TORONTO ― A session titled “New Developments and Innovations in Slavic Studies” was held on May 28 as part of the annual conference of the Canadian Association of Slavists (CAS), which took place at Ryerson University in Toronto on May 27-29. The session was sponsored by the Ukrainian Language Education Center (ULEC), which is a research unit of the Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies (CIUS) at the University of Alberta (U of A).
As pointed out by presenter Daria Polianska (Ph.D. candidate at U of A), poster sessions [in which speakers present their information in a form of a poster, discuss the topic for three to five minutes and then allow the audience to chat with each presenter] “help build the bridge between disciplines and create an interactive environment where participants and attendees can exchange practices and experiences, as well as enhance the visual representation of their research.” Facilitating information-sharing and network-building, the seven presentations comprising the session explored new initiatives in Slavic programs, including the integration of technology.
Four of these presentations focused on modern-day language learning and teaching. Veta Chitnev (University of British Columbia) addressed hybrid Russian language courses for beginners, explaining how redesigning the course allowed for several benefits, including increased learning-hours and decreased costs of course materials for students.
Olena Sivachenko (U of A) discussed a new, technologically enhanced Ukrainian language course for beginners, which employs a blended learning model to maximize students’ engagement in and out of the classroom (Podorozhi.UA).
Natalie Kononenko and Daria Polianska spoke about digital teaching tools and their team’s project “UkraineAlive/Shkola Zhyva,” a website created to help teachers instructing on Ukraine (particularly for Grade 3 Social Studies teachers in Alberta).
Alla Nedashkivska (U of A) described her open-access e-textbook for advanced students of Business Ukrainian, recently published by the University of Alberta Press (2016). Created with the modern student in mind, Prof. Nedashkivska’s e-textbook provides an online platform for students to learn business-related Ukrainian-language skills ― from how to write a resume and prepare for a job interview in Ukraine, to dealing with banks and insurance.
Prof. Nedashkivska, who is the acting director of ULEC and a professor in the U of A’s Modern Languages and Cultural Studies Department, said she was “impressed with the many new initiatives taking place in Slavic studies across Canada and the U.S.: new courses, ground-breaking programs, as well as exciting new tools and learning resources.” She added that she was “inspired by the great discussion, inspiring ideas, and truly hope[s] that we will continue our dialogue at future conferences.”
New initiatives in Slavic programs were the topic of three presentations during the poster session. Jane Frances Hacking (University of Utah, Salt Lake) offered an overview of her new course, “Russia and Asia: Expanding Russian Program Curriculum Eastwards.” Julia Rochtchina, University of Victoria (UVic), presented on the new Test of Russian as a Foreign Language (TRFL) center in Victoria, which is the first such center in North America. Megan Swift (UVic) spoke about the new M.A. programs in Slavic studies and Holocaust studies at UVic; the latter is the first of its kind in Canada.
The first-ever addition of the poster sessions at the annual CAS Conference was well received. Presenters and audience members approved the new initiative and expressed their desire to continue this mode of presentation at next year’s conference in Regina, Saskatchewan.