Strategies to enhance student outcomes in virtual learning environments


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Experiences of using bb collaborate to incorporate voice in online communication.

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  • Hello, I am Teresa Mackinnon, Senior Tutor for E-Learning at the Language Centre at the University of Warwick in the UK.Myself and the team at the Language Centre are responsible for the creation of our international online environment which includes integrated voice tools and an online live classroom for the facilitation of blended and distance e-learning for developing student’s language skills.This presentation is about our experience of using the Blackboard Collaborate platform at the university: what was the need we were trying to address by using the technology, how our students have engaged with the various tools, and how we use collaboration to move our provision of language learning forward, with improved student outcomes.
  • Just to give you a little bit of context The Language Centre delivers an Institution Wide Language Programme to more than 1500 Warwick University students a year, teaching French, Spanish, German, Japanese, Russian, Chinese and Arabic to non specialist undergraduate and postgraduate students. They are often specialists in other areas; for example in engineering, maths, or they may not have done any language study before or for some considerable time since their early days at school. We get an international mix of students and have a very vibrant centre with a group of staff who are particularly interested in how they can use ICT for improving teaching and learning. Contact time with students is limited and student evaluations over several years was the indicator that there was a need for further practice time beyond the classroom, particularly in listening and speaking skills.
  • Back in 2005, we started to useWimba voice tools to help to support students in the language centre and to address their learning needs. This allowed us to offer asynchronous tailored listening and speaking, andstudents responded positively to this initiative. A recent move to deploy a virtual learning environment has allowed us to integrate our voice tools (now blackboard collaborate) further, making the creation and inclusion of voice boards, podcasts and other listening and speaking activities more straightforward for the tutors. We have also taken out a pilot of Blackboard Enterprise Instant Messaging to help connect students during a virtual French exchange pilot this year. The aim of this was to encourage them to speak to their peers and collaborate more easily.
  • Our activities of course take place in a broader context and it is important to recognise the challenges and opportunities facing our undergraduates. Successive CBI (Confederation of British Industry) reports have highlighted the need for the UK to improve levels of language skills in the workplace, particularly the importance of conversational abilites. Global businesses employ multi-national teams who need to work together effectively. This extract illustrates this message from an employability perspective.
  • The same report concludes that nearly ¾ of all businesses need foreign language skillsand that languages are particularly important in sectors such as manufacturing and banking, finance and insurance, reflecting the globalisation of these organisations. The greatest single demand for these skills is in building relationships overseas, cited by 21% of companies. The core European languages are still most in demand from employers – French (61%), German (52%) and Spanish (40%), followed by Polish (29%) and Mandarin (23%).The survey illustrates the huge demand for languages to be taught to support a successful economy and to position our graduates with the skills necessary to be competitive in the global market place .Source: CBI Education and Skills Survey 2011
  • This quote by David Crystal, a foremost authority on language, encapsulates how technology has become incorporated into our lives, and how it is influencing and being influenced bylanguage use.Increasingly communication and interaction, whether formal or informal, business or pleasure, is mediated by technology. This brings new challenges and as linguists, we need to experience and understand the effects this has on the nature of the communication. This wider context was significant in extending our use of voice in online environments.
  • In the Language Centre, all our tutors now have access and support to create and integrate voice tools in their courses. There are currently 2,165 users of our portal Languages@Warwick, including 67 teachers and a growing number are active users of Blackboard Collaborate which can be seen from our usage data. We have run sessions with staff to encourage them to think about how they can facilitate some of the necessary speaking and listening opportunities using the voice tools and there have been some extremely creative developments in this area. Using Wegner’s Community of practice framework we have been able to share and showcase ideas that work and help build practical suggestions for inclusion and adaptation to other languages. We have discussed the many issues and challenges as we learn from our experimentation and from student reactions.
  • The most popular tool is by far the voiceboard which is sometimes used for pronunciation practice and language presentation as well as for more complex student centred, collaborative activities. This tool fits a wide range of language teaching approaches. The number of resources here indicates the instances of each tool. The voice e-mail generator requires only one tool in order to send as many voice e-mails as you need.
  • Most recently, we added the Blackboard Enterprise Instant Messaging to some of our courses to help connect tutors to each other. It is easy to use the status to indicate your working availability and you can even create customised status updates such as “Too busy to talk, please e-mail”, and set office hours or even be invisible. This tool has proven particularly popular with students on our virtual French exchange both here and in our partner university in Clermont-Ferrand, as they have been able to quickly contact each other, have text and voice chats and collaborate using the whiteboard tool. Within a week of making this tool available we had 100 student downloads and the number continues to rise as use becomes more widespread.
  • Now that Blackboard Collaborate tools are fully integrated into the VLE and easy to deploy we have online courses with a broader range of offerings that better support the needs of language learners. The bb collaborate blocks make it easy to add a voice activity, the BBIM download block can also be added quickly to any course. Once a student has downloaded it, it will also pick up their membership in other courses where it is deployed, making it easy for them to contact their tutor and their peers.
  • Students have generally found the tools fun and understand the rationale for their inclusion in language courses. Those tutors who have tried the voice tools return to them and are becoming skilled at their use. We are gradually building a team of tutors who are keen to share their experiences. The most positive aspect of deploying collaboration tools is that it has encouraged tutor discussion about the role of speaking and listening in language acquisition.
  • A number of conclusions from earlier research into engagement in e-learning environments from the field of computer assisted language learning helped us to takeinto consideration themes to support the implementation of the technologies. The themes that we identified to ensure our success included:Tutor role (our perception of our part in the language acquisition process)Error correction (our approach to feedback)Affective factors: in technology and in language learning (the role of our feelings in these two areas)Technical management and support (the nature of provision available)Having explored these with the early teaching cohort using Steiner Kvale’s Bildungriese approach to interviewing, the bullet points here are our findings.
  • And, how did we create success in our use of collaboration technology? Here, I’ve shared some tips for success based on the research I have been conducting into the deployment of computer mediated communication for language learning. Passion has to be the key factor, it is contagious.
  • And, finally I’m going to leave the last words to last year’s cohort of students which is extremely positive. Overwhelmingly students got it (the use of collaboration technology) even if they were just listening they understood it was giving them additional external input that was helping them to arrive at a better understanding of the language and a greater ability to speak accurately and communicate well in the language. So, we will continue on this journey and we hope that our practical experiences shared here can help you cope with similar barriers presented to improve the nature of teaching in often restrictive circumstances with limited exposure and face to face time with students.
  • Thank you!
  • Strategies to enhance student outcomes in virtual learning environments

