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We talk a lot about how technology is transforming the way we teach and learn language. But we don’t talk enough about the transformation in how we create language learning content—and the team that helps us do it.
In contrast to many language learning companies, we primarily support government and professional language training programs. As one might expect, the content is very different than for casual learners.
Not only do we need highly skilled, reliable content creators, we need experts in less common language with exceptional knowledge of less common topics and terminology. It’s not about ordering in a French restaurant. Our team is typically supporting courses and creating lessons on cybersecurity in Russian, public affairs outreach in Korean, or even more specific topics in more obscure languages.
On top of that, the timetable has changed. In addition to language courses, we support professional linguists continuously maintaining or enhancing their language skills on the job. Every week we publish “CL-150 Cohort lessons” in a range of languages and levels. Each lesson has ten or more activities, is aligned with a particular ILR proficiency level, and is based on recently-published authentic content on topics relevant to our professionals—high-impact, custom lesson creation at scale.
Creating CL-150 Cohort lessons requires a unique set of skills, as our Content Development Manager, Orsi, explains:
“When searching for a Cohort author we look for distinct skills: native speaker, high language proficiency, teaching experience with a wide range of proficiency levels, tech savvy, and preferably even prior knowledge of passage rating. We then provide thorough training to make sure they’re set up to succeed.”
Though CL-150 Cohort lessons are self-guided, they are often leveraged by instructors. Even if Cohort authors won’t be teaching themselves, they understand how an online lesson may be used by virtual or classroom teachers and choose learning activities and supporting materials accordingly.
Cohort authors are also highly sensitive to proficiency levels—an ILR 2+ learner won’t reach the 3 required to do their job if they’re learning only on 1+ and 2 materials, and materials that are too difficult are less effective. Authors can’t just choose any level-appropriate materials, either. They need to keep up with world events and the target culture to find highly relevant, timely materials that support government linguists’ missions.
By investing heavily in hiring and training, we’ve assembled a team that rises to these challenges.
The hiring process includes interviews, a qualification test that measures passage rating knowledge and proficiency levels, and approval by trusted native speakers in their given language. Once hired, Cohort authors complete a rigorous month of training, covering everything from the proprietary Transparent tech, to passage rating, communication, project management tools and online collaboration platforms.
Because our Cohort authors can work remotely, we’re able to hire team members and freelancers based on skills and passion rather than location and schedule. That flexibility allows us to find the very best.
Here’s the thing about working with the best of the best—they’re always looking to get better. In that sense, creating Cohort lessons is the perfect fit. Our linguists offer their expertise in the language, while gaining new expertise in the specialized domains and unique requirements of working with professional language programs.
A member of the Spanish Cohort team called this work the “highlight” of her 10+ year teaching career and considers our ever-changing tools, guidelines, and requirements the best kind of challenge— “like continuing professional development.” Even with her years of experience, she still refers back to her reference collection to verify her work.
When not working for us, she teaches Spanish classes to government linguists—and she uses them as a barometer for potential Cohort lesson subjects. When a topic or current event is particularly interesting to her classroom students, she makes sure to find recent material to cover it in a Cohort lesson.
Another team member who works on Arabic Cohort lessons appreciates how the work prepares her to return to the classroom and embrace the changing role of teachers in the 21st century. No longer are teachers just lecturers who regurgitate information from a textbook. Nowadays, instructors often go off book, creating their own materials and facilitating interactive, communicative activities to reinforce the material.
CL-150 Cohort lesson creation forced her into that same space of creative thinking, searching for fresh, engaging materials and questioning how learning activities can be best leveraged to reinforce that material. In discussing her experience with Transparent, she says she’s thrilled that her assignments were refreshing and reinforcing what she had learned while earning her MA in Second Language Teaching.
Perhaps best of all, she’s able to continue working and honing her skills while staying at home with her newborn baby. Remote assignments—translation, course development, audio review, and beyond—empower her to meet family obligations without sacrificing income or job experience.
Continuity can be just as important as flexibility for some of our team members. One Arabic linguist can carry her job around the world, a vital benefit to a military spouse who must relocate every few years. Rather than starting over in a new job each time, she has progressed through our ranks to become our senior-most Arabic instructor, who now helps to recruit and train new team members.
The benefits of challenging, flexible remote work are mutual. We get to work with the best of the best people, and they get to do their best work from, well, wherever they want. That flexibility leads to better job performance and more job satisfaction.
Finding and retaining the right team is a labor of love. Cohort coaches receive lots of support from their managers at Transparent as they get started, but the return on that investment is high according to our Senior Content Project Manager, Priscilla:
“Ultimately, clear instructions make for better outcomes. The more you document, the better your team will perform, and the more time you’ll have as a program or project manager to think about expanding and improving your program.”
And expand it does. Initially started as a pilot program with one ILR level in a handful of languages, the Cohort coaching team now publishes lessons in 42 language and level combinations. In 2018, the team averaged 54 lessons per week, for a total of more than 2,800 lessons.
The confluence of the right team, the right training, and the right tech allows us to produce powerful custom lessons at a scale and efficiency previously impossible. The tools can handle the creation, assignment, and tracking of any number of lessons in any number of languages—as long as we have the right people at the helm.
Think you might be the right person for our Cohort team? Learn more about Transparent Language and take a look at available openings. We hope to hear from you!