MOOCS AND FOREIGN LANGUAGE TEACHING: THE CASE OF SPANISH
Bunkyo University (JAPAN)
About this paper:
Conference name: 17th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 6-8 March, 2023
Location: Valencia, Spain
Abstract:At their inception Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) were expected to revolutionize education. They were seen as a way of making education more accessible, affordable, global, inclusive, and personalized. However, while MOOCs have brought some clear benefits to education, their limitations have also come to light. Some of the most contentious issues have been student assessment and course accreditation, high attrition rates and their suitability for different subject areas. MOOCs began with STEM (science, technology, engineering, or math) courses, and these still tend to be the most popular ones. However, for subject areas like the humanities, in which ambiguity is common and multiple answers are valued or skill-based subjects such as foreign languages, where interaction and performance feedback are essential for learner development, a massive online format may be less suitable.
The last decade has seen an exponential growth in the number of language MOOCs (LMOOCs). Yet research on LMOOCs is still relatively limited. The present study examines applications of MOOC-based pedagogy to language teaching. After an overview of the core MOOC concepts and principles, the paper provides a critical analysis of six MOOCs for learners of Spanish as a foreign language offered on the Future Learn, Coursera and edX platforms. The courses are evaluated from the learners’ perspective on criteria such as target level, materials, language support, learner collaboration, and assessment. The results of the analysis show that the majority of LMOOCs are set as general beginners’ courses, but their level of difficulty varies significantly. The same is true of the learners who sign up for these courses. Courses tend to be teacher-centered and rely on explicit instruction. Instructional videos often feel dry and impersonal and are sometimes difficult to follow due to the large amount of information that learners are expected to memorize. Sample dialogues come across as artificial, and example sentences used to illustrate grammar rules are often decontextualized. Practice activities tend to be rather mechanical. While lecture transcripts may be available in several languages, language support is usually provided in English. Forum interaction is limited and often superficial. Progress quizzes usually consist of multiple-choice questions or matching activities. Graded assignments rely heavily on peer feedback, which is often insufficient and sometimes unclear and even incorrect. Access to final exams is limited to paying students only. The paper ends with examples of LMOOCs that are perceived as more learner-engaging and pedagogically effective and offers some practical suggestions for further development of LMOOCs and their possible integration into the traditional language programs.
Keywords: MOOCs, Language MOOCs, LMOOCs, online learning, open learning.