    1. 1. Strategies to Enhance StudentOutcomes in Virtual Learning Environments Language Centre Experience of using Blackboard Collaborate Teresa MacKinnon Senior Tutor: e-learning Language Centre Language Centre:
    2. 2. • 1500 students per year• 8 languages for academic credit• Increasing importance of oral/aural skills contributing 15-20% each to summative total• 2-3 hours contact time a week
    3. 3. Addressing the needs oflanguage learners• Limited contact time• Expressed need for consolidation and practice• Tailored language for individuals• Creation of engaging opportunities for listening and speaking• Increasing need for interaction
    4. 4. Our challenges“Weaknesses in foreign language skills have beenexacerbated since the requirement to take alanguage at GCSE level was ended in 2004, 76% ofemployers are not satisfied with the level of theseskills among young people.” CBI Education and Skills Survey 2011
    5. 5. Languages in today’s market• 27% of businesses say they have no need for foreign language skills• Important in manufacturing, banking, finance, insurance reflecting the globalisation of these sectors• The greatest demand (21%) of these skills is in building relationships overseas• Core European languages are still most in demand from employers French (61%), German (52%) and Spanish (40%), Polish (29%) and Mandarin (23%)
    6. 6. “In a statistical sense, we may one daycommunicate with each other far morethrough computer mediation than in directinteraction.” Crystal, 2001
    7. 7. Voice Tools: Usage data Sept ‘08 – May ‘1114012010080 voiceboards60 voice email generators40 voice presentations20 podcaster 0
    8. 8. Popularity of voice tools Number of resources Total number of messages Voice Boards 60 622Voice Authoring 10 552 recordings Voice E-Mails 13 6 Total 83 1180
    9. 9. Informal ad-hoc collaboration•Blackboard IM AccountsTotal Users: 118 ; Total Instructors: 9•Blackboard IM-Enabled CoursesTotal Number of Blackboard IM-EnabledCourses: 697 with 5+ users (14%)4 with 10+ users (8%)1 with 30+ users (2%)•Blackboard IM UsageAverage Number of Personal Contacts: 584% of users have ≥ 1 personal contact7.6% of users have ≥ 10 personal contacts2.5% of users have ≥ 30 personal contactsTotal Number of Users who Have Created aProfile: 44
    10. 10. Finding the tool for the job Nature of communication suitable for many to collaborative one to one one to many many immediate sustained communication Voice email √ √ Voice board √ √ √ √ Voice podcaster √ √ √ Voice direct √ √ √ √Voice presentation √ √ √ √ BB EIM √ √ √ √ Online classroom √ √ √ √ √ √
    11. 11. Deep integration
    12. 12. Easy access and control
    13. 13. Use cases• Japanese – recorded revision materials summarising grammatical points with voice and powerpoint using web conferencing tool• Chinese – use of voice boards and voice authoring to increase exposure to tailored spoken language.• French – Use of voice boards for asynchronous role play practice and voice podcaster to deliver listening materials straight to mp3 player/phone.• German – voice boards to give pronunciation practice and feedback.
    14. 14. Conclusions from earlier research into voice tools use• Useful process to encourage dialogue• Community of practice• Reflective practitioners• Importance of awareness of research• Student engagement and desire for control!
    15. 15. Success factors•Find a technical and pedagogic champion/s•Connect to a community of practice (Wenger, 2000)•Be willing to use the support available and sharewhat you have discovered•Supply a decent headset and internet connection•Have a passion for languages in use!
    16. 16. Student comments• “An innovative way of learning.”• “I think it is a brilliant idea for oral practice.”• “A very impressive form of technology and very useful.”• “I listened in and got some ideas about materials and pronunciation of words”• “It helped with revision.”• “Matching your own articulation against the teacher’s recording was helpful.”• “It was useful to have a chance to review the material from classes and practice listening.”
    17. 17. Thank you!Teresa MacKinnonSenior tutor: e-learningLanguage CentreLanguage Centre site: site: WarwickLanguage on twitter