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Language Courses

Language courses can utilize Sakai to present multiple types of media content, to allow students opportunities to practice their language inside and outside of the classroom, and to interact with other peers in their courses. Take a look at the following suggestions and examples of how Sakai (and a few extra tools) can be used in language courses to support the four modalities of writing, reading, listening, and speaking.

1. Organize the course structure and lesson plans

Most content will be stored in Resources, which is organized as a traditional file structure. Once you have materials such as Power Points and PDFs loaded into that space, it is possible to create hyperlinks to them from other tools for more advanced course organization.

The most versatile tool for structuring your course is Lessons. Here you can add text, multimedia, and post links to items already in Sakai like documents, assignments, forums, images and quizzes. You can create a series of sub-pages dedicated to specific content (like each week of the semester or by topic). You can sequence students’ access to the materials by group or by date or set prerequisites. The most effective use of Lessons is to build out content in other Sakai tools before organizing it.

You could also use the Syllabus and Calendar tools to post course expectations and important dates. The Calendar tool displays due dates and assignments in a calendar that appears on the home page of your course.


2. Support listening comprehension and oral proficiency

The text editor box in Sakai offers the option to record audio files up to three minutes in length. These can then be inserted into most tools in Sakai. This will allow you to record audio prompts for an assignment (and ask for audio answers from students). If you need longer recording, try Audacity or another recording tool. You can insert the MP3 into an assignment or forum or add it as a resource.


Another option is to post Power Points, audio, or images to VoiceThread to prompt multimedia conversations (audio and text discussions, plus doodling). This way all students must listen and respond to each other.


3. Improve writing and reading skills

Use Forums as a platform for students to write about themselves, reflect on readings, exchange files, or just get to know each other. You could also use the student content function in Lessons to allow students to create easy Wiki pages.


If you would like to have a more robust platform where students write many posts, add multimedia items, do advanced formatting, and make comments on other student writing, think about creating a Duke WordPress site. You can add a link to the site within your Sakai course.


4. Assign grades to students and provide extensive feedback on their work

Reduce your time grading by linking assignments, tests, and quizzes to Gradebook directly. Create grading categories and weights to automatically calculate grades. Use the Assignments tool when students have an assignment that would benefit from written feedback and/or if you want to send the grades automatically to Gradebook.


Just looking for a way to exchange files? Have students upload documents, videos, or other work to a Box folder, the drop box in Sakai, or a dedicated folder for student work in Resources.

Assignments options

5. Link important websites to your course

You can link directly to relevant foreign news sites, library guides, or relevant blogs in the target language by creating a new Web Content item that will show up in the list of tools on the left side of the Sakai course site. Add the new item under Site Info and then Edit Tools.

6. Separate courses by groups

Under the Site Info tool you can create groups in a course for group projects. With groups enabled you can send announcements, deploy tests, set up forums, and write assignments that are for certain groups only.

Note: if you have multiple rosters in a site, those groupings already exist.


Assign a different makeup or extended time quiz or assignment to an individual student or using groups.

7. Use the target language in Sakai

Special characters such as accents, umlauts, and non-Latin characters are accepted throughout most of Sakai. Use the foreign language keyboard input or cut and paste from other sources. Please avoid using special characters in folder and files names. This includes symbols like an ampersand or percentage sign, plus foreign characters.

You can set your language preference for viewing the navigation items in Sakai. From your personal Home tab, click Preferences and then choose Languages. This will change the navigation titles, but will not translate courses created in another language.

You may choose the language of an individual course (the list of possible languages is limited). Go to Site Info in the course. Then click Edit Site Information and use the drop-down menu to change the language.

To rename individual course navigation buttons, use Site Info. Click Tool Order and then click on the gear icon to edit the individual names.

rename tool

8. Share streaming video, audio, and images with students

The Warpwire tool in Sakai allows instructors and students to create streaming collections of films, audio files or songs, and pictures. This can be useful for sharing large multimedia items since the files don’t need to be opened on a local computer. This is a secure way to share clips of copyrighted material for course use. It is possible to set up a Warpwire and ask students to create their own videos and upload them to Warpwire. They can share presentations, skits, and narrations in the target language.


The Duke library will help you put films on reserves in a Warpwire library for your courses.

9. Create a template site for multi-section courses

Some language courses have multiple sections that utilize the same core course content, quizzes, and grade book. One way to standardize the course curriculum and make it easier for incoming instructors, is to create a course template site. To do this, create a Sakai Project Site for the course and then add all of the instructors who will teaching a section to the template site. They can create their own course site, and then import the content from the template site to their course sites. How to copy materials from one site to another.