EVALUATING THE BENEFITS OF ONLINE RESOURCES AND AN E-PORTFOLIO TO INTENSIFY LANGUAGE LEARNING AT BEGINNER’S LEVEL
Blended and online learning is a common practice in higher education in the 21st century, Larraemendy-Joerns and Leinhardt, (2006), the intensive use of technology inside and outside the classroom creates a richer environment, but still open to debate if facilitate learning more than the traditional face to face (F2F) instruction, Gikandi, Marrow, and Davis (2011).
The aim of this study is to evaluate the effect of using interactive exercises, electronic materials and an e-portfolio to intensify the learning in beginner students of Italian and Spanish at university level taking the courses as part of their degree. The students in this study took a one term module course made up by 30 hours of F2F teaching and 10 hours of independent work over 10 weeks. Standard courses offered by the same institution include 40 hours F2F over 20 weeks.
Our aim is to assess if adding these e-learning elements for independent study to the standard F2F classes, together with a supplementary tasks using elements of the e-portfolio, could effectively replace one third of the F2F teaching.
Two pilot one term modules, one in Spanish and one in Italian, with the complementary e-resources, were created to see if the students learning outcomes would be similar than those on a two term modules, with less online activities.
The level of learner’s engagement to the electronic materials and the effect on the learning outcomes was evaluated contrasting students’ performance in the formative and summative assessment.
The results of a questionnaire intended to investigate the students’ attitudes towards the e-learning component of the module which were also taken into account to outline a broader picture of their engagement with the electronic aspects of their courses.
An area of particular relevance for our study was to assess whether the time invested in creating ad-hoc resources as tasks as well as in solving potential technical issues by teachers, students and administrative staff could be compensated by an increase in learning performance.
Teachers’ anecdotic information is included and analysed to better understand whether from their point of view the e-portfolio and the e-learning resources in general can empower teaching staff as change agents to support wider engagement of learner-centered pedagogies, as suggested by Joyes and Coolin (2013).
Our aim is to consider the e-portfolio not only as a collection of learning artefacts, which can be used as a proof of learning achievements, but also as a platform to provide dynamic interactions to enhance learning. Opportunities for self-reflection on the first stages of language learning provided by the e-portfolio as well as of collaborative learning and peer review were also evaluated in this study.
Initial results show that students found the e-learning component of the course as a valuable alternative to an hour F2F instruction; however interaction and peer review were not enhanced by the use or the e-portfolio, which seems to be a preferable tool mostly for individual learning.
Performance results show that the students of the one term courses achieved outcomes similar to the ones of students in standard courses.