WebCT Design and Users' Perceptions in English for Agriculture

WebCT Design and Users' Perceptions in English for Agriculture

Ma Camino Bueno Alastuey (Public University of Navarre, Spain)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-59904-994-6.ch029
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Abstract

The adaptation to the European Space of Higher Education and to the new demands of the labor market has produced a shift in university education, which has changed from being teacher-centered to being learner-centered. Following this trend, at the Public University of Navarre, a blended course of English for Agriculture was created using the virtual platform WebCT. In this chapter, we forward a description of content organization and resources used, analyze students’ attainments and perceptions, and finally conclude with a reflection on the effect various organizations have produced in students, together with future trends in the use of WebCT in our context.
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Introduction

Spanish universities are immersed in a process of modernization due to the creation of the European Space for Higher Education, which should be a reality in 2010. The process started with the Bologna Declaration signed in 1999 and had among its main objectives the recognition and homogenization of degrees1 to facilitate the mobility of students and university staff, and the adaptation to the new demands of the labor market, especially the development of new skills and lifelong learning, to increase competitiveness.

In the Spanish University community, the process is involving a profound change in methodology as the focus of education shifts from the teacher to the student in how subjects’ credits are measured and in the emphasis on students’ skills and lifelong learning.

The Spanish University system was based on a classical methodological stand, where the professor was the focus of the process of learning. University courses had credits assigned that accounted for the number of hours of direct tuition, and the transmitted knowledge tended to be theoretical and hardly transferable to the labor world. Moreover, all the courses were campus-based and thus unable to meet the demand for flexible and autonomous lifelong learning.

In contrast, the European Space for Higher Education introduces European credits—called ECTs—that measure the total number of hours a student has to work in each course, and thus represent students’ workload. Furthermore, it places emphasis on practical knowledge as “[in the labor market] it tends to be knowledge about processes that is highly valued—knowledge how, rather than knowledge about” (Dovey, 2006, p. 390), and on the development of inestimable skills such as teamwork, oral expression, organizational skill, public speaking, and planning, which are all transferable to the labor world. Consequently, methodology has to become more learner-centered, concentrating on specific students’ needs and trying to individualize their learning. Finally, the European Space for Higher Education also emphasizes the importance of flexible, autonomous, lifelong learning and the need to offer courses adaptable to workers’ time constraints at our universities.

The need to adapt our subject—English for Agriculture—to the new demands of the European Space for Higher Education and to create a virtual space for students unable to attend classes encouraged us to start using a virtual platform, WebCT, in combination with face-to-face classes to create a blended course2.

Although the quantity of excellent research concentrating on new technologies and their use for language learning, especially on the design of CALL activities, task-based projects, and innovative ways of using technology (Chapelle, 2001; Felix, 1999, 2000; Warschauer, 2000, 2001) is large, and there is literature on the benefits and features of virtual platforms (Burgess, 2003; Jager, 2004; Ngai, Poon & Chan, 2007; Polisca, 2006; Yip, 2004)—one of the resources most widely used in universities—reports and analyses of how they are used, how resources are organized, and the effect various organizations may have on the final users, the students, are surprisingly scarce. These descriptive accounts are necessary because otherwise, “with much writing on CALL by those at the forefront of theoretical research, there is sometimes the danger that teachers are left behind in a cloud of publications” (Littlemore & Oakey, 2004, p. 96).

In this chapter, our aim is to provide such an account by describing the process of creating a course of English for Agriculture. First, a pedagogical background for the use of WebCT in our context will be forwarded. Then, the possibilities of WebCT for language learning and its use at our university will be explained to continue with a description of our project, which focused on how changes in the organization of WebCT and the addition of new features affected students’ attainments, use, and perceptions. Finally, future trends and general conclusions about our experience will be analyzed.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Course Design: Setting learning objectives, choosing media applications, planning evaluation, and preparing instructional strategies in advance of student recruitment.

New Technologies: All technologies related to computers, such as virtual platforms, chats, MOOS, blogs, and so forth.

Blended Learning: A system that combines face-to-face education and online learning.

Distance Learning: The process by which technology is used for education in ways where the student does not have to physically be in the place where the teaching is taking place.

WebCT: Online management software that aids students in their classes by creating, managing, organizing, and housing a Web-based learning environment.

