Our responses to your FAQs from the feedback survey

Your suggestions on the registration process

COMMENT: Registration should be opened much earlier, to give more students time to apply.

Response: Unfortunately we already open registration as early as we can – at the beginning of 0th week of Michaelmas Term. We can’t open it any earlier as students only receive their timetables at this time, so if we had it open any earlier students could end up having clashes with classes they registered for. This is why we also ask you to state that you have checked your timetable before signing up for any classes. For our most popular classes we try and offer alternative times and groups so that as many students can fit it into their timetable as possible.

COMMENT: The gap between being told that you have a place on the course and the start of the course itself is very small and didn’t give much time to purchase the coursebook.

RESPONSE: We want to offer as full a term’s teaching as possible (7 weeks in Michaelmas), as well as keeping the registration period open as long as possible so lots of students have time to apply. We do our best to get course acceptance emails out as soon as we can but there are always a huge amount of applications to consider, and especially for OPAL going through them all is a time-consuming process. Please just keep a close eye on your emails and we will let you know as early as possible. Coursebooks are always available from Blackwell’s and should be available to purchase from 0th week. We do our best to anticipate numbers and request that a suitable amount be ordered, but if there is unprecedented demand for a particular course this can’t always be predicted with 100% accuracy. They are usually very prompt at getting extra copies in though.

COMMENT: Some of the placement test answers can be easily guessed, leading to an inflated idea of someone’s level and causing them to be placed in a class inappropriate for their ability. This needs to be improved.

RESPONSE: We are aware that the placement test is quite basic, and we are trying to find ways to improve it. Unfortunately we do need a test that is based online and can be marked automatically, since tutors would simply not have the time to mark every student’s placement test. We do recommend having a look at the syllabi as well to see if the topics and material sounds appropriate for your level. All the coursebooks will be available in Blackwell’s from 0th week, so you could also have a browse there and look at some of the exercises covered in a particular class to see if they seem suited to you.

COMMENT: The website is not very intuitive, and the registration link was hard to find. Registration deadlines should also have been made clearer.

RESPONSE: We do have plans to improve the website in the near future, and we aim to have made a complete overhaul by Michaelmas 2015. We’re planning to have much more obvious registration buttons, both on the homepage and the specific language course pages. We are also planning to display all the options for learning a language on one page, to give a clearer overview of all the different types of courses or self-study options available.
We do state in the LASR and OPAL application guides exactly when the deadline for registration is, but we also have plans to separate out this sort of information and make it clearer and easier to see.

COMMENT: I was continuing a course that I took last year, but the continuation process was not clear to me.

RESPONSE: Continuing students do get priority if they wish to carry on with an existing course. All OPAL students who completed the course (i.e. got a certificate) are emailed the week before general registration opens, and so have an extra week to register. You are asked to pay the registration fee before the start of the course to confirm your place.
At the end of Trinity Term, LASR students wishing to continue should complete a continuers’ form. These are made available at the end of Week 6 in Trinity, and tutors are asked to mention this in class. As long as you complete this form, you will be contacted in September ahead of the registration period and given priority for a place in the new academic year. You also have to pay your registration fee in advance to confirm your place.

COMMENT: The OPAL and LASR registration processes should be combined.

RESPONSE: Unfortunately this is not possible. We have separate Administrators for the OPAL and LASR courses, and each course requires its own database which is tailored to that type of course (e.g. there is no personal statement requirement for LASR courses, but there is a priority system). Both Administrators require a dedicated database for their courses. We are aware that a lot of students apply to both OPAL and LASR courses, so we do our best to inform students in good time of their acceptance on a course, giving them time to reject one course place if they end up getting their preferred course instead. We do ask that you let us know as soon as possible if you do not wish to take up a course place, as it’s disappointing for another student on the waiting list who would want to attend all the classes.

COMMENT: It would be useful to see how many people had applied to a course so you’d know whether it was booked up or not.

RESPONSE: Places on our courses are not allocated on a first come, first served basis. OPAL places are allocated on the strength of the personal statement and filling certain status quotas, and LASR places are allocated on a lottery basis by status (current students and staff are offered places ahead of other statuses). We can’t link our database to the website to show registration numbers by status as it would violate Data Protection laws. Generally European languages are very popular, and the lower levels (particularly Beginners) across languages are the most popular.

COMMENT: The payment website should be linked to from the main Language Centre website.

RESPONSE: The payment link to the Online Store is sent out to every student when they are offered a place, and with any payment reminders after that, so the easiest way would be to follow the link in your acceptance email. If we had the Online Store widely linked to on our website, we run the risk of some payments being made by members who have misunderstood the registration process and have not been accepted onto a course. Orders like this would then need to be refunded, causing extra work for administrators and the Online Store staff.


