DisCo 2013: Sekret and Hrubý - Learning a Foreign Language for Academic Purposes by Means of Distance Education


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The paper deals with the issue of distance learning in the field of the foreign language training for academic purposes. The purpose of the article is to analyze achievements and current practices of distance language learning in order to present a unified model providing solutions for foreign language training of the academic staff by means of the distance learning.

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DisCo 2013: Sekret and Hrubý - Learning a Foreign Language for Academic Purposes by Means of Distance Education

  1. 1. Learning a Foreign Language for Academic Purposes by Means of Distance Education Iryna Sekret, Miroslav Hrubý DisCo 2013 Prague, June 24, 2013 Dniprodzerzhinsk State Technical University, Ukraine, University of Defence, Czech Republic
  2. 2. 2 Agenda: 1 Goal of the paper 2 Authors’ environments 3 Introduction into the problem domain 4 Target group - foreign language competence required 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage 6 Description of model proposal 7 Conclusion
  3. 3. 3 1 Goal of the paper • to demonstrate a foreign language teacher᾽s and user᾽s point of view on the topic; • to open this problem domain for wider range of takers.
  4. 4. 4 2 Authors’ environments (1/3) UoD (* 1. 9. 2004) • Faculty of Economics and Management (9) • Faculty of Military Technology (13) • Faculty of Military Health Sciences (9+2) • NBC Defence Institute • Language Training Centre • Physical Training and Sports Centre
  5. 5. 5 2 Authors’ environments (2/3) Department of CIS (* 1. 9. 2005) Current structure (18 + 2): • Radio communication systems • Telecommunication systems • Information systems and programming • Computer networks and operation systems • Information security
  6. 6. 6 2 Authors’ environments (3/3) Study Branch: Communication and Information Systems (CIS) • Bachelor Study (P) (+ in English) • Following Master Study (P,C) • Doctoral Study (P,C) (+ in English) • Lifelong Learning - Courses
  7. 7. 7 3 Introduction into the problem domain (1/4) • Vocational education without necessary required soft skills such as knowledge of a foreign language, loses its meaning. • Language education in Ukraine and the Czech Republic has undergone a great development in the last years. • Increased interest in travel and various forms of cooperation with foreign partners continuously strengthen the demand for effective language learning. • Target groups differ in many aspects such as age, level of education, profession, etc.
  8. 8. 8 3 Introduction into the problem domain (2/4) • Sometimes an underestimation of the socio- cultural specifities of the population can be found. • This fact in some cases negatively reflected especially in the selection of educational materials and teaching methods. • Especially the efforts to strengthen the listening skills of students and their readiness in dealing with various model situations in a foreign language environment can be evaluated very positively.
  9. 9. 9 3 Introduction into the problem domain (3/4) • However, for example the method “Work in Groups” may appear very controversial. (Bad pronunciation and inappropriate phrases can be disseminated.) • Especially the general availability of personal computers and accessibility of the global computer network (Internet) for all ages of the population have brought the new possibilities into language learning.
  10. 10. 10 3 Introduction into the problem domain (4/4) • The increasing use of ICT for communication, however, creates a special pressure on its users. • Required fast transmission and transfer of information, often under time pressure on communicating people, leads to the use of a new specific language (the language of abbreviations and symbols). • This new language has its own rapid development and expansion of its specific vocabulary.
  11. 11. 11 4 Target group - foreign language competence required (1/4) • The academic staff members of the universities and colleges in terms of language training specifics are a highly diversified audience. • Their foreign language needs can be structured into a general knowledge of a foreign language and knowledge of a foreign language in a specific area the individual concrete focus.‒ • Each academic staff essentially requires knowledge of at least one foreign language at a level enabling him/her:
  12. 12. 12 4 Target group - foreign language competence required (2/4)  to read with understanding a foreign language professional literature from his/her professional focus;  to write articles in professional and scientific journals in the field of his/her specialization;  to prepare contributions to conference proceedings, technical and scientific conferences;  to process expert opinions to publications and other scientific works;  to create computer presentations for conferences and seminars;  to work actively at conferences and seminars on the topic prepared;
  13. 13. 13 4 Target group - foreign language competence required (3/4)  to engage in discussions at conferences and seminars;  to prepare study materials for students in a foreign language;  to conduct formal and informal discussions when dealing with foreign students;  to conduct formal and informal discussions during negotiations with partners from abroad;  to use e-mail communication in a foreign language. • Another approach to the foreign language competence required:  Linguistic dimension;  Cognitive dimension;  Socio-cultural (psychological) dimension.
  14. 14. 14 4 Target group - foreign language competence required (4/4) • The main form of the language training for academic staff should probably be a form of distance learning, supplemented by group self-guided tutorials. • This self-study should be supported properly processed electronic materials available on a server of the faculty, which employs academic staff. • This method of language learning of academics may be due to their uneven workload and work a very effective way.
  15. 15. 15 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (1/7) • Information and communication technologies can play a key role in the current language education of the academic staff. • It is suitable to use the university information systems as the language education supporting tool. • The dominant role of human resources should be played by Language Training Centre or Department of Languages and a technical oriented department focusing on ICT (Department of Communication and Information Systems, Information Technology Centre of an educational institution, etc.).
