The LAFEC Experience for Language Skills Acquisition

The LAFEC Experience for Language Skills Acquisition

Heli Simon (Seinäjoki Polytechnic, Finland), Päivö Laine (Seinäjoki Polytechnic, Finland), Ann Seppänen (Tampere Polytechnic, Finland), Ana Barata (Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Portugal) and Carlos Vaz de Carvalho (Instituto Superior de Engenharia do Porto, Portugal)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-994-6.ch030
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Abstract

This chapter presents the tutoring methodology adopted in an e-learning language course for students in vocational training and higher education as well as staff from small and medium-sized enterprises (SME) in various European countries. The course concerns the acquisition of basic language skills essential to develop effective e-commerce Web sites in several languages. It is based on a student-centered, peer-learning approach that promotes collaboration between students and tutors. It also includes a set of new tools, such as an electronic ontology-based dictionary that allows new forms of putting theory into practice. The chapter presents results from an initial implementation with students from four European countries and China.
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Background

Computer-supported collaborative learning (CSCL) promotes the communication of ideas, materials, and information, and the interactive creation of documents for learning purposes. This collaborative model of learning can be characterized by multiparticipant communication, space and time independent communication, and computer-mediated communication. Harasim (1989) proposes that it is “the process of construction of knowledge by the integration of the student, the teachers, and the specialists in discussions and interactive activities.” Several related theories further define this educational phenomenon and scaffold strategies to explore it (Hsiao, 1995), such as Vygotsky’s sociocultural theory, problem-/project-based learning, cognitive flexibility, situated learning, and metacognition.

Bruffee (1983) presented a set of requirements that should exist in exemplary cases of student-centered learning environments:

  • Students who participate actively in the learning process

  • Students who are responsible for the acquisition of their knowledge

  • The teacher is a moderator and a facilitator rather than a knowledge transmitter

  • The environment allows peer interaction and its evaluation

Furthermore, the collaborative learning environment is successful when there is an effective and working community. Rheingold (1994) suggests the following four steps in the constitution of the physical communities, which can be extended to virtual ones:

  • Each individual develops relations with others

  • Each individual establishes residence and interacts with other residents

  • Each individual recognizes and emphasizes common interests with the community

  • Each individual develops the feeling of belonging to the community

An important part of computer-supported collaboration is still based on written communication. This is a process that allows knowledge construction, because it implies a mental process of concept organization for synthesis and transmission (Emig, 1977, p. 123), “as the writing is the representation of the world made visible, incorporating the process and product, the writing is much stronger source of learning than the speech.”

Key Terms in this Chapter

Computer-Supported Collaborative Learning (CSCL): Learning based on collaborative methods (e.g., peer learning, discussion, case study, project-based learning, etc.) supported by information and communications technology (ICT).

E-Learning: Learning supported by connected technological systems that provide access to the contents, communication between participants, collaborative activities, assessment, and evaluation.

Electronic Commerce: Process (including methods and tools) to buy and sell products and/or services over the Internet or, in general, conducting financial transactions through electronic means.

Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises: Commercial companies with fewer than 250 employees.

Pedagogy: Principles and methods to support education and learning.

Self-Assessment: Process of conducting a self-evaluation of the acquired knowledge and learning objective fulfillment

Language Learning: Process (including methodological concerns) of learning a language that is not the mother tongue.

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