In our experience teaching Arabic at Michigan State University, we have always tailored our curricula to students’ needs and the intended learning outcomes set up by ACTFL guidelines. In our continual efforts to provide students with an optimal and up-to-date learning experience, we supplemented textbook material with additional handouts and worksheets that targeted different bands of proficiency. Over the years, it became evident that even with the greatest textbooks, things get obsolete or outdated in a world that is ever-changing. We also encountered considerable shortcomings in the available textbooks, particularly the lack of task-based learning opportunities and the absence of engaging activities and sufficient culture representations. As we filled in these gaps, we ended up with a wealth of resources and worksheets that kept growing over the years. It became a pressing idea that the required textbooks have become more of a financial burden to our students, and it cannot be a good investment to keep them.
It was when we first joined the open pedagogy community that we realized the significance of our work, and we believed that it will be worth more if we shared our material as open educational resources. The philosophy of this book is based on interactive learning. Instead of including activities with answer keys as we see in traditional textbooks, the current work takes advantage of the interactive tools provided by H5p to enhance the students’ self-study experience. It is also designed with the teacher in mind. Instructors can benefit from the sequence of the lessons to create their lesson plans and assignments throughout the semester.
The book can cater to online-only classes as well as hybrid sections. This feeds into the flipped-class approach in which students prepare and study the material at home then meet in class to practice and engage in conversations based on the material they have already completed online.
An additional feature of this book is the combination of both standard and spoken Arabic practice. In our teaching philosophy, we emphasize the need to familiarize students with the actual Arabic spoken in the real world. While stressing the significance of building a sound structure in standard Arabic reading and writing, we incorporate conversations in Egyptian Arabic and discuss cultural topics around them.
As the book is hosted online, the room for improvement is always open. It will keep growing as students and teachers interact with it and provide informative feedback. We hope that our project contributes to the great mission of open pedagogy to make quality education accessible to our students, leaders of a brighter future.