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Online program expands access to American Sign Language curriculum.

Article Access Magazine, Fall 2008 Issue
Dr. Vicars with deaf students at the David Rose School in Georgetown, Guyana.

Dr. William Vicars is hard of hearing, considers himself “culturally Deaf,” and enjoys being a member of the Deaf Community. Nicknamed “Safari Bill”, Vicars’ goal is to share sign language with the world.

“Teaching ASL is my life’s work,” said Vicars, associate professor in Sacramento State’s College of Education. “ASL is a complete and natural language so in addition to learning the vocabulary, becoming truly fluent in ASL involves learning grammar, culture and history.”

The American Sign Language (ASL) online program, founded by Vicars and offered through CCE, includes all four elements.

“I am convinced that online learning is better for some people like those who live long distances from classrooms, work full time, have small children or have physical disabilities that make classroom attendance difficult,” says Vicars.

Developed in collaboration with Vicar’s own digital Lifeprint Institute, the ASL program includes two online vocabulary and grammar courses .This delivery format makes the ASL program a smart solution for anyone interested in learning American Sign Language including high school, community college or university students needing to fulfill a foreign language requirement as well as adults who interact with members of the Deaf Community in the workplace. “We usually end up with a line of prospective students literally begging to get into the classes to earn their language credits to graduate,” Vicars said.

Kimmy Nguyen, analyst at the California Department of Education, appreciated the online delivery. “The online courses were a good way to review and refresh my memory of ASL vocabulary, and to learn new vocabulary,” explained Nguyen.

For Nguyen, who is technically deaf but considers herself hard of hearing, ASL training is important on multiple levels. “It’s important for me to be part of the Deaf Community and that includes being able to communicate in ASL,” said Nguyen. “Professionally, knowing ASL is a benefit for my job so that I can communicate with and provide support for deaf and hard of hearing clients, just the same as a Spanish-speaking analyst would for Spanish-speaking clients.”

“Our long-term focus is to open our programs up to a larger market and globalize our curriculum,” said Jill Matsueda, CCE’s academic programs director. “The ASL program is just one example of our very successful non-traditional course delivery formats that help people with challenging schedules or minimal access to the Sacramento State campus achieve a university-level education.”

“I really enjoy being at Sac State, trying new things, and building up my online curriculum,” said Vicars. “The online ASL program will continue to grow and develop to make use of new technologies.”

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2008 issue of Access Magazine. It has been edited for length and clarity. Article written by Deborah Chen.