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Language lab renovation enhances learning process

At a time when digital video disc technology is beginning to outdate compact discs, the language lab has taken a big step towards modernization by digitizing 80 percent of its audiocassettes.

In their first day of language classes yesterday, many students were introduced to the University's $1.1 million renovation of the Multimedia Language Learning Laboratory in Cabell Hall.

The Arts & Sciences Center for Instructional Technologies has added 58 state-of-the art computers and an interactive teacher-student console to the language laboratory.

Phase I of the project included technology and hardware upgrades and furniture purchases. Phase II, which is scheduled to be completed next summer, will feature structural renovations to the lab, such as the replacement of the air conditioning system and the installation of new flooring, CIT Director Rachel Saury said.

Using the new technology, language professors will be able to save copies of their students' voice recordings, a practice that will help them keep track of students' progress, Saury said.

All the computer workstations are networked to the teacher's computer, and will allow the instructor to control simultaneous audio and video playback on students' computers.

The new system was designed to eventually make digital audio information available over the central University network for students to access at any on-Grounds computer. The computers at the lab will have more features in the future, Saury said.

"We are working on being able to provide word processing capabilities in most of the languages" taught at the University, she said.

Computers in the lab will be replaced every three years in order to keep the software and hardware up-to-date, Saury said.

Students will have no problem adapting to the new lab, said Steve West, lead language lab technician.

The employees in the lab just finished a training session, and will now be able to assist students with the new technology, West said.

The new technology allows for the "possibility for coordinated audio and video, which is the way we learn language naturally," said Assoc. College Dean Richard Sundberg.

Saury said teachers will soon have access to a professional audio-editing booth, which will be added as part of Phase II.

Digitizing the language tapes should help students improve their listening comprehension, said Rachael Hardison, a second-year College student who has taken several German language classes.

"Some of the tapes didn't always correlate with the workbooks," Hardison said. "Now teachers can assign more computer-oriented assignments."

Once the information is available for download, it will ease the burden on many students who are hard-pressed for time, said Kristen Mitchell, a second-year College student who used the lab for Spanish class last year.