A cooperative effort to produce a "next-generation" multi-media course for beginning students in German has received major support from the Fund for Improvement of Post-Secondary Education (FIPSE) of the U.S. Department of Education.

The project, "Auf Geht's!," is a collaborative effort to develop computer-based, multi-media teaching materials for first-year German courses at the college level. The FIPSE grant provides "Auf Geht's!" with a total of $495,870 across the next three years.

"Our goal is to produce a 'next generation' course that is based equally on print and multi-media/Internet," said Dr. Lee Forester, who is an associate professor of German and is project director and head of instructional design for "Auf Geht's!" "There is no textbook, though there are workbooks and a reference book."

The primary innovation, according to Forester, will be in how students study outside of class. The four CD-ROMs that will come with "Auf Geht's!" will make seeing and hearing not only central but crucial components in students' at-home studies.

Through the multi-media approach, "Auf Geht's!" is being designed to provide an immersion into German life and culture. Audio clips, for example, will feature Germans engaged in unscripted, everyday conversation, offering learning experiences simply not possible through the written word alone.

In the same way, students will see Germany through images shot on location. "We're planning on over 4,000 photos shot all in Germany by a professional photographer specifically for this package," Forester said. Forester is hoping that "Auf Geht's!" will help students see acquiring the language not as an end, but as a means to deeper understanding. "Grammar will play a secondary role and be studied not for its own sake, but to understand and produce German," he said.

"My goal for them is for them to learn the language, and then when they go to Germany to feel like they've been there," Forester said. "That to me would be a mark of success."

The project started in 1998 and previously received $50,000 in support through the Foundation for Independent Higher Education's "Ameritech Distance Collaboration Grants" Program. Work on the package will proceed during the next two years, with testing beginning next year and continuing through the third year of the latest grant. The federal funding through the FIPSE grant is underwriting approximately 60 percent of the total project.

In addition to Forester, those involved include Dr. Penny Dykstra-Pruim, a research associate at Calvin College; Dr. Anne Green, a senior lecturer in German at Carnegie Mellon University; and David Antoniuk, president of Live Oak Multimedia of Orinda, Calif.

Dykstra-Pruim is responsible for writing the package's two workbooks and designing additional classroom materials. Green is preparing the "how to" reference book, which will provide technical details in using the language, such as how to structure a letter or essay, and "how to" software materials. Antoniuk, whose company is contributing in-kind assistance to the project, is doing the photography, programming and artistic design; his company will also distribute the package once it's finished.