CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University has launched what it believes is the nation's first online bachelor's degree in German, designed to give distance students a fully interactive experience.

Using an array of Internet technologies, the German program - delivered online by OSU Ecampus - will significantly increase the amount of time students spend communicating with and learning from their instructors. Each course taught in German will feature a weekly one-on-one video chat with an instructor that lasts 20 to 30 minutes.

Program coordinator Sebastian Heiduschke, an assistant professor of German at OSU, said he believes it will give the online students a better grasp of the German culture and language.

"Students need to practice speaking and hearing a new language in order to learn it, and that can only be done with a partner," said Heiduschke, who grew up in Bamberg, Germany. "We interact easily with Skype, Google Hangouts and other online programs. It's all very effective.

"I was shocked to hear there was no full degree German program offered online in the U.S., and now we've developed one that gives students valuable learning opportunities."

OSU Ecampus will launch the program this fall, and students may apply and find more information online.

According to Heiduschke, the German language plays a powerful role in the world, with more than 200 million speakers. Other than English, it is used more widely than any language on the Internet.

Germany also boasts the world's fourth largest economy, and Heiduschke said earning a Bachelor of Arts in German from OSU online would give students a leg up in the international job market.

"This is great opportunity for students who have a degree in engineering, for example, to go to Germany where there is a shortage of engineers," he said.

Majors will also take courses that focus on German literature, culture and cinema.

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Sebastian Heiduschke, 541-737-4465