MA Online & Distance Education
English Language Teacher
🇪🇸 Sevilla, Andalucía, España
MA Online & Distance Education
English Language Teacher
🇪🇸 Sevilla, Andalucía, España
Great news! For those of us who use Moodle to create online English language learning/teaching (ELL/ELT) activities & courses, things just got better. Previously, I’ve held off from writing about H5P because, although it is very useful & has great potential, I found the Moodle integration problematic & difficult to manage, but with the latest Moodle upgrades I think that we can take online ELL/ELT to a whole new level.
Moodle 3.9 now has much tighter integration with H5P, a framework for creating & deploying 43 types of multimedia learning resources & activities, many of which are ideal for computer assisted language learning (CALL), e.g. dictations, learners can record themselves speaking, various matching & memory games, flashcards, & various cloze & gap-fill activity types, & an experimental feature that allows a speech analysis service to grade learners’ spoken responses to prompts & questions.
H5P resources & learning activities can be embedded anywhere in Moodle, e.g. as the initial prompt or activity in a forum discussion thread, in Moodle quizzes & tests, & in lessons & presentations.
Like Moodle, H5P is free & open source software (FOSS) & supported by several universities & non-profit organisations. This means that continuing development & adoption are assured & the community of developers & users is set to continue to grow substantially. They’re also building a free & open H5P learning resources repository/library so that course creators can publish & import ready-made learning resources & activities into their Moodle courses & edit & adapt them to their specific situation, context, & learners’ needs. This kind of collectivising learning resources certainly helps to lighten the typically substantial load of materials writing & development for individual educational organisations, thereby bringing costs & development times down.
You can see & try out examples of the activity types, not specifically designed for ELT but they give you a good idea of what they look like & how they work. See the H5P resource & activity types summary page here: https://h5p.org/content-types-and-applications
Of the 43 H5P resource & activity types currently available, the following are of notable interest for CALL:
H5P also has multiple choice & multiple matching question types however it’s better to do MCQs with Moodle’s Quiz module. The Quiz module has more options & it includes automated item analyses to help you to improve the quality of MCQ items at a granular level, e.g.
Also see Moodle’s Feedback activity for opinion polls & different kinds of feedback, which allows teachers to share the aggregated results with learners, e.g. Opinion polls can be used to spark forum discussions as they show learners where consensus’ & differences on a specific topic are across the whole group.
As you can see, there’s a long list of options to explore that can strongly enhance the instructional quality of online learning interactions & instructional sequences, as well as making them more varied & enjoyable for learners. What online ELT ideas do you think you could implement with these tools?
In this article, I have a suggestion for ways to improve the quality of English language teaching (ELT) via webinar apps, e.g. BigBlueButton, Blackboard Collaborate, Adobe Connect, Cisco WebEx, or Zoom, while making minimal changes to learning & teaching as they are currently being practised as emergency remote teaching due to the COVID-19 pandemic & subsequent shelter-in-place measures.
During this time, an extraordinarily high number of teachers & students have been continuing their face-to-face classes online, possibly the highest number in the history of distance education. Now that so many more people have become familiar with at least some aspects of learning & teaching online, I think it’s likely that its flexibility & convenience can be better understood &, with better planning & preparation, will have an important role to play in enhancing ELT in the foreseeable future.
By now, many teachers will have been using webinar apps for several weeks to host remote online lessons for their students. They’ve more than likely discovered that they’re not entirely appropriate for delivering face-to-face classroom style lessons & that they’ve had to adapt their teaching styles, lesson planning, & re-design their learning activities, staging, etc..
A particular issue with webinar platforms is that they’re primarily designed to be a one-to-many presentation tool. Although teachers can elicit responses from students, which corresponds to whole-class concept checking questions, eliciting examples, etc., in the classroom, it is difficult for teachers to monitor how well individual students may be doing during a learning task, i.e. the online remote equivalent of walking around the face-to-face classroom & looking at students’ work & giving them guidance/feedback while they attempt learning tasks. It’s an essential part of effective teaching whereby the teacher sees what & how each student is doing, corrects misunderstandings, clarifies instructions, fills in gaps in students’ knowledge, & gives personalised guidance & feedback. The following is a way to use existing free web tools/services to facilitate & augment this kind of monitoring.
Synchronised, online document editing platforms, e.g. Collabora & Google Docs (GDocs), enable teachers & students to simultaneously view & edit office documents in real-time, e.g. word processor, spreadsheet, & slide show presentation documents. They include collaboration & feedback tools such as text chat windows, highlighting, & commenting, all of which make them suitable for some types of learning tasks in remote online learning & teaching on webinars. However, monitoring groups of students at once usually involves switching between students’ online documents, which is less than ideal. I’ve written a GDocs Multipage web app, which embeds up to 8 live GDocs into one web page so that the teacher has an overview & therefore can monitor them more easily.
N.B. Test that this works without crashing your computer – Having a webinar app & several GDocs open in your web browser simultaneously uses a lot of memory & processing power! This probably won’t work for teachers on netbooks, Chromebooks, tablet PCs, & other low-power computers. Also, the bigger your screen, the easier it is to see what students are doing.
The following is an outline of a strategy to use a combination of 3 web-based tools during an online lesson:
In this scenario, we’ll assume that a teacher is teaching 8 students:
In this example, we’ll assume that students have already done learning activities in previous lessons &/or asynchronous, self-study activities, in which they’ll have watched & listened to the lecture, read the transcripts & checked their listening & reading comprehension, covering lexical & grammatical items as necessary.
Topic: Listening skills & the academic lecture genre
Objectives: Learning to follow & understand lectures more easily by:
Tasks: Highlight & comment on the phrases or sentences (markers) that the lecturer uses to signal…
We’ll assume that the students don’t have GDocs accounts. If all the students have accounts, then these steps should be modified to make the GDocs more private & secure.
N.B. Please consider the ethical implications of requiring students to have Google accounts & wherever possible, consider more open, privacy oriented, ethical, & GDPR compliant options such as Collabora: https://www.collaboraoffice.com/collabora-online/
To hear a pair of students speaking & to speak with them, you can go into their corresponding breakout room in the webinar app.
It’s a good idea to have a reflective activity set up on the webinar main shared whiteboard, e.g. reflective questions, so that as students finish & return to the webinar, they have something to discuss & consolidate their learning while they are waiting for others to finish & come back.
I recommend practising this procedure until you are comfortable with it before trying it out in a live lesson, where there’ll be distractions, issues, etc., to deal with: Just like classroom teaching, digital teaching is a complex set of skills that take time & practice to coordinate & master.
Once you’ve got the hang of this, you can try it with different types of docs, e.g. spreadsheets & slide shows, & different types of tasks, e.g. collaborative story telling, peer-review, inductive focus on form, extensive think-pair-share tasks, & to introduce & start longer-term projects.
This article has outlined a practical suggestion for mitigating one of the limitations of webinar apps & thereby improving the quality online distance English language teaching. It facilitates an essential component of classroom teaching practice; monitoring students while they perform learning tasks so that in the moment, personalised guidance & feedback can be given. In this case, we can see how pedagogical principles, rather than EdTech novelties, have driven the modifications to the design of the teacher’s view of the learning activity & that having a clear & purposeful concept of what we want to achieve in teaching at a distance enables us to see & adapt to the shortfalls of available digital tools.
I hope you find it useful.
P.S. You can find the GPL3 (free and open source) licensed source code for the GDocs web app ‘hack’ on my GitHub.com account: https://github.com/matbury/gdocs-multipage