Using Web-based Tools as an Effective Feedback Technique in Language learning
English Teacher at National Technical University of Ukraine “Kyiv Polytechnic Institute”
Keywords: VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), Web-based Tools, Wikis, Discussion Groups, WBFT (web-based feedback technique), Face-to-face Classroom, Virtual Classroom, PTW (Personal Teaching Website), SF (Standard/Traditional Feedback), Online Teaching, Blended Language Learning.
Растегаева, Д.Г. Применение современных Интернет – средств как веб – технологии обучения иностранному языку, что обеспечивает эффективную обратную веб–связь и виртуальное сотрудничество студентов и преподавателя в процессе обучения английскому языку.
Аннотация: В статье рассматривается методика организации обучения английскому языку студентов НТУУ «КПИ», будущих технических переводчиков, через применение современных Интернет – средств обучения как веб – технологии обучения иностранному языку, что обеспечивает эффективную обратную веб–связь и виртуальное сотрудничество студентов и преподавателя.
Ключевые слова: виртуальная среда обучения, смешанное обучение (сочетание сетевого обучения с очным или автономным обучением), средства обучения ИЯ с использованием Интернет - технологий, Интернет - технологии обучения ИЯ, вики (гипертекстовая среда, веб-страница, которую может редактировать любой пользователь Интернет), дискуссионная группа (интернет-группа, члены которой общаются с помощью общей электронной почты), занятия в реальной аудитории, виртуальное занятия, виртуальное общения, обратная связь, персональный сайт преподавателя, дистанционное (онлайн) обучение, традиционный тип обратной связи, обратная веб-связь.
The Introduction: Appropriate feedback is necessary for efficient and successful language learning. On a par with traditional feedback that is used in a classroom, more and more language teachers start to apply WBFT – web-based feedback technique that presupposes the usage of online feedback tools such as VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments), Wikis and discussion groups. In this sense, WBFT is viewed not only as the information which lets students know about their language learning success and whether their production is correct, but also as a new teaching tool that is multifunctional by nature. WBFT using is considered to be effective and helpful for teachers and students as it organizes language learning process and creates a special positive studying environment that empowers its users to achieve numerous aims.
In view of this, the objective of the article is to reveal the nature of WBFT as an effective and efficient teaching tool as well as uncover major principles of its application in face-to-face and/or virtual classroom.
The main body: The research has been carried out on the basis of operating with web-based tools such as VLE, wikis and discussion groups in teaching English to 16 first and 27 second year students at NTUU “KPI”, who study the language as major.
To fulfill the research we have created web-based tools such as VLE (Virtual Learning Environments) on the basis of Personal Teaching Website (PTW), Wikis and discussion groups, and ensured they are linguistic in nature, focused on communication, which concerns the tasks that are studied in classroom face-to-face, interact with their class mates and teacher: send messages, share files, submit homework assignments electronically, check current schedule, latest news and notifications, be aware of homework tasks, grades and teacher’s comments, altogether, creating a common language learning environment that provides efficient feedback.
As a result, it should be mentioned that all these web-based tools constitute WBFT which is aimed to encourage students’ attempts to learn the language and improve language skills [3, c. 19].
Furthermore, we have analyzed the main principle of WBFT functioning in a face-to-face and virtual classroom and the effectiveness of its implementation in teaching English to first and second year students and have obtained the following results.
First and foremost, every teacher has to decide on the most suitable model of WBFT to work as blended feedback, taking into consideration its multi-functional nature. It is clear that the answers will depend on the objectives a teacher sets and the outcomes s/he is seeking. In this option, one of the primary things to choose is to set up a dedicated space online such as a Virtual Learning Environment that can be an institutional VLE, Personal Teaching Website (PTW) or discussion groups where learners and teachers can meet and continue further cooperation [3, c. 20-21]. PTW that has been created as a social learning network allows its members to create their own profile page and link to other members in the site where they are given instructions to the tasks and are able to upload documents, audio files or videos, interact online, using text, audio or video, check the grades or private feedback on their works [2, c. 75-79]. Also, it is possible to have access to wikis that consist of series of collaborative web pages to which anyone with permission can contribute. Both teacher and students can add text, documents, images, video and audio to wikis [2, c. 74]. Apart from these web-based tools, teacher may use discussion groups to provide effective feedback. Online discussion groups are electronic lists in which list members communicate by email. Participants can exchange email messages and upload documents, images or video to a shared web page [3, c. 20].
Secondly, it is important to decide on the types of feedback that will constitute WBFT (see Figure 1). There may be distinguished such sorts of feedback as positive and negative, on-the-spot and delayed, formative and summative, oral, verbal or non-verbal .
Figure 1. WBFT Constituents
Furthermore, the suggested technique provides such types of feedback as oral when students and teacher communicate by means of video chat, written via messaging and text chat, or non-verbal with the aid of images .
