College French 1:  FREN 101

Français interactif  

CSU Instructor Open Textbook Adoption Portrait

Abstract: This open textbook is being utilized in a French 1 course for undergraduate and graduate students by Valerie Morgan, M.A., D.E.A., at California State University San Bernardino (CSUSB).  The open textbook provides a communicative approach for teaching languages, with an emphasis on listening and building vocabulary skills, as well as reading, writing and speaking. The main motivation to adopt an open textbook was to save students money. Most students access the open textbook online, and some of them print out the information.

About the Textbook

Français interactif


This textbook is one of the many open sources that can be found on MERLOT. It was created and offered by University of Texas educators dedicated to quality and affordability. The textbook’s thirteen chapters include topics and concepts common to most French methods for first year-students. They focus on a communicative approach for teaching languages, with an emphasis on listening and building vocabulary skills, as well as reading, writing and speaking. 

The textbook may be used by itself, but is best utilized as part of the Français interactif  Website which includes the Tex's French Grammar, videos of French speakers and learners of French, songs, instructors’ material, and much more. 

Français interactif was developed at the University of Texas at Austin in the Department of French and Italian. A result of over ten years of collaboration between academic and technical professionals, it was funded and created by the UT Liberal Arts Instruction Technology Services and is currently supported by the Center for Open Educational Resources and Language Learning (a National Foreign Language Resource Center), and the U.S. Department of Education Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education.


  • Department of French and Italian - University of Texas at Austin 


Students may choose to access the textbook in my classroom on their smartphones, tablets or laptops. Each chapter can be freely downloaded for offline use. Students may also choose to print individual pages, print whole chapters, or buy the book. 

Supplemental resources: 

To supplement the textbook I used Google Classroom, Google Tools and other online resources for foreign languages.

Peer reviews: 

There are no COERC faculty peer reviews for this book. However, the textbook was reviewed by the MERLOT World Languages Editorial Board and received a rating of 5.0 the highest rating.

Cost savings: 

The book I used previously for this course is the Bundle: Voila!, 6th iLrnâ„¢ Heinle Learning Center Printed Access Card 6th Edition, by Heilenman, Kaplan, and Tournier. This book retails for $387 on Amazon.

I teach about 130 students in this class each year. This is a potential savings of $50,310. Altogether with my colleagues, we teach between 17 and 19 first year French classes. If we all use this site, this is a potential savings each year of $183,825 

Accessibility and diversity statement: 

The textbook can be downloaded as a PDF file with pages that can be easily magnified. The vocabulary lists within each chapters contain highlighted words. Students may click on them to hear them being pronounced. Transcripts are available with some of the videos.


Français interactif  is licensed under under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This means you are free to copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format and remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose, even commercially. You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use. 

About the Course

FREN 101: College French 1

Description:  Emphasizes listening and speaking, with reading and writing as supporting skills. Students learn to formulate and respond to questions about their daily life, express preferences, as well as master the ability to list, enumerate, identify, compare, agree and disagree.

Prerequisites: None

GE credit: 4.0 units

Learning outcomes:

  • Interpersonal: students will be able to take part in conversations and activities using simple sentence structures, and using the present and near future tenses. 
  • Presentational: students will be able to present themselves or their peers in simple class activities in class and in podcasts. 
  • Interpretative: students will be able to develop strategies to better understand spoken and written French in videos, podcasts, and articles.

Curricular changes:

There were a number of changes to the curriculum: 

  • Français interactif offers a learning sequence which is quite different from the two textbooks I was the most familiar with: Voilà and Horizons. Consequently a wide variety of extra activities had to be developed. 
  • The textbook for Français interactif  solely offers vocabulary lists and exercises. Grammar is only presented online on the Français interactif  website. Students needed more support with the grammar so PowerPoint presentations were developed for each chapter. These presentations expand on the grammatical content of each chapter, and offer additional exercises. They are available to all on our Blackboard space, and students may print out the slides if they wish. 
  • Our previous methods came with a solid - albeit costly - online support through Quia and iLearn. These online platforms offered a wide range of exercises - most of them auto-corrected - for students to practice at home as part of their homework. Resources were developed for this course using Google tools to provide students with homework practice. This included over 40 Google forms and a Google Classroom where students can turn in all their assignments. 
  • Français interactif  includes many authentic videos, but their worksheets need to be printed out. Since printing out many worksheets would prove costly for the department if prepared for students, or for the students if they had to bear the costs, videos were assigned for homework, and dozens of Google forms were developed that incorporated the questions on the Français interactif worksheets. 
  • I organized our Blackboard platform so that the material is easy to find. The Google forms are available in weekly folders that are only visible when the forms are due. I have also posted in the course menu a Powerpoint presentation that explains how Français interactif  is organized.

Teaching and learning impacts:

Collaborate more with other faculty: No
Use wider range of teaching materials: Yes
Student learning improved: Unsure
Student retention improved: Yes
Any unexpected results: No

Some students can find the layout of the Français interactif website a little disorienting. It may take a minority of students a few days before they start using the Website correctly, and before they start turning in homework. I have prepared and uploaded a Powerpoint presentation on Blackboard that gives them a virtual tour of the Website, and tells them where to find the information they need. Some students have also complained that the book does not include explanations on French grammar, as such explanations are only available on the Français interactif  website. 

