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III. The Content Course in Korea
dams (1995) has written about the successful teaching of English Literature classes in English to English majors here in Korea. Content courses, to be available for other than English or English education majors, must expand into other academic fields, but the fields appropriate for high-beginner/intermediate students are limited. Such disciplines as history and anthropology, if taught in any meaningful way, would overwhelm students. More appropriate would be a course in a less technical field, such as the history of rock music.
A content course in computers might be better still, in that input will usually be broken up into digestible chunks, and the teacher can check classroom monitors for student understanding. For three years I have taught a college-level 3-credit introductory computer course in English Microsoft Windows. The class is a general elective that draws students from across the entire student population, which generally ensures that students have at least basic English skills. The demands on students are high, for the class involves the use of graphics and layout programs as well as Web browsers and word processing, and we also work with macros and Object Linking and Embedding. Still, the students are generally capable of handling the material.
Many universities in Korea, it would seem, could offer a similar content course taught by a NS. However, it is often more difficult than might appear. Snow (1991, p. 326) concludes that becoming "familiar enough with the content material to put it to meaningful use... is one of the most difficult, yet indispensible, requirements of content-based teaching." That is, the first requirement of a content course is a teacher who knows the material well enough to teach it. Many NSs lack skills in computers, and those who do have skills are often limited to basic word processing, e-mailing, and Web browsing. A 3-credit computer content course centered on word processing would be in danger of being boring, and working with e-mailing and surfing the Web are too simple to keep a teacher speaking three hours a week for a semester.
Even if a NS with broad computer skills can be found, the high turnover among NSs would hinder the development of a coherent course. The first time or two a teacher teaches any course demands considerable time and energy, but a computer course is especially demanding. There is no textbook for such a course and no tradition for teaching it, and programs and operating systems often change, so the course must be made out of "whole cloth" and continually updated.