The Language Flagship


Culture Initiative


Instructional Design & Technology

The Instructional Design & Technology work described in this section was carried out by the Tech Center with frequent and substantial input from the entire FCI team. The Tech Center used a rapid prototyping approach to instructional design and software development (Trip & Bichelmeyer, 1990). Along the three years of the project, three key aspects of the app were defined simultaneously in iterative cycles of design, development, and user testing, namely the instructional design blueprint, the data model, and the design of the user experience.

Instructional Design Blueprint

The instructional design blueprint (IDB) was elicited from the rich pedagogical experience and content knowledge acumen of the entire FCI team. Through various meetings and discussions, the Tech Center assisted in the conceptualization of the main component of the IDB: the module structure (see Figure 1). The module components and structure of the app were informed by concepts in systemic functional linguistics and research in the learning sciences. The inclusion of a rather elaborate description of the context is based on the idea that the situational context will influence the types of meaning that can be expressed (see Halliday & Hasan, p. 22). In other words, the choices for meaning and interpretation are limited by the context of language use. The context then is an important element to help the learner determine the likelihood of a particular critical incident to be interpreted in a particular way (see Figure 2).

As shown in Figure 1, the system offers flexibility in the sequence in which context, language, and culture notes are presented in relation to the vignette, judgement task, and feedback. The choices in the order and placement of components are driven by pedagogical motivations. Currently, those choices are determined by the content developer. An argument can be made in favor of either sequence choice. The display of culture notes before the learner encounters the vignette and is prompted to make choices in judgement tasks can help learners better understand the context of the situation in the target culture. On the other hand, displaying culture notes after learners have assessed the situation creates an opportunity for retrieval practice, which has been demonstrated to assist in long-term retention and transfer of knowledge to different contexts (Roediger & Butler, 2011).

Research in the learning sciences also informed the design of the app. At the user level, the system will provide the choice to enable spaced practice, which has been demonstrated to assist in long-term retention of target material (Rawson, Dunlosky, & Sciartelli, 2013), as well as in the long-term retention of lexical items (Chukharev-Hudilainen & Klepikova, 2016). Although paced practice has not yet been fully automated, learners have access to a list of scenarios whose responses did not fall within an acceptable margin of accuracy (established at 66%). As a next step, spaced practice will be implemented following recommendations provided by research.

Culture App Module Schematics

Figure 1. Culture App module schematics

Context chart example

Figure 2. Context chart example

Development of the Data Model

The data model was developed following an Agile Model Driven Development (AMDD) approach (Zhang & Patel, 2010). Based on the initial requirements of the project, an initial data model was built to capture the fundamental data units that encapsulate high-level components of the system. After an iterative consultation process with the project leads, the data model was evaluated and refined prior to writing any source code. Final approval was based on presenting the model with its corresponding flowcharts to stakeholders. Once approved, it was implemented as a mockup for verification and testing, resulting in the first prototype.

User Experience

The user experience was designed by the Tech Center team using a rapid prototyping approach (Tripp & Bichelmeyer, 1990). Once the basic module structure was implemented, a prototype was created to visualize the path for any given scenario. The Tech Center conducted a focus group with Flagship Program students and alumni to improve app usability. One aspect of the system that received much attention and deliberation was the interface to capture  input. The various levels of tolerance with respect to the accuracy of responses required flexibility in the way the app identifies response accuracy and provides feedback. Because response accuracy is often associated with a range, which can be narrower or wider depending on the judgement (item), it was necessary to devise an interface that could represent this idea. 

Culture App interface - Example from Arabic


Chukharev-Hudilainen, E., & Klepikova, T. A. (2014/2016). The effectiveness of computer-based spaced repetition in foreign language vocabulary instruction: A double-blind study. CALICO Journal, 33(3), 334-354, DOI: 10.1558/cj.v33i3.26055

Halliday, M.A.K and Hasan, R. (1976): Cohesion in English. London: Longman.

Rawson, K., Dunlosky, J., & Sciartelli, S. (2013). The Power of Successive Relearning: Improving Performance on Course Exams and Long-Term Retention. Educational Psychology Review, 25(4), 523-548. Retrieved from

Roediger, H. L.; Butler, A. C. (2011). The critical role of retrieval practice in long-term retention. Trends in Cognitive Sciences. 15 (1): 20–27. doi:10.1016/j.tics.2010.09.003

Tripp, S.D., Bichelmeyer, B. (1990). Rapid prototyping: An alternative instructional design strategy. ETR&D 38, 31–44. doi: 10.1007/BF02298246

Zhang, Y., & Patel, S. (2010). Agile model-driven development in practice. IEEE software, 28(2), 84-91.



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The Flagship Culture Initiative was supported by a 3-year grant (2017-2020) to the University of Maryland from the Institute of International Education (IIE), acting as the administrative agent of the National Security Education Program (NSEP), Defense Language and National Security Education Office (DLNSEO) for The Language Flagship.

The Language Flagship is a national initiative to change the way Americans learn languages through a groundbreaking approach to language education through a network of programs at institutions of higher education across the United States. The Language Flagship graduates students who will take their place among the next generation of global professionals, commanding a superior level of proficiency in one of ten languages critical to U.S. national security and economic competitiveness.

This website has been developed and is maintained by The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center. The content of this website and of the Culture App do not necessarily reflect the position of policy of the U.S. government. No official government endorsement should be inferred.


How to cite the Culture App:

Anishchenkova, V., Bass, J., Carvalho Borges, A., Comer, W. J., Davidson, D. E., Evans-Romaine, K., Garas, N., Hanafy, A., Lekic, M. D., Moser, R., Murphy, D., Rodriguez, J. C., Tschudi, S. L., & Arronte, A. (2019, June). The Culture App Version (1.0). The Language Flagship Culture Initiative. The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center. Retrieved [month, day, year], from

The Language Flagship Technology Innovation Center