Virtual Platforms: A spatially distributed network of individual vehicles or assets collaborating as a single functional unit and exhibiting a common systemwide capability to accomplish a shared objective.

Autonomy in Language Learning: Learners taking control over their learning.

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Table of Contents
Foreword
Norbert Pachler
Preface
Rita de Cássia Veiga Marriott, Patricia Lupion Torres
Acknowledgment
Rita de Cássia Veiga Marriott, Patricia Lupion Torres
Chapter 1
Pascual Pérez-Paredes, Maria Sánchez-Tornel
The research we report is a pilot study carried to test English as a Foreign Language (EFL) students’ reception of an electronic foreign language... Sample PDF
Understanding E-Skills in the FLT Context
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Chapter 2
Antônio Carlos Soares Martins, Junia de Carvalho Fidelis Braga
The discussions presented herein emerged from two empirical studies in progress:“Online Learning Communities in the Realm of Complexity” and “The... Sample PDF
The Emergence of Social Presence in Learning Communities
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Chapter 3
CALL as Action  (pages 39-52)
Vilson J. Leffa
The objective of this chapter is to offer a new approach for research in Computer-Assisted Language Learning (CALL). It starts with the assumption... Sample PDF
CALL as Action
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Chapter 4
Vera Lucia Menezes de Oliveira e Paiva, Adail Sebastiao Rodrigues-Junior
This pedagogical and methodological chapter aims at contributing to increasing Web teachers’ awareness of the different ways teachers and students... Sample PDF
Investigating Interaction in an EFL Online Environment
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Chapter 5
Euline Cutrim Schmid
This chapter discusses the concept of integrated CALL by drawing upon data collected for a PhD research project that investigated the impact of... Sample PDF
Interactive Whiteboards and the Normalization of CALL
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Chapter 6
Alexandra Okada
This chapter presents new methodologies designed to facilitate language acquisition in open learning communities via open educational resources and... Sample PDF
OpenLearn and Knowledge Maps for Language Learning
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Chapter 7
Ria Hanewald
This chapter provides an overview of the field of digital objects and repositories. It introduces the concepts of digital objects and repositories... Sample PDF
Learning Objects: Projects, Potentials, and Pitfalls
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Chapter 8
Patrica Lupion Torres, Rita de Cassia Veiga Marriott, Andreia Ferreira Ramos
This chapter presents the experience of production and use of learning objects (LOs) for English-language learning at the Pontificia Universidade... Sample PDF
English-Language Teaching with Learning Objects at PUCPR
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Chapter 9
Zhuo Li, Feng Liu, Jeff Boyer
The purpose of this chapter is to investigate the present use of e-gaming in language acquisition along with its potential and challenges. We review... Sample PDF
Amusing Minds for Joyful Learning through E-Gaming
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Chapter 10
Jowati Juhary
This chapter analyses the challenges in adapting a non-language learning courseware (NLLC) for a military learning environment. The National Defense... Sample PDF
A Non-Language Learning Courseware and its Challenges
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Chapter 11
Marcus Vinicius dos Santos, Isaac Woungang, Moses Nyongwa
The increasing importance of e-learning has been a boosting element for the emergence of Internet-based educational tools. As we move into the... Sample PDF
A Pliant-Based Software Tool for Courseware Development
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Chapter 12
Aysegül Daloglu, Meltem Baturay, Soner Yildirim
This chapter outlines how the constructivist approach can be implemented in Web-based vocabulary teaching, characteristics of effective Web-based... Sample PDF
Designing a Constructivist Vocabulary Learning Material
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Chapter 13
Yasunori Nishina
This chapter suggests an effective method for lexical studies using Moodle within the framework of data-driven learning based on parallel... Sample PDF
A Lexical Study Based on Corpora, DDL, and Moodle
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Chapter 14
Vander Viana, Sonia Zyngier
Like the advent of the telescope, computers today can provide ways of looking into language patterns that cannot be seen with the naked eye. From... Sample PDF
EFL through the Digital Glass of Corpus Linguistics
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Chapter 15
Jing Wang
This chapter introduces a series of studies carried out with intermediate learners of Chinese regarding the reading of authentic e-materials with... Sample PDF
Electronic Strategies to Improve Chinese Reading Skills
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Chapter 16
Margaret Murphy, Cristina Poyatos Matas
This chapter argues that politeness is an important component of e-mail language. Many people are uncertain about how to make their e-mail polite... Sample PDF
