Naoko Sourial – Creating a Cross-Institutional Language Community


Professor Naoko Sourial (East Asian Studies) designed a cross-institutional linked course project between University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) students (intermediate level) and NYU students (beginner level) of Japanese.  Students built a community of practice for shared learning by posting on a WordPress blog and engaging in collaborative projects.

Learning objectives

  • Beginner students: improve writing and typing skills
  • Intermediate students: learn to spot and correct grammatical and spelling errors
  • All students: engage in authentic written correspondence in the target language

Professor Naoko Sourial and her UPenn colleague designed prompts to leverage the diverse language levels and interests of the students.  Each week, NYU and UPenn students communicated through the shared blog, and supported each other’s learning. At the end of semester, Professor Sourial conducted a survey to assess effectiveness and student satisfaction with the project.  She incorporated theories on Communities of Practice, groups of people interested in the same topic that support each other in their learning.

Student experience

  • First week: post in English with option of posting in Japanese to create social bond between New York and UPenn Students
  • Next week: NYU Students post to blog as part of homework assignment. UPenn students work together in class to come up with correction/suggestions for NYU Students (which are then approved by the UPenn professor), and post to blog as part of homework
  • By the end of the semester: students recording and posting video comments as well as written comments

Technology resources


  • March 2016: presented at APVEA (Asia-Pacific Virtual Exchange Association) in Princeton with partner from UPenn and got suggestions for improving future iterations
  • 85% of students said the project was “very helpful” in improving typing skills (the remaining 15% ranked it as “somewhat helpful”; same distribution for improving grammar and vocab
    • “It pushed me to apply the Japanese we learned in context and construct original sentences and paragraphs.”
    • “I learned more about the other students because of their blog posts, but I didn’t really talk to many others very much.”
    • “I enjoyed having a mentor in my Japanese studies.”
    • Suggestions for improvement: more blog post assignments and more frequent communication with the UPenn students

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