Assessing Spanish Proficiency of Online Language Learners after Year 1

Rosalie S. Aldrich, Dianne Moneypenny


Online (OL) second language (L2) courses are becoming more widely offered in the United States; however, little information exists about the effectiveness of OL L2 courses beyond one semester or course. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to assess Spanish students’ oral proficiency after completing one year of OL only L2 courses. At the end of year one, students (n=65) completed the Versant exam, which scored overall level of oral proficiency as well as four sub-categories: pronunciation, fluency, sentence formation, and vocabulary production. The results showed that 40% of OL Spanish students met the ACTFL benchmark of Intermediate-Low, while 49% scored Novice-High, one level below the benchmark. A portion (15%) of students not reaching Intermediate-Low scored within a few points of the benchmark. A majority of the students also met the benchmark for pronunciation and fluency, but not for sentence formation or vocabulary production. These results show that it is possible for students enrolled exclusively in online Spanish language classes to meet benchmarks. Thus, OL language students can and should be held to the same standards of oral proficiency as their peers in seated classrooms.


Spanish; online language learning; ACTFL benchmarks; L2 acquisition/learning

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