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The iPhone & WSSU Enlists in the Struggle Against the Tower of Babel


A major source of planned events in videoconferencing is hosting language classes in Swahili and Chinese, which are offered across the University system via the North Carolina Research and Education Network (NCREN). These two courses represent high-demand language instruction for languages having a shortage of instructors nationwide. WSSU’s MultiMedia Technology Services (MMTS) also imports Portuguese Literature and Hindi/Urdu classes, and can offer Russian and Arabic classes from other institutions in the University system. These courses are offered to serve WSSU students wishing to have greater variety of foreign language instruction needed for particular career choices. These courses are offered in the MMTS video classroom in Anderson Center, with seminars on advanced topics (e.g., Portuguese Literature in the Age of Exploration) hosted in our video conference room, also in Anderson Center.


Offering not only grammar and conversation, language classes currently emphasize the cultures associated with these foreign languages as well. In Spring semester 2017, one of the beginning Swahili students, Quadeshia Batts, went with eighteen other WSSU students on a study abroad short course to Kenya during Spring break. On her return, she volunteered to relate her experiences to the Swahili class via numerous cell phone pics she had taken. MMTS staff connected her iPhone to the videoconference system and Quadeshia gave a commentary on the group’s visit. The jpg illustrates Quadeshia’s impromptu presentation, which was broadcast on the NCREN system.


Quadeshia’s Swahili classes became useful on the trip, in particular the group’s visit to Fort Jesus in Mombasa, a Portuguese fort, which was once a part of the slave trade. A money changer was acting standoffish and a bit uncooperative, so she asked if he was having a rough day. He seemed not to understand, so she said, “Habari gani?” (How are you doing?) and he said “Nzuri” (Good). He started speaking in Swahili to her in a friendly voice and this cheered him once he felt understood. The result for the WSSU students was that they wanted to know more about Swahili and started asking how to say basic phrases in Swahili.