Yepes Spanish Web Site Wins Honors, Worldwide Audience

Story posted October 04, 2006

Several curious destinations regularly appear on lists of Bowdoin's most visited Web pages. Frequently, they are in Spanish and bear titles such as La epoca colonial en America Latina, Santería, or just plain, "Spanish Grammar Exercises."

Enrique Jepes
Associate Professor Enrique Yepes, director of Bowdoin's Latin American Studies program.

All these Web pages are the work of one man — Associate Professor of Romance Languages Enrique Yepes — who, during his summers and evenings, has single-handedly developed a multimedia online primer on advanced Spanish that is bringing a worldwide audience to Bowdoin's Web site — and worldwide acclaim from his peers.

His Web site, Páginas de ayuda para estudiantes de español, recently earned the 2006 Classics Award in World Languages from the editorial boards of the Multimedia Educational Resource for Learning and Online Teaching (MERLOT) — an online community where faculty, staff and students from around the world share peer-reviewed learning materials and pedagogy on a wide range of disciplines.

"When we choose our Classic winner, we look for an individual faculty innovator who has authored materials that excel in content quality, are effective in the classroom, and ready-to-use for the self-directed learner," notes Laura Franklin, co-editor of the World Languages collection for MERLOT.

"Yepes has gone over and above what you would expect ... to make learning materials highly accessible. With today's digital divide, that is something we especially look for."

Yepes Site
Judges chose Yepes' site, in part, because of the transparency of its organization and broad accessibility.

Yepes' site, which translates as "Tools for Advanced Work in Spanish," offers a succinct, well-organized explanation of intermediate and advanced Spanish, with extensive vocabulary reviews, interactive grammar and writing lessons, and readings on cultural topics drawn from Yepes' own scholarship and teaching as director of Bowdoin's Latin American Studies program.

"It's sort of a hobby I have," says Yepes, who built his Web tutorial based on a book written by his Bowdoin colleague, Professor John Turner, for use in Spanish 205 classes.

After receiving a Mellon Grant in 1998 to develop electronic teaching materials, Yepes set about adapting Turner's book for a Web medium. "I edited the book, added a number of exercises, and created a grammar section with interactive exercises so that students can get feedback on their answers," notes Yepes. "I even have a section where students can test their word pronunciations against audio samples of my voice — and my sister's."

Along the way, Yepes taught himself rudimentary tools for electronic publishing, including HTML, JavaScript and Flash.

Feedback on the site is greater than Yepes ever imagined. "I get e-mails from people all over the world thanking me for developing it as a teaching and study resource," smiles Yepes. "Both students and teachers. I guess people just discover the page while browsing. That's the power of the Web."

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