  16. 16. 16 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (2/7) Vocabulary and Phrases • It should be emphasized that each person is an individual also due to his/her vocabulary, favourite topics of conversation and professional focus. • Therefore it is necessary to enrich the academic staff usable vocabulary in a foreign language especially individually and according to his/her time schedule. • Internet resource materials prepared by native speakers are an inexhaustible source of suitable study materials.
  17. 17. 17 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (3/7) Grammer, Typical Examples in the Area of Interest • Necessary grammatical phenomena can be prepared in the forms of suitable examples and with the help of ICT they can be shared and distributed. • The academic staff can use and maintain his/her own typical examples according to the needs of his/her professional focus. • ICT allow an individualized treatment of the necessary grammar and its easy availability in the shape that best suits a given individual.
  18. 18. 18 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (4/7) Listening Skills • Ability to listen should be supported by appropriate shorter audio, respectively video records. • They could be stored at a faculty server and be available for all academic staff members. • The records of native speakers should be preferred. • Furthermore, academic staff should have a regularly updated list of links to recommended selected records that are available on the Internet. • Older people can have worse hearing. That is the main reason why they should pay more attention for listening skill practising.
  19. 19. 19 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (5/7) Writing Skill • The academic staff is currently required to publish especially in impacted magazines, journals registered in the world’s leading databases (e.g. Scopus) and conference proceedings recorded in the Web of Science (www.isiknowledge.com). • To strengthen the skills of writing, it seems to be useful to take advantage of group consultation with interested and competent native speaker or language expert. • ICT can be used for sending the required data, its display and sharing.
  20. 20. 20 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (6/7) ICT Supported Communication under Time Pressure (Chat, Voice Communication over the Internet, Videoconferencing) • ICT supported written and voice communication in a foreign language under the time pressure is one of the most difficult skills manageable. Knowledge of a foreign language and gained previous experience but also an immediate state of mind of the person who is communicating are shown significantly . • This language competence requires greater attention and necessary support from the management of faculty.
  21. 21. 21 5 Possibilities of ICT Usage (7/7) See please also: Table 1: ICT in Enhancing Foreign Language Competence Applied for Academic Purposes
  22. 22. 22 6 Description of model proposal (1/4) Basic ideas of the model proposal Firstly, the model proposal should be based on: • openness to the improvement and next development; • high-quality feedback; • openness to the new ideas; • independence on contemporary software.
  23. 23. 23 6 Description of model proposal (2/4) Secondly, the model proposal should be based on the characteristics of the target group (academic staff) such as: • various age groups and consequences to the appropriate health status (e. g. older people have worse hearing); • various types of personalities with higher IQ; • irregular workload; • various professional focus; • independence; • higher capabilities for self management.
  24. 24. 24 6 Description of model proposal (3/4) Thirdly, two types of user’s access to the electronic study materials should be supported: • regular user with language expert support; • irregular (totally independent) user, which uses study materials totally free without a language expert support.
  25. 25. 25 6 Description of model proposal (4/4) Structure definition Schematically the model of enhancing foreign language competence applied to academic contexts can be presented as a unity of a number of aspects functioning simultaneously. • Available at the article (Figure 1: Theoretical Model of Enhancing Foreign Language Competence applied to Academic Contexts by Means of Distance Education).
  26. 26. 26 7 Conclusion (1/5) • Firstly, the content of learning a foreign language for academic purposes should be determined by the specifics of the professional activity of the university academic staff. Therefore, it is urgent to discriminate types of professional activities, possible situations of professional communication and academic interaction, main kinds of professional tasks and problems which academicians have to solve, in order to create appropriate learning conditions modelling the given situations.
  27. 27. 27 7 Conclusion (2/5) • Secondly, the introduction of ICT should be motivated by the content, clear in purposes, and not too cognitively overburdening even if the learners have certain experience of using ICT for personal purposes. • Thirdly, any new learning activity needs adaptation which can be achieved through thoroughly planned group work, mutual discussions, sharing ideas and feelings where ICT can act as a mediator of communication and a means to work out and to present the results of one’s creative thinking.
  28. 28. 28 7 Conclusion (3/5) • Fourthly, face-to-face sessions should be primarily aimed at establishing personal connections and communication between the learners and the instructor, while ICT-mediated learning interaction must be purposed to achieving learning tasks which would presuppose the involvement of representatives of other social and academic communities for making learning as close to the real professional situations and academic interactions as possible.
  29. 29. 29 7 Conclusion (4/5) Final comments: • European states cannot prosper long without ensuring quality and effective foreign language education for their citizens, particularly with emphasis on selected world languages. • In language education of the academic staff is obviously appropriate to apply the teaching approach based on guided distance learning and to ensure the exchange of information among different faculties.
  30. 30. 30 7 Conclusion (5/5) • The seriousness of the issue deserves a regular exchange of information among interested persons on the premises of a university. • A suitable form of the exchange of information seems to be a conference attended by linguists, educators, foreign language teachers, information and communication technology teachers, foreign language students and experts from commercial companies, which represent the suitable suppliers of advanced technology. • Comparing different approaches and discussions are irreplaceable.
  31. 31. Thank you for your attention. irenesekret@mail.ru miroslav.hruby@unob.cz