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Case study: Portuguese as a Second Language Master program

Page history last edited by cristina.sp.martins@gmail.com 7 years, 11 months ago

Case study: Portuguese as a Second Language Master program (UCoimbra-PT & UEM- Mozambique)



This case study describes the b-learning Master program in Portuguese as a Second Language that the University of Coimbra (UC - Portugal) and the University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM - Maputo, Mozambique) have jointly delivered. The second edition of the program is currently ongoing, with no major differences when compared to the first edition (2010), and so, for the present purpose, the fully completed first edition will be described.



Pre-course preparation:

Decision making process


The decision making process was highly constrained by the following pre-existing conditions:


  • The funding institution was interested in developing a Mozambique-Portugal partnership in this particular disciplinary area.
  • All students were to be physically based in Maputo, Mozambique and would themselves be adult speakers of Portuguese as a Second Language.
  • Mozambique's existing technical infrastructures.


Program design was jointly established by a bilateral UC-UEM commitee, as to respond to these prexisting:

  • The program would run over a two year period. The first year would consist in eight independent courses (four in each of the two semesters) and, in the second year, the students would develop their dissertations, typically under the supervision of two professors, one from each partner institution.
  • Each course running in the first year would also be jointly taught by two professors, one from each institution.
  • UEM professors would teach traditional face-to-face classes, and UC professors would teach primarily via moodle, although UC teaching activities would be also be complemented by a week of intensive face-to-face classes delivered locally.
  • A computer-equipped room would be set up on the UEM campus as to respond to the students' basic technical needs. Very few students owned a personal computer and/or had access, in their own homes, to the internet.


Program design was thus subserved by a number of unique practical needs, and was not inspired by a pre-existing model.



The aims of the program were:

  • to train, at a post-graduate level, highly needed professionals in a sensitive and deprived disciplinary area;
  • to foster intercultural and scientific relationships between institutions;
  • to develop a basic framework for future online based teaching-learning programs;
  • to train basic computer competences in students.



The entire program was privately funded by the Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian (FCG).



  • The online component of each of the first year courses was designed as entirely 2D, and ran (as far as possible) on moodle: http://moodle.uc.pt/course/category.php?id=19
  • Basic training for the use of moodle was locally administered to the students by a UC instructor at the beginning of the course in a 3 hour session and further assistence and training took place whenever qualified UC instructors visited;
  • Given technical problems regarding the quality of local internet connections, that were never completely overcome during the first year, students had frequent difficulties in accomplishing basic activities on the moodle platform (such as downloading files and resources, handing in assignments, for e.g.). As such, the email and skype were frequently used instead, both for teacher-student interactions, and for teacher-teacher interactions.



  • Learners were exclusively from Maputo, Mozambique.
  • Given the strong face-to face component of the courses, student identity in online interactions were easy to monitor and confirm.



UEM set up face-to-face class timetables and UC online communications worked around them.



Course syllabus  (didactics)

  • Activities and tasks had been, in many cases, tested in face-to-face or prior 2D b-learning courses held at UC, and were subsequently adapted to the requirements of the new teaching-learning context;
  • All activities and tasks were designed by each UC instructor him/herself, and tailored to meet individual course requirements and aims;
  • The whole program, including course syllabuses, were validated by the Scientific Committees of both partner faculties and by the funding institution;



Advertising of the course

Advertising was locally handled by UEM.


During the course

Technical issues and support

  • Three tutors (UC postgraduate students) were assigned 2/3 first year courses and helped to manage teacher-student online communication on moodle.
  • Technical assistance at UC was provided by specialized staff;
  • As mentioned, learners experienced a number of technical difficulties during the course. Not all were overcome, so creative coping strategies necessarily followed (use of skype, chat, email).



Most synchronous interactions took place through skype sessions previously set up with small groups of students (3/4 max.). Some UC professors also engaged with students in chat sessions. 


Ethical issues



Post- course


  • In each of the courses, student assessment criteria were defined in accordance with specific aims and content.
  • Assignments were scheduled and communicated to students at the beginning of each course. It should be noted that deadlines were frequently renegotiated by students who considered the workload to be, at times, excessive.



  • The whole program was evaluated by the funding institution (FCG);
  • Student evaluations were also collected at the end of each semester by the course directors.


Evaluation of tasks/materials:

  • Tasks and activities were not evaluated individually;
  • Student evaluations of the program and the individual experiences of instructors contributed to improvements and adjustments of syllabuses, tasks and teaching materials, taking effect in the second edition of the program.



Dissemination was limited to internal reports of direct interest to stakeholders.







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