from learning Urdu is the fact that the two languages are written in different scripts. Unfortunately, learning the Urdu script can be quite challenging and time-consuming, as it typically requires some ten hours of classroom instruction before students are comfortable with the basics of the script and are ready to begin reading authentic texts. This poses a problem for instructors who wish to integrate the Urdu script into a course whose primary focus is Hindi; namely, how best to introduce the Urdu script without disrupting the course’s Hindi language instruction?

With my project for the “Teaching with Technology” seminar, I attempted to address this problem by creating a series of “flipped classroom” lessons on the Urdu script featuring video tutorials and web-based assessment. These video tutorials are designed to teach students the script step-by-step with minimal guidance from a “real” instructor. Each video tutorial is accompanied by an online quiz, allowing students to monitor their understanding and progress independently.

These “flipped classroom” tutorials have two main components. First is a series of ten instructional videos that teach students how to read and write the Urdu script. Each video is 5-10 minutes in duration and focuses on one or two of the traditional groupings of the alphabet (approximately 5-8 letters). The videos will be hosted on Youtube and their content will be a mix of explanation, demonstration, and exercises. To create these videos, I have used audio and video recording equipment (microphones, USB audio interface, camera), a Bamboo tablet, and software such as Camtasia Studio, Reaper, and Powerpoint.

The second component of this project is a series of online quizzes that allows students to gauge their comprehension and progress independently. To create these quizzes, I used Google forms and linked them to the video tutorials on Youtube.

Taken together, these materials are intended to be a self-contained course that will fit the needs of a variety of learning contexts. For my own courses, I plan to incorporate these lessons in my Intermediate Hindi courses, assigning one video lesson per week over a semester. But another instructor might choose to cover the same material over a two week period by assigning one video per day.

The online quizzes will be the primary indication for whether students have properly understood and mastered each element of the Urdu script. The quizzes provide immediate feedback, allowing students to pinpoint the elements they need to review in the videos. Ideally, the feedback from these quizzes will enable students to proceed more or less independently through the series of videos, master the basic rudiments of the script, and begin completing assignments in which they read and write the Urdu script.

Because I was not teaching a Hindi course this fall, I have not been able to assess the effectiveness of this “flipped classroom” approach within an actual course. But I have shared demos of the tutorials with students and have been satisfied with their ability to learn elements of the Urdu script independently. When I implement these lessons in the fall, I will be able to gauge how well these lessons solve the problems described above for introducing the Urdu script in our Hindi courses. In terms of technology, the two main challenges I see for the future of this project are (1) the lack of compatibility between assessment software and Urdu fonts, and (2) the inability of software to assess the accuracy of students’ writing in Urdu.