Signing Course First in North America

Story by Jennifer Moreau, The Burnaby Now

The Burnaby school district launched North America’s first online American Sign Language course last month.

“It’s about access, it’s about bridging cultures, all cultures of the world,” said Karen Taylor, the administrator for the Provincial Outreach Program for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. The comments came as Taylor was speaking and signing to the trustees and district staff at the Feb. 23 school board meeting.

The new course means deaf and hard-of-hearing students can get equal access to a language their hearing counterparts can, Taylor said.”I believe it’s going to be a wonderful success, not only for the district but also for the province,” she said.

Any B.C. student can take the course and get credits for a second language. Adults and international students can also sign up. The course could be useful for anyone who needs to learn American Sign Language, including special-education assistants or bank employees, for example. American Sign Language is the third most commonly used language in North America.

There are instructor videos, entirely in American Sign Language, that teach students signing and finger spelling. There are also live video chats so students can get help from an instructor or practice with each other on split screens. The course instructor, Jo-Anne Robinson, connects and signs with students around the province via webcam, Skype or IChat.

“Nobody else is doing that,” Taylor said. “It’s cutting edge.”

Students can go at their own pace, but the course must be completed in 10 months.

The course is free, but there is a $100 deposit for materials. International students pay $730 for the course.

Thanks to the Family Network for Deaf Children for forwarding the information of the online ASL courses to us. Details about these courses from BC Provincial Outreach Program for Deaf and Hard of hearing Students is also posted at

To register, please first go to Burnaby Online Website.

Click on ‘Courses’, look under ‘Modern Languages’, then click on ‘Intro ASL 11’ to read the course descriptions for info about how a student is assessed throughout the course as well as prerequisites.

When a student is ready to register, click on ‘Register Now’

Reprinted with permission from Burnaby Now, March 17, 2010

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