Moreover, online feedback can be given immediately or delayed, depending on which would be the most effective for the task or situation. On-the-spot feedback can be applied as part of classroom activities (e.g. passing online tests or quizzes) or after classes when the users are online getting ready with homework assignments (e.g. working on a given project) or socializing (e.g. leaving comments on the photos, posts, etc). It is also called synchronous and presupposes learners and teacher work online at the same time. Delayed feedback, that is also known as asynchronous, is when learners and teacher do the online work at different times and use web-based tools after classes. Teacher can give instructions to the tasks, read students’ work, give feedback on work/assignments, discuss issues with learners, pick up messages from students, leave messages, a list of useful links, audio and video chats for students, create quizzes and polls, manage students grades, etc. Students, in their turn, can find instructions to the tasks, post answers to tasks, read feedback on individual and group work/assignments, discuss issues with their class mates and teacher, pick up messages from teacher, leave messages for teacher or other learners, find useful links, listen to audio and watch video, attend text and video chat with teacher and learner, do quizzes and polls, access grades privately, etc. What is more, it should be stated that asynchronous work online is often the preferred mode of studying for teachers and learners as it is more flexible. However, there are times when synchronous activities (e.g. chats) can be very helpful to build or reinforce group dynamics .
Apart from this, online feedback can be represented as either formative (is not usually graded, given at all stages throughout the learning period) or summative (given at the conclusion of a unit, a project, or a period of learning in the form of a grade or a final report on students’ work) . The focus of WBFT is formative feedback that is continuous with the main purpose to encourage the learner. To provide suggested feedback technique, teacher constantly updates and students check grades and homework boards on PTW as well as their studying progress during the period of language learning to determine what has been learned so far and what still needs work.
Thirdly, we can ascertain that WBFT increases students’ willingness and ability to use and produce language, creates positive atmosphere so that students could feel comfortable by trying to use the language, maintains students focus on the language goal, makes them independent learners, deals with the errors the whole class is making as well as individual errors, improves virtual class atmosphere and students’ language production .
Moreover, WBFT provides efficient teacher – student(s) and student – student(s) cooperation and socialization. It organizes language learning work for individuals, groups or the entire class and makes it possible to cooperate in the way that was hard to ensure in a face-to-face class. Let us take teacher-student cooperation face-to-face as an example. It is difficult for a teacher to provide appropriate collaboration with each student in a group, but it is much easier to provide it virtually by means of video or text chatting/messaging. What is more, WBFT tools supply both the students and their teacher with an opportunity to meet online when they can that is flexible and convenient for both.
What is more, WBTF may be applied both in face-to-face and/or virtual classrooms giving a greater degree of prominence to its web-based tools that may be better used in language learning process. Each teacher has an opportunity to form his/her own WBTF to suit the stated curriculum, personal teaching methods, type of the suggested course as well as students’ individual language learning needs and preferences.
At the same time, it is worth to mention that communication online is different to face-to-face, but it is obvious that available online teacher will give his/her learners a far better language learning experience. Online teaching is much about creating communication, rapport and interaction as classroom teaching is: there is still the teacher, the students, the language. Talking face-to-face is not the same as talking via a webcam. But essentially, we are still talking about communication, and this is something that is known as vital for learning a language in modern world [3, c. 9-12]. Most importantly, is that the teacher monitors student’s work closely to ensure that WBFT both correct and helpful.
In view of this, we have conducted a survey to find out what students think about WBFT that has been applied in blended language learning referring to a mixture of both face-to-face and virtual learning. In this option, our students have met 70 % face-to-face and 30 % virtual course. For our group of language learners that represented 16 first year and 27 second year students, who are being taught general English as major, this involved the following activities and language work (see Table 1.) that had to be done face-to-face (6/7,5 hours a week) and virtually as part of their self-study work.
Table 1. Model of Blended Language Learning
Apart from the benefits of WBFT usage in language learning that may work well for students, we want to suggest some of the positives that can be highlighted for language teachers: WBFT can create online learning opportunities, motivate and encourage students to learn the target language and practice all languages skills online as well as facilitate the process of teaching the language to students.
Naturally, to apply WBFT in language course each teacher needs to be able to design an online component for language learning to suit the curriculum, his/her professional and individual needs of his/her students, and that requires time, special knowledge and maybe some training. Secondly, s/he has to think about the ratio of WBFT usage in face-to-face to virtual classroom taking into consideration the peculiarities of the target course and various language learning scenarios that can best suit its objectives.
Current research suggests that the best results come from suggesting language learners a blended option with the main part of the language teaching offered face-to-face and part online. Indeed, it appears that the combination of online and face-to-face elements proves itself as an efficient technology in language teaching and shows that students do even better than in purely face-to-face learning.
We have come to the conclusion that WBFT encourages students to learn the target language through web-based tools, create positive comfortable atmosphere in which students see making mistakes as part of learning process. Moreover, this effective technology can ensure students to stay motivated, lead to more and better language practice, provide plenty of opportunities for student-student(s) and student(s)-teacher socialization and interaction, increase participation from students in language learning, set up the atmosphere of acceptance, so that students could feel more comfortable to communicate in the target language, contribute to positive learning atmosphere and encourage trial-and-error process. At the same time, web-based feedback technique may be popular with growing number of teachers who will need to be online for some of their teaching work due to an ever accelerating cycle of innovation in teaching tools and constant need of reaching students, challenging and motivating them to language learning, and thus is a significant issue for further investigation and its implementation in language teaching methodology. There is no doubt that WBFT opens up new opportunities in language learning and is able to work for every teacher.
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