Friday 16 April
Online Tasks in ELT: Using E-tivities
Adam Edmett (British Council, Slovenia)
- Track: Computer SIG.
- Style: Talk.
- Focus: experienced audience; adult teaching.
Report by Geoff Taylor, Computer SIG Committee member
Adam described a case study undertaken using a series of online tasks within the framework of Salmon’s five-stage model for e-learning (electronic distance learning). [Salmon, G (2002) Etivities Kogan Press]
The 'platform' for the study was the Global Village online community provided by the British Council for its students, free of charge, which has 10,000 registered users, though only a fraction of these are active users. Adam is a moderator in this community, and was able to enlist 10 active users, from different parts of the world, who had never met face to face.
The study was 4 weeks long, and the activities were all asynchronous (no real-time chat). The medium of communication seemed to be Web bulletin boards or forums, typically also sent as emails, where participants' messages would appear in a Web page, and where teacher’s assignments and learners' responses as well as other exchanges, would be 'threaded' together by different subject headings, and easily followed via hyperlinks.
|1||Access and motivation||Learners log on and post a message introducing themselves and describing their motivations for learning English.|
|2||Socialisation/ Getting to know each other||Learners log on and describe their favourite dish, e.g. if you could live only on one dish what would it be?|
|3||Information exchange/ Co-operation||Learners search the web for sites for practising English and then exchange the URL’s in the forums.|
|4||Knowledge construction/ Collaboration||The tutor starts a story in a forum but leaves it unfinished. Learners log on an add extra lines to continue the story. When the story is finished, learners discuss how the plot developed in a forum.|
|5||Development/ Responsibility for own learning||Learners design their own e-tivities and take it in turn to send them to the class.|
Adam discussed the disadvantages of such learning environments, including:
- can require a lot of tutor time
- lack of explicit feedback on language
- limited number of users per group (maximum 15)
- only really appeals to those with good IT skills
- no real balance of skills in this study (all text-based)
- a tendency towards high drop-out rates where there is no face-to-face contact
- ambiguity of meaning and problems with intercultural communication
- low level students not easily accommodated
Results of the study:
- tutor time was not excessive student tasks were fairly quick to construct
- students tended to pick language up from the moderator’s feedback messages, and use it later on (e.g. “Cheers” as a close greeting)
- student involvement followed a classic curve over time of initial high involvement by all > decline of activity except for hard core > ending in surge of activity again just before the end of the course
Salmon’s model is a generic e-learning model, but applies very well to language learning, and rightly deserves wider promotion, especially in its emphasis on the crucial importance of the earlier socialisation stages.
The case study was very interesting, though the results were not conclusive.
The talk was well-planned and clear, and included various challenging and interesting puzzle-like activities, designed to increase involvement.