NCF Launches e-Nihongo Platform
October 18, 2020
The uncertainty created by the Covid pandemic steered the Nihongo Center Foundation towards a strategic decision to build a digital learning platform for teaching and learning the Japanese language online, while adhering closely as always to the proficiency standards of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test (JLPT) 1 . The sudden, indefinite suspension of classes and the dimming prospects for an early resumption of regular classes compelled NCF to consider options. As more and more schools ramped up plans to reopen under distance learning schemes, NCF realized that jumpstarting a digital journey will open new opportunities for teaching Nihongo in the post-pandemic world.
Actually, as early as about 10 years ago, NCF-PIJLC implemented an e-learning project that provided online Nihongo learning on a limited scale. The project encountered various hurdles – technical and content – and after a few years, it lay dormant. Thereafter, NCF took the slow road to conceptualizing an e-learning platform, even exploring possible collaborations with Japanese counterparts.
As Covid-19 forced the world to a grinding stop, digitalization took on new life, embraced across industries, governments and homes throughout the globe. It was only a matter of time before NCF Management hopped on the bandwagon and determined that its future is clearly digital.
After carefully evaluating options, NCF engaged WestPac Solutions Factory in June 2020 to build a Nihongo Learning Platform based on concepts, specifications and requirements provided by its own faculty. The system design was developed after lengthy consultations between WestPac software developers and NCF teachers. Concepts from downloadable programs were studied, including integration with more popular teleconferencing applications, such as Zoom™. Connectivity issues were analyzed, even as the extent of work to digitize teaching materials were considered.
It took WestPac three months, involving three sprints, to finish coding the software. The NCF e-Nihongo 2 platform provides teachers with an array of tools for conducting online classes, while attempting to replicate the learning experience of students in the traditional face-to-face classes . Aware that the distance learning has clear downsides, a digital platform harnesses the power of the internet a new paradigm while stimulating the ingenuity of teachers for content creation and the development of new teaching approaches.
The resultant system underwent a series of “simulation classes” where bugs were fixed and enhancements introduced. Simultaneously, materials and resources for the five modules of the NCF Basic Japanese Course were uploaded to the system, further tested and adjusted, such that by the end of October, the platform was user-accepted and readied for launch in November.
The seemingly endless iterations tested the commitment, patience and dedication of the NCF teachers. They are the NCF pioneers of Japanese language teaching using the e- Nihongo Platform.
NCF thus begun its digital transformation.