As a freelance English language trainer I work and have contact with a number of organisations and in one particular case I have at least three points of contact with a university, all of which are run on different contracts with different departments and with differing attitudes and usage levels to technology.I found the article very interesting and useful with the links and as my organisation uses little technology in an overall coherent fashion I would propose to introduce a number of the tools from the short term implementation range. I view these as most likely to succeed in being accepted by enough members of staff to become imbedded in the structure.
Initially I would like to see cloud computing and in particular Google Sites being used as a way for students to present themselves and also for them to drive forward the input of the required content reflecting a constructivist methodology in offering ways and means for participants to become actively involved in creating their own learning material and not just an administrative tool (Kirkwood, 2010). A number of my clients are now actually the staff in the universities who have a lot of the content in their heads. I am experimenting at the moment to see whether using Google Sites is a way to access this information in a more efficient way by using collaborative processes (Johnson and Adams, 2011) than those used traditionally, However, it´s also important not to lose track of the task at hand by becoming too involved with the setting up and running of the technology (Johnson and Adams, 2011).
The natural progression from using cloud technology would then to be to set up Open Source material, which would make material available for everyone to study free of charge. This approach would have very distinct advantages and disadvantages for those involved.For instance the university could reach more students than it already does at little extra cost Johnson and Adams, 2011), but it would receive no fees in turn. However, by offering courses / material online students who would not normal be able to participate might be able to do so. (Johnson and Adams, 2011) and research has shown that this is `as effective as face-to-face instruction (Cavanaugh, 2001; Cavanaugh, Gillan, Kromrey, Hess, & Blomeyer, 2004; Means, Toyama, Murphy, Bakia, & Jones, 2009, siets in Hawkins, 2012)
In fact as the universities aim is to become more international and appeal to a wider audience, I propose that by setting up an online English language open source site the university could establish itself through tailored pages to desired markets i.e. a site in Chinese, German, which would then offer material in both German and English to potential Chinese students as way to attract and school potential students.An asynchronous learning environment would also allow students who have to work to pay their fees etc the chance to participate in extra support sessions, such as English language support This would be a small step in keeping the door open to higher education for those students who have to work during typical teaching hours.
Finally, moving forward, I would like to propose that the two previous innovations must be interlinked and sets of information from student performance and activity levels should then be forwarded to the relevant trainers. This form of learning analytics (Johnson and Adams, 2011) would then allow trainers to have an overview of student’s needs; in particular it would make possible proactive support before any potential difficulties arise. Additionally, for online courses to be successful there needs to be an adequate level of teacher presence (Hawkins et al, 2012) in the minds of the students to compensate for the lack of face to face contact that students normally experience. I would argue that having a teacher who was able to monitor a student’s progress in real time and react to it in a personal manner would increase student’s motivation (DiPietro et al.’s (2008)
Finally although I am arguing thatthese three innovations have the potential to improve the provision of English language support in Higher Education, I also believe that the innovations will only work if implemented sensitively and with the buy in from all parties involved (Garrison & Arbaugh, 2007)
· DiPietro, M., Ferdig, R. E., Black, E. W., & Preston, M. (2008). Best practices in teaching K-12 online: Lessons learned from Michigan Virtual School teachers. Journal of Interactive Online Learning, 7(1), 10-38.
· Garrison, D. R., & Arbaugh, J. B. (2007). Researching the community of inquiry framework: Review, issues, and future directions. The Internet and Higher Education,
· Hawkins, A., Graham, C.R., Barbour, M.K., Everybody Is Their Own Island”: Teacher Disconnection in a Virtual School, International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, v13 n2 p123-144 Apr 2012. 22 pp.
· Johnson, L.and Adams, S., (2011). Technology Outlook for UK Tertiary Education 2011-2016: An NMC Horizon Report Regional Analysis. Austin, Texas: The New Media Consortium.
· Kirkwood, K, 2010, The SNAP Platform: social networking for academic purposes
Campus-Wide Information Systems, Vol. 27 No. 3, 2010, pp. 118-126