Second Language Writing Instruction through Blended Learning: Report on a Pilot Course at the University of Freiburg for Undergraduate Students of English

Second Language Writing Instruction through Blended Learning: Report on a Pilot Course at the University of Freiburg for Undergraduate Students of English

Alison Nagel (University of Freiburg, Germany) and Kai Woodfin (University of Freiburg, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61520-773-2.ch046
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This chapter presents the results of a blended learning course in writing instruction piloted at the University of Freiburg for undergraduate students of English. It provides a brief overview of recent research into online learning with discussion of the trend from e-learning to blended learning and discusses a selection of web-based technologies. This is followed by an outline of the syllabus with a focus on the technologies used. It concludes with a discussion of student feedback and evaluation of the course and the implications of these for the future integration of blended learning within the current teaching programme.
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Some Issues In E-Learning

Interest in e-learning in higher education has developed out of the need for greater flexibility for both learners and instructors regarding time and place of the learning environment; in this sense, e-learning may be seen as the newer generation of distance learning (Caladine, 2008) - often referred to as anywhere, anytime learning (Baumgartner, 2007, p.9;Horizon Report, 2008, p.8). Recent developments include the recognition that learning is a lifelong process, also referred to as informal, implicit or experiential learning, that is not restricted to the classroom or lecture theatre, and which has received great impetus from the knowledge-sharing and people-connecting developments of the internet. The term e-learning 2.0 has been coined to describe the possibilities offered by multimedia - from text to audio/visual - for creation and presentation of content, that have led to what Banse (2007, p.7) calls an “umfassender Kulturwandel” (“sweeping cultural change”: authors’ translation).

Current researchers of e-learning stress that e-learning is highly interdisciplinary in nature and thus requires designers and instructors with both pedagogical expertise plus technical knowledge and skills (Apostolopoulos, 2007; Reinmann, 2007). Thus views of learning theory are emerging that can link current developments in software, the internet and the web to the application of these in individual subjects and skills areas (see, for example, Caladine's Learning Activities Model and Learning Technologies Model, op cit). Within the history of pedagogical theory we have long since experienced a paradigm shift from instructivism to constructivism, also referred to as teacher-oriented to learner-oriented learning (Höbarth, 2007), whereby the learner is no longer a passive consumer of knowledge provided by the teacher, but takes an active part in the learning process, constructing knowledge and understanding by integrating new into existing knowledge through interaction with other learners, the instructor and the materials. The theory of constructivism has now received added impetus from developments in the internet and the application of these to e-learning environments: the shift from web 1.0, also known as the read-web, where content was provided by few for many, to web 2.0, or the read-write web, that is characterised by user-generated content and the sharing of knowledge through social software. Thus the hierarchical nature and static structure of earlier learning environments is giving way to a dynamic, networked learning environment. Bernhardt and Kirchner (2007) even suggest taking constructivism one step further with their idea of connectivism as a learning theory for the digital age.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Wiki: A collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone and everyone who has access to it.

PLE: Personal Learning Environment; refers to the individual selection and integration of various web 2.0 appplications with the aim of connecting previously developed and / or personal web 2.0 content to the institutional virtual environment

LMS: Learning Management System; software for delivering, tracking and managing online courses; at our University this is called CampusOnline; Moodle is a similar system.

Social Software: refers to a wide range of software systems that allow users to interact with one another and share data; Wikipedia, YouTube & FaceBook are well-known examples of this kind of software

Blended Learning: a combination of traditional and online teaching / learning

F2F - face-to-face: refers to the traditional classroom situation in which both instructors and students are physically present; antonym would be ’online’ or ’virtual’.

Open Source: (broadly) refers here to software that is “free”, i.e. no payment is necessary; more specifically it refers to software distributed under licenses guaranteeing anybody rights to freely use, modify, and redistribute, the source code

Moodle: is a free and open source e-learning software platform; an example of an LMS

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