Comments on facilities and classrooms

COMMENT: The chairs with tablets are not big enough for our coursebooks and other equipment – there should be tables instead.

RESPONSE: Unfortunately this comes down to the fundamental issue of space. We want to offer as many students as possible the chance to learn languages with us, and the chairs with tablets take up much less space than tables do, meaning we can accept more students onto our courses. We do appreciate however, that certain classes uses several different books at once, so we plan to do some timetable shuffling to move these classes into one of our rooms that is equipped with tables.

COMMENT: Our classroom gets very hot and stuffy.

RESPONSE: All classrooms are equipped with air conditioning and sometimes an extra fan. Tutors are also asked to open the windows in the break between classes in order to increase fresh air flow. This is up to individual tutors to do this, so please request this if you are uncomfortable.

COMMENT: The glass boards are very hard to read, especially from certain angles depending on where you are sat.

RESPONSE: We are aware of this problem and have replaced the glass boards with whiteboards in certain classrooms. We will look at this issue once again and consider a widespread replacement of the glass boards if budget allows.

COMMENT: I wasn’t aware there were private study rooms in the Library.

RESPONSE: We have several private study booths available for use in the Library, which you can use to watch the Satellite channels, play audio material, chat with your language exchange partner, or do your own work. These study booths are mentioned on the Library website and should also be pointed out to you during your Library induction tour when you first register.

Comments on teaching and class materials

Tutors were sent all their feedback for all of their classes, and all languages were looked at in our annual Quality and Standards Committee meeting in Week 9. Tutors also wrote reports on each of their classes, describing how they would address students’ comments and continue to improve their classes.

Thank you to absolutely everyone who took the time to submit your feedback – we hope that this helps you understand why we send out the survey, and how valuable your opinion is to us!

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Christmas Carols concert

This coming Thursday at noon in… the Divinity School.

Bodleian Carols 2014 poster

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How to sound like an animal abroad…

We’ve absolutely loved James Chapman‘s brilliant illustrations this week on our display board, and now that we’ve discovered his Tumblr page I can see us using quite a few more of his drawings! Many thanks James – we think you are fab.

Worldwide Woofs

My personal favourite: the flamboyant French poodle

International pigs

My personal favourite: the manly Albanian pig

Ducks (coin)

My personal favourite: the badass Danish duck.

Horses sounds

My personal favourite: the Russian horse in a hurry.

Mice languages

My personal favourite: The Italian mouse

Do check out James’ blog for loads more brilliant drawings, and we’ll definitely be showing more on our display board this week so keep an eye out!

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Skills toolkit: worth going if you are a research student / researcher

** IT & Library skills and services for your research **

A free hands-on workshop for research students, in 8th week of Michaelmas Term and 1st week of Hilary Term.

An opportunity to learn about a broad range of resources in one time-efficient session.

Each two-hour session focuses on the skills and tools that will streamline your academic work. You will encounter a variety of online tools and services to support your research. Relevant software, online services and libraries techniques are on offer for you to try out.

You will also meet with subject specialists for help and guidance on further training. Read more at www.skillstoolkit.ox.ac.uk

Booking for these workshops is open, book your place now!

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OPAL learners: past examinations in the library

Yes yes, the time has come to start revising for your end of term examination.

We have past papers of this examination in the library, from the year 2011 onward.

Those are in folders below the magazine and newspapers’ table and photocopying is FREE of charge (but think about all those trees you can save by just sitting for the examination in one of our study rooms, available in the library)



PS At the moment our photocopier is not working (broke it myself but with no intention of sabotaging it!) but it should work again soon. In any case you can use the photocopier on the ground floor. Ask at reception.

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Paid research posts available for graduates with language skills!

The Dahrendorf Programme for the Study of Freedom is looking for graduate students to work with Professor Timothy Garton Ash on Free Speech Debate. This is a multilingual, global online research project on free speech, concentrated on the 13-language website http://www.freespeechdebate.com/en, which students are encouraged to visit.

We are looking for students with native-speaker language skills in English, Spanish, French, Hindi, Chinese, Turkish, German, Arabic, Russian, Portuguese, Farsi, Japanese and Urdu. We are also looking for students with expertise in the study of freedom of expression (including law, both common law and continental European law, philosophy, and other disciplines), journalism (including experience of online editing), the internet, the use of social media and open educational resources.

Hours are flexible and the position is paid at the research assistance rate of £12.50/hour. We would very much prefer students who would be here until the end of the academic year 2015/16 (i.e., summer 2016), although others may also apply. You would be working with a stimulating and diverse team. For more details and to apply please email tga.pa@sant.ox.ac.uk, attaching CV and indicating native-speaker languages and other relevant expertise.  Application deadline is 5th December. Interviews for those shortlisted will be held in early January.

Free Speech Debate

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Welcome Portuguese learners

I have prepared a little presentation for you

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