However, for the most part, students are relieved to find that they do not have to purchase the book if they wish not to. Some of them choose to download it on their laptop or tablet instead. About two thirds of the class are using their smart phones only. I fear this might be detrimental to their learning process, as they cannot bookmark a page, nor highlight content, but they have said that they loved the fact that they always have their phones with them, hinting that if they have their phones, they have their material. 

Overall, students’ success is similar to that in previous classes where we used Voilà . The retention rate seems to be slightly higher, as students drop a class more easily if they feel it is going to be not only challenging but also pricey. 

Last, students seem to be happy to find that, should they choose to buy Français interactif, it is not only a very affordable textbook, it is also a textbook they will use in the subsequent two courses of first-year French. 

In my opinion, Français interactif has a few drawbacks and needs to be supplemented with lecture notes and additional activities, but it is a tool that can be as efficient as any when used properly. Some of my third-year French students have even told me they use the Français interactif website when they need to review, as it is widely advertized online.

Sample assignment and syllabus:

This is a sample of one of the 41 Google forms I created.

This is a copy of the midterm exam I used for Winter 2017

This is a copy of the syllabus I used for Winter 2017.

Textbook Adoption

OER Adoption Process

The French program became increasingly concerned by the price of the textbook Voilà and its online support we used for our first year courses, as it seemed to increase on a yearly basis. Digital support became an oxymoron, as the only support was to ease teachers’ workload, and the students were the only one to bear the cost of such “improvements”. Furthermore, Voilà was constantly being revised, and our French program adopted three different editions in 9 years. This made it hard for students to find used copies. Last, online support was password protected and could not be purchased “used”. Our meetings with Cengage and Heinle mainly resulted in a few dollars’ savings for the students, as publishers’ representatives presented “cheaper alternatives” such as purchasing each chapter individually, or renting quarterly. Neither solution was acceptable. 

All instructors in our program were familiar with Français interactif, as we had used their “Grammar of the Absurd” as a good reference guide to teach and practice grammar. We all created accounts, explored the Website, and decided this was a very sound approach. The adoption process has induced me to look at the content critically and to explore other ways to provide students with the material they need. It was necessary to experiment and become familiar with new tools that would not have been used otherwise. The development of a tailor-made course has involved a steep learning curve, but this has also triggered a different attitude toward pedagogical possibilities, as a primary goal is to give students more freedom and choice with their material and assignments.

Student access:  

Students are often overwhelmed by online material. Getting used to Français interactif, being able to locate the different chapters, the exercises, the assignments, etc. does require some practice, and may take up to a couple of weeks. However, this was also the case with the previous Voilà bundle, and may be due to students’ lack of digital skills rather than the material itself. Students are strongly encouraged to purchase the book or print out individual chapters, printed material is easier to comprehend and learn from than screen material.

Student feedback or participation:

Comments from students: 

  • I chose to use my iPhone because it was an easier and faster access, also it was convenient since I always carry my phone. 
  • I chose to use my iPhone and my laptop because I am very tech savy and any notes will be forever saved in MyCloud drives wherever I go. I hope the same system is used next quarter because of its clean organization, effectiveness and convenience. 
  • I chose to print out the chapters because it is easier than trying to look at the material through a phone or laptop. Also because this way I could highlight, take notes on the margins, and complete the activities that were in the chapters. I will continue with French 102 and I will keep printing the chapters as well.   

Overall, I think that the experience will become smoother for all as the program fine-tunes our courses around Français interactif and other open sources.

Valerie Morgan, M.A., D.E.A.

I am a French lecturer at the California State University San Bernardino. In the French program, I have taught all first year courses, FREN 101, 102 and 103, the second year courses FREN 200, 201 and 202, Introduction to French Literature - FREN 310, a Translation Course - FREN 322, French for Conversation - FREN 303, and Contemporary France - FREN 460.

I have taught French in many different environments. In the United Kingdom, I worked in secondary education, then at Alliance Française as an instructor for their corporate training programs. Upon arriving in the United States, I worked as a high-school teacher, then became a college instructor. 

These varied paths have shaped my teaching philosophy. I strongly believe in encouraging students to become lifelong learners, to be actively engaged in their learning process and to expand their horizons as global citizens. I am also striving to provide instruction that caters for  many learning styles, in an environment that is as culturally authentic as possible. I am also an avid language learner myself, and I am fascinated by the etymology of the languages that surround us. 

I am particularly interested in pedagogical approaches and theories in the field of foreign language teaching and learning, and I have taught FLAN 312 - Pedagogy for Foreign Language Teaching and FLAN 350 - Language Acquisition and Early Field Experience for Future Teachers. Both these classes are offered to students who are considering a career in foreign language teaching, mostly in a high school setting. My somewhat eclectic teaching path has been an asset for these particular courses, as I have firsthand experience of secondary education, and I often attend workshops organized by IEFLA, CLTA or the ACTFL. I can therefore share anecdotes and resources with future teachers, as well as show that teachers can make a difference in the life of those they teach, as this is a rich and very satisfying profession.