ONLINE TUTORING IN CLASSICS: A WAY OF FAMILIARIZING THE STUDENTS WITH THE USE OF TECHNOLOGIES IN LEARNING ACTIVITIES
The efforts to develop new methodologies in ancient Greek language courses in Higher Education meet, basically, two important obstacles: the lack of familiarization with the use of technology (ICT) of both instructors and students, and the academic tradition. More analytically, the fact that until recently there were serious usability problems with the Greek fonts in software resources and the lack of training concerning the use of ICT in learning activities, have left classical studies and humanities "isolated" in the sector of teaching innovation. Apart from the technical difficulties, it is important to mention that it is very difficult to assume the new tendencies of didactics in a teaching system –with more than two thousand years of uninterrupted tradition- based on paper support and on an extensively repetitive memorization, such as the teaching system in the departments of Classics.
During our first experimental introduction to learning activities in classics through ICT (2008), taking part in the creation of virtual course of ancient Greek grammar at the University of Barcelona, we noticed that the majority of the students used the online course more as a space where they could interact –synchronically or asynchrocically- and solve, in collaboration with the online instructor, all the doubts and problems they had during the face-to-face classes rather than an alternative way to study the ancient Greek grammar autonomously. Their attitude and the data we collected after the application of this method lead us to the conclusion that the students of classics need more familiarization with ICT in order to be able and follow an online course on their own. In this context, we decided to create a fully interactive tutoring system on Moodle platform in order to familiarize them with the use of a virtual classroom and the learning activities that derive from it.
The aim of this paper is to describe the design of this online tutoring system and present its preliminary results after a first pilot application at the University of Barcelona. The tutoring system we propose consists of consulting services 24/7, synchronous meetings between the online tutor and the students (individually or in groups) and asynchronous evaluation activities related to the face-to-face activities.
The satisfactory preliminary results of the pilot application of our proposal show that the students of classics are interested in innovation and have the necessary knowledge to participate in such experiments. The policy makers are called to focus on helping both students and instructors become more conscious of the change in teaching methods and to consider the idiosyncrasy of their departments when designing innovative projects.