The St. Catherine University Fully-Online Course in


Enrollment will begin again in March 2018

This 2-credit, fully-online, asynchronous course was designed to bring comprehensive Sanskrit instruction to interested  parties at any level of their academic careers, especially those who are prevented by geography from enrolling at one of the small number of colleges and universities which regularly offer classes in the language. However, the choice to offer the course in this format is not entirely dictated by necessity, as online instruction offers a number very real advantages to the language student, including:
  • Video lectures with accompanying powerpoints introduce each chapter, and may be reviewed as often as needed in order to fully absorb the material.
  • A mass of practice quizzing with extensive opportunities for low-stakes repetition of forms, grammar, and vocabulary training, all of which may be revisited as often as necessary.
  • Embedded sound files within the quizzes, in a variety of regional Indian accents, allow you to learn proper pronunciation.
  • Extensive etymologies of all vocabulary words are built into the course, to aid in memorization and expand the student's understanding of the Indo-European language family. 
  • Lessons broken down into the smallest possible units, minimizing the chance that you will miss an important piece of information and end up more confused further down the road.
  • The  ability to work comfortably at your own pace, but with the  "interactive" feeling of computer work and the support of an  instructor who won't interrupt your flow when you are comfortably  working on your own, but who is available to answer questions as they come up, or in regular online office hours.
  • Access to an online  community of people who share your interests: course discussion boards allow you to make real connections with your fellow students.
  • A low-stress environment. Language classes are a well-known source of anxiety for many people. Online drills provide swift correction and clarification of mistakes and errors in a judgment-free manner; it's an ideal environment for learning.

“For thirty years I have wanted to take Sanskrit, and this past summer (2016) On-line Beginning Sanskrit allowed me to do so.  It was a great summer!   Students could move at their own pace; retake quizzes and rewatch on-line videos on grammar, vocabulary, and other forms.  Professor West was wonderfully supportive (and quick) in responding to questions about the material and the exercises. This on-line course is an ideal option for someone who is motivated and loves languages.”

 James V. Morrison, H.W. Stodghill, Jr. and Adele H. Stodghill Professor of Classics, Centre College of Kentucky

The course is designed to accompany Madhav M. Deshpande's Sanskrit textbook Saṃskṛta-Subodhinī: A Sanskrit Primer. In our course, beginning with the alphabet, the quizzes are tightly keyed to the book so that students may easily find (and practice applying) the principles and information being taught. 

Taking and re-taking the online quizzes is one of the most important parts of the course.  The quizzes cover everything discussed in each chapter, incorporating additional explanations and repetitions of grammatical points as well as expanded material on the construction of word-forms.  You may take each quiz as many times as you need to feel confident in your mastery of the topic; only your highest score will be recorded. At the end of each quiz, you will be shown all the questions again, along with your own answers and the correct responses to any questions you may have gotten wrong.

Early quizzes on the alphabet include sound files produced by native speakers of Indian languages, so that proper sound production can be picked up alongside alphabetic competency. In the screen shots below, clicking on the sound file would let you hear the sound of the letter you are being quizzed on:

Vocabulary words are taught through repetition in numerous formats, beginning with simple recognition drills designed to gently increase familiarity with new material. Sound files are included for all new vocabulary words, as well as for all book exercises in Sanskrit:

Other vocabulary drills for each chapter include thorough etymologies of each word, produced by linguists working in consultation with the course developers. The presented etymologies not only assist students in memorizing and internalizing the vocabulary, but simultaneously enlarge their understanding of Indo-European linguistics. In the Lesson 2a Quiz below, for example, an English prompt requests a vocabulary word from the chapter alongside detailed etymological information for the requested word:

Hard-to-memorize forms (such as pronominal declensions, in the example below) become easy when the student is able to repeatedly access review materials.  The beginning exercises for each chapter often use simple matching formats at first, and then proceed to build up to more difficult exercises which require students to produce translations or complete declension charts.

Special quizzes feature extra review of elements of Sanskrit grammar such as verbal roots and their conjugations:


As the course progresses and the difficulty level rises, the quizzes change format to treat more complex issues like sandhi, as in this quiz which presents the student with a Sanskrit phrase and asks them to break the sandhi in the first box and provide a translation in the second.

Subpages (1): Trial Version