Politeness in Intercultural E-Mail Communication
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Chapter 17
Neny Isharyanti
Studies in computer-mediated communication (CMC) have shown that it has the potential to provide opportunities for ESL learners to actively... Sample PDF
Interactional Modifications in Internet Chatting
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Chapter 18
Sedat Akayoglu, Arif Altun
This chapter aims at describing the patterns of negotiation of meaning functions in text-based synchronous computer-mediated communication by using... Sample PDF
The Functions of Negotiation of Meaning in Text-Based CMC
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Chapter 19
Esrom Adriano Irala, Patrica Lupion Torres
This chapter belongs to the context of the computer-mediated communication (CMC) for language teaching and learning. Since the introduction of this... Sample PDF
The Use of the CMC Tool AMANDA in the Teaching of English
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Chapter 20
Christine Rosalia, Lorena Llosa
This chapter reports on an instrument that was developed to formatively assess the quality of feedback that second language students give to one... Sample PDF
Assessing the Quality of Online Peer Feedback in L2 Writing
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Chapter 21
Betty Rose Facer, M’hammed Abdous, Margaret M. Camarena
As part of an initiative to enhance the humanities’ use of emerging technologies, the Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures at Old... Sample PDF
The Impact of Academic Podcasting on Students' Learning Outcomes
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Chapter 22
Mahieddine Djoudi
The use of the mobile devices in language learning has been developed at a very high speed in the last years. Thus, we are witnessing many research... Sample PDF
Listening Comprehension of Languages with Mobile Devices
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Chapter 23
Huw Jarvis
This chapter reports on a quantitative study that examines how language students make use of an extensive range of computer-based materials (CBMs)... Sample PDF
Computers and Independent Study: Student Perspectives
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Chapter 24
Renata Chylinski, Ria Hanewald
This chapter reports on a study undertaken on the impact of pedagogical and technological innovations in language teaching and language learning... Sample PDF
Creating Supportive Environments for CALL Teacher Autonomy
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Chapter 25
Mar Gutiérrez-Colon Plana
Many language teachers, students, and institutions of virtual learning environments are well acquainted with the feelings of loneliness and... Sample PDF
Frustration in Virtual Learning Environments
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Chapter 26
Sarah Guth, Corrado Petrucco
This chapter describes how the social software tools that characterize Web 2.0, such as wikis and blogs, can be used as a valid substitute for more... Sample PDF
Social Software and Language Acquisition
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Chapter 27
Bryan Carter, Dayton Elseth
Within academia, distance learning as an approach to education has its share of skeptics. Regardless of how some feel about the methodology, it has... Sample PDF
The Usefulness of Second Life for Language Learning
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Chapter 28
Irene Mamakou
Interest in the integration of language learning with knowledge/content construction is growing around the world. In this line, an instructional... Sample PDF
Project-Based Instruction for ESP in Higher Education
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Chapter 29
Ma Camino Bueno Alastuey
The adaptation to the European Space of Higher Education and to the new demands of the labor market has produced a shift in university education... Sample PDF
WebCT Design and Users' Perceptions in English for Agriculture
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Chapter 30
Heli Simon, Päivö Laine, Ann Seppänen, Ana Barata, Carlos Vaz de Carvalho
This chapter presents the tutoring methodology adopted in an e-learning language course for students in vocational training and higher education as... Sample PDF
The LAFEC Experience for Language Skills Acquisition
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Chapter 31
Christian Swertz, Rosa Schultz, Katharina Toifl
This chapter reports the concept development and evaluation results from the project LANCELOT (LANguage learning with CErtified Live Online... Sample PDF
Language Teaching in Live Online Environments
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Chapter 32
Astrid Gesche
This chapter provides a basis for thinking about the dynamics and boundaries of foreign language learning in virtual learning communities of the... Sample PDF
Adapting to Virtual Third-Space Language Learning Futures
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Chapter 33
Chaka Chaka
This chapter explores aspects of portable handheld language learning that are likely to benefit many mobile assisted language learning (MALL)... Sample PDF
Portable Handheld Language Learning from CALL MALL to PALL
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About the Contributors