How is E-Learning Employed in Language Courses?
It is believed that the proper integration of E-learning into face-to-face learning mode can benefit teachers and learners. How about pure online courses? How do Programme Teams perceive this pedagogy? The E-learning Team interviewed Mr Tan Tack Ki and Ms Oh Eun Kyung, Associate Head and Programme Director of the College of Humanities and Law respectively, on 26 June 2017. They shared their views on blended learning and pure online courses. They also talked about their experiences in pure online course development. Below are the questions and their answers.
How do you use E-learning in your programmes?
Mr Tan: E-learning in Japanese programmes has been in development since 2009. It was initiated in the first e-course development project led by our former Deputy Director Dr Shen Shir-ming. From our perspective, we wanted to deploy E-learning as a blended learning tool to supplement the weekly 3-hour face-to-face classroom teaching. In the past, Linguaphone was very popular but it required learners to pay. We decided to provide free E-learning in order to benefit learners with better learning support. Learners can both prepare for class and review the E-Learning Website after class. For each lesson, online learning resources were developed into different categories to strengthen learners’ listening, speaking, comprehension and writing competence. Different formats of resources like audios, videos, quizzes and animations were employed.
Japanese E-Learning Website
Apart from Japanese programmes, the Korean language development also made great progress in early 2010. The mode of blended learning was introduced to Korean programmes in 2013. Our Korean teachers started working with the E-learning Team in designing and developing online learning resources.
Last year we began to explore the paid E-learning – pure online course. We found that it was quite difficult to break into the market because of severe competitions. Nowadays, E-learning is excessive and available free of charge. There are many free introductory language courses delivered online. Thus, we targeted at the provision of intermediate language courses focusing on listening skills. Unlike other available free courses, we review and correct students’ exercises and provide specific feedback for individual improvement.
Ms Oh: To supplement what Mr Tan said, the pure online Korean course is targeted at the students of Korean language at intermediate and higher level, who are possibly looking for listening training. Our course content is very different from other online courses in the market. It is all about Korean culture and no relevant textbook can be found. In addition, this course is highly customised to non-native Korean students in Hong Kong. As a teacher, I can control my own speed of speech delivery in the recorded video clips to meet students’ proficiency.
How was the pure online course developed?
Ms Oh: This is a 6-week online course, titled My Online Korean Tutor. Initially, we held meetings with the E-learning Team to discuss the course details like the course structure, the type of activities and assessment to be used. Then we selected the topics and wrote the relevant essays, followed by selecting vocabulary, expressions and grammar to be highlighted each week. After that, we prepared the listening exercises.
Once these materials were ready, we worked on the scripts of the video and audio clips. Then we conducted video shooting and audio recording with the E-Learning Team’s support. It took around 2 to 3 weeks to prepare a week’s content. The E-learning Team carried out the production of the course content and integrated the materials into the SOUL 2.0 platform for course delivery.
During the delivery of the course, our ‘Online Korean Tutor’ introduces the weekly topic in a warm-up video at the beginning of each week, followed by a set of highlighted vocabulary items. Students will be directed to complete some listening practices and exercises. After completing all the video tutorials and exercises, students are asked to submit their weekly assignments and the teacher gives individual feedback within a week.
What are the lessons you have learnt from your E-learning pedagogy in the pure online course?
Ms Oh: In the pure online course, we found that students studied hard and well in the first 3 weeks. But in Week 4, some of them did not submit their weekly assignments. To tackle this situation, we may integrate a face-to-face lesson in the first week. With this arrangement, we can talk to the students so that we can get familiar with them and understand each student’s Korean language proficiency. In the following weeks, we can provide more customised explanations to achieve personalised learning. In addition, we can consider delivering the course in flipped mode. Online sessions, provided to students first, are followed by classroom learning activities. I think the pure online language course is feasible. However, as this was the first time we offered this type of course, a number of challenges had to be overcome.
What are the challenges of pure online course development?
Ms Oh: Firstly, once the video content was shot, it would be quite difficult to amend it. In a face-to-face classroom setting, I can easily supplement the topics in the next lesson. This objective is rather hard to achieve in pure online courses. Secondly, we need to choose generic content in the sense that it does not change frequently. Thus, we avoid recent hot topics.
Mr Tan: The merit of E-learning is that it allows students to learn at their own speed and time. With the use of E-learning, the Programme Team should try to find a balance between flexibility and sophistication.
Ms Oh: Some learners in Korean classes prefer a face-to-face classroom setting. Younger learners are more ready to opt for online courses; they are used to learning via the Internet and want to make friends while they are taking the courses. Each age group of learners has different learning needs and expectations.
What is your advice to Programme Teams which may experiment with E-learning?
Mr Tan: Firstly, the Programme Teams need to conduct surveys and identify the niche in their market. Secondly, they need to package the course to attract their target learners. For example, in language courses, drill and practice is the core. But how can we make it more attractive? The answer is to add more gimmicks to the content. For example, the comic presentation has been used in news report and policy implementation in Japan. It makes the content clearer, more engaging and more easily to be understood.
Ms Oh: Younger learners enjoy watching live videos and animations. These elements can be integrated into the courses.
What would you want to improve in your programmes by using E-learning pedagogy in the future?
Mr Tan: Teachers can make use of technology to transform their traditional teacher role online. Supplementary content like grammar and speech usage can be provided in online mode.
Ms Oh: For the sake of providing more speaking opportunities to learners, we can consider flipped classroom, in which students will learn some topics online before going to class. In the classroom, teachers can spend more time on not only interactions with learners but also those among learners.