In 1999, the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia (USG), in collaboration with a number of its member institutions, began developing a fully online set of courses that allows a student to complete a core curriculum that is transferable across the USG. The result of this effort is the USG’s eCore® Program, developed by the Advanced Learning Technologies (ALT) unit of the USG. The eCore® Courses were created using a collaborative course development process that engaged teams of USG faculty, technical support and an instructional designer from ALT. The collaborative course development process was utilized in order to take full advantage of the expertise of the team members and to incorporate multiple perspectives of the content into the courses. In addition, a set of guidelines for the development of eCore® courses was established to ensure the courses were of the highest quality possible. The eCore® course array was developed over a period of seven years. While many of the courses were well suited to the asynchronous online approach, there were content areas that were more controversial, such as physics, chemistry and foreign languages, due to the highly specific requirements in each of these disciplines.
Background: Computer-Assisted Language Learning (Call)
The study of Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL), an emerging topic for educators and researchers, has provided language instructors and learners a great realm of possibilities in Second Language Acquisition (SLA). Warschauer (1997), in his study “Computer-Mediated Collaborative Learning: Theory and Practice,” provides a succinct review of relevant research in the second half of the twentieth century, confirming the relationship between the significant increase in investigation in the 1990s with the advent of the internet and the rise of the accessibility of computers. Warschauer firmly asserts that online communication “encourages collaborative learning in the classroom” (p. 472). Some of the more salient studies (Kern, 1995; Warschauer, 1997;Kinginger, 1998, Abrams, 2003; Poza, 2005) emphasize the advantages of incorporating CMC into face-to-face language courses. Kern contends that:
new medium-specific conventions . . . compensate for the absence of prosodic and paralinguistic features found in face-to-face oral communication. For example, facial expressions such as smiles [:-) 1, frowns [):-(1, or winks [ ;-) ] become icons, and tone of voice is represented by capitalization, underlining, exclamation marks, and other symbols. (p. 459)
Many researchers agree that text-based computer conference technologies create a setting in which students experience a decrease in anxiety when compared to face-to-face conversation (Beauvois, 1994, 1996, 1999; Kivela, 1996; Lee, 2004; Meunier, 1998; Skinner & Austin, 1999; Warschauer, 1996). In addition, research shows that students indicate they feel a significantly lower fear of negative evaluation via the computer (Beauvois, 1996; Chun, 1994; Kelm, 1992; Kivela, 1996).
Key Terms in this Chapter
Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC): Any communication between two or more individuals using a computer as the means to exchange data.
USG’s eCore® Program: eCore®—short for electronic core curriculum—allows University System of Georgia students the opportunity to complete their first two years (the “core” curriculum) of their collegiate careers in an online environment. While originally designed for the non-traditional student, many currently enrolled students find eCore® presents an opportunity for increasing flexibility and convenience in their course load management. eCore® consists of online freshman- and sophomore-level courses designed, developed, taught, and supported by faculty and staff from the University System of Georgia. eCore® offers courses in English, mathematics, science, history, and the social sciences. Courses comply with ADA standards to meet the needs of students with disabilities or special needs.
QUIA – Quintessential Instructional Archive: A web site (found at http://www.quia.com/books) that partners with textbook publishers to produce online workbooks and textbooks where students are engaged with interactive exercises, many of which provide immediate feedback.
CALICO: The Computer Assisted Language Instruction Consortium, a professional organization whose members emphasize the combination of technology with language teaching and learning.
Affective Filter Hypothesis: The hypothesis credited to Stephen Krashen, an expert in linguistics, that declares that a student’s anxiety, low self esteem, or lack of motivation can serve to cause a mental block preventing the successful acquisition of a second language. If the “affective filter” is lowered by creating a learning environment in which students are more motivated and suffer from less anxiety and low self esteem, the possibility of success in achieving SLA is greatly improved.
Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL): A wide encompassing term that represents a methodology of language teaching and learning that involves the utilization of computer technology in assessment, reinforcement, interaction, communication, and presentation.
Second Language Acquisition (SLA): The process by which people learn languages in addition to their native language(s). The term second language is used to describe any language whose acquisition starts after early childhood (including what may be the third or subsequent language learned). The language to be learned is often referred to as the “target language” or “L2”, compared to the first language, “L1”. Second language acquisition may be abbreviated “SLA”, or L2A, for “L2 acquisition”.Synchronous Course: A course that meets for regularly scheduled class meeting times
Asynchronous Course: A course that does not typically meet for regularly scheduled class meeting times and is available any time, any place and at any pace. This allows students to participate from any location. These courses generally make use of the Internet, CD-ROM, independent study, or a combination thereof. Students access the course material from a course web site or a course management system.