D. Roy

University of Aizu (JAPAN)
There are multiple research projects in EFL context which demonstrated how computer generated feedback improved language learning (Chen, 1997). These research projects have often discussed the use of multiple technology interfaces and ways in which the web has changed people work and learning interactions take place (Brown, 2002). There is also adequate research on how writing and language learning takes place in EFL context (Cumming, 2001). Moreover, there is plenty of research on how technology interfaces influence the process of writing and improves overall language skills. However, not much research has been done on how an EFL-based technical or business writing class can be taught within the scope of the collaborative technologies used in a blended learning format. This is an important area of unattended research because students with limited English proficiency in a business writing context find themselves acquiring new knowledge of business and technical communication while grappling synchronously with various grammatical items and rules (Lau, 2003). So, this paper will argue how courses could be designed systematically to generate self-paced synchronous learning in a way that students are able to learn grammar, gather knowledge of business and technical communication, and learn about systems naturally by writing about them.

One significant problem with some of the topics used in technical English for L2 learners is that readers of the topic and the text, are often far removed from the realities of the technology and its use, besides the fact that they are often incapable of understanding the complex text. They can read the content, but often might not have any first-hand experience of the system and its possible range of applications. That is one major reason why investigating and writing about a technology and web interface that students already use in the course on a regular basis, might lead to a better level of content comprehension and understanding and in the process enrich the learning experience. This topic is unique because it discusses a system whereby the use and exploration of a specific interface is intertwined in the course design and manifested through various other interface outlets.

An innovative way to approach collaborative language learning might be to expose participants to multiple interfaces that could be used synchronously and integrated in a way to generate automatic and rich communication between group partners working in a project. The idea would be to enforce communication and group interaction by deliberately generating more activities in the communication channels. More platforms and interfaces will require more systematic interaction, brainstorming, data management skills and will automatically require more coordination and information and exchange of ideas between group members.

This paper makes a comprehensive discussion about five interfaces: moodle, google docs, google chat, a concept mapping software and slide share interface for publishing presentations. Every interface has a major purpose in the document design process and is used in a way such that it feeds on each other. Each assignment about a particular interface (e.g., moodle, google docs) is written in another interface. Further, this paper provides specific examples of course design, assignments, assessment tools and learning methods and outcomes to demonstrate how this systems-based learning might possibly work.