Elearning in the English language training: new opportunities and challenges for Russian universities
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016
Malinina Irina, National Research University Higher School of Economics, Russia
Tsvetkova Svetlana, Nizhny Novgorod State Technical University n.a. R.E. Alekseev, Russia
Application of information and
communication technology (ICT) in many spheres of human activity including education
is a distinctive feature of the development of the modern society. Various
web-related communication technologies, learning management systems make educational
process social and collaborative, allow monitoring the learning activities of
students, contribute to the individualisation of education and present
information on a higher level. Wankel (2010) defines Web 2.0 tools as “any form
of on-line technology or practices through which users create communities to
convey information ideas, independent learning, entertainment, collaboration
and personal messages and thus facilitates communication and interaction between
individuals and groups”.
The term “eLearning” is widely used in
education-related fields, that has led to the diversity in its understanding
and defining. Traditionally, eLearning refers to the use of electronic media
and information and communication technologies (ICT) in education to support
learning and teaching. Bernard Luskin suggests that the "e" should be
interpreted to mean "exciting, energetic, enthusiastic, emotional, extended,
excellent, and educational" in addition to "electronic." (Luskin,
2010). This broad interpretation focuses on new applications and developments,
and also brings learning and media psychology into consideration. Another
attempt to redefine the term was made by Parks (Parks, 2012) whose idea is that
the "e" should refer to "everything, everyone, engaging, easy”,
where the concept of availability for anyone interested is underlined. In
general terms eLearning is considered as the third learning system that uses
various electronic techniques as its primary medium for learning. The first two
learning systems are S-learning, using speech as its primary medium to promote
learning, and P-learning, where “P” stands for paper (Rosenberg, 2001; Snyder,
1998; Swan, Bowman, & Holmes, 2003).
There are various forms of eLearning, in
particular, online or distance learning, blended or hybrid learning, tandem
learning. The main differences among them lie in the arrangement of educational
process and the proportion of electronic media usage.
Distance or online learning presumes the
extensive use of ICT as all or most of the time participants (students and
teachers) are in different locations, and the source of information and the
learners are separated by time and distance. In this form of learning it is
crucial to select the right tools and technologies because they impact
significantly the interacting parts. (Moore, Anderson, 2012)
Advantages vary, but a major attraction is
flexibility. Learners can complete an online degree with an opportunity to take
a mix and match of different modules or intensive certificate courses. Via the
Internet, distance learners can formulate their own curriculum, learn at their
own pace and set their own timetable. The variety of media that online courses
can offer means that distance learning can be both a productive, rewarding,
efficient way of getting knowledge and a rich, inspiring, exciting experience.
Graphics, sound and video bring dry texts to life and students can chose to
spend more time going into depth on a particular topic they find interesting or
a certain subject they consider difficult to grasp by hyperlinking to other
pages on websites. To add to this, Internet access means tutors and students
can interact and collaborate quickly. Another benefit is an opportunity to
update the information, as students always appreciate when the content is
relevant to the real world it gives them an additional incentive to study. In
comparison with slower paper-based courses in distance learning designers and
instructors can do it much faster and more frequently.
Corporate distance courses are becoming
more and more popular as they allow, on the one hand, to combine receiving
necessary knowledge with full-time employment and, on the other hand, the
company usually pays the expenses.
Implementation of learning management
system (LMS) allows tutors to monitor the learning activities of students.
Moreover, it helps to communicate teachers and students, to make announcements,
determine the time for examinations, set deadlines, get quick responses and feedback
from students. Some LMS, for example Moodle, Blackboard, have built-in wiki
tools, which are designed to collaborate, share and build online content and
are especially useful for learners who are separated by time and place. Wikis
are more effective for forwarding information compared to emails attachments
with tracked changes, a method that supports only one editor at a time and can
create issues with students having multiple and conflicting versions of the
same document (Richardson, 2006). Blackboard is said to be one of the leading
commercial LMS products and is the most widely-adopted learning management
system. In this 21st century the increasing use of Learning Management Systems
across higher education institutions has, in theory at least, provided the
potential for rich learning environments for all students.
Among the drawbacks of such an educational
system unsafe and unreliable work of technology is commonly named. Low level of
information culture can also be a possible obstacle to getting qualitative
education. Another barrier to effective distance learning is psychological
issues, which may be caused by the technologization of educational process or
lack of experience to work alone and can lead to unreadiness and unwillingness
to use ICT. Furthermore, it is necessary to have good time-management skills,
ability to prioritise, and be self-disciplined.
Blended learning is the term used to
describe learning or training events or activities where e-learning, in its
various forms, is combined with more traditional forms of getting knowledge
such as "class room" training (Richardson, 2006).
Another definition of blended learning is
"any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar
location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some
element of student control over time, place, path, and/or pace" (Peachey,
In reviewing the literature, many suggest
that blended courses emerge “where between 30 to 79 percent of the instruction
is delivered online”. But online teaching is a complement to on-campus teaching
and not a replacement (Watwood et al., 2009)
Alan Clarke distinguishes 6 models in
1. Conventional lecture with teaching notes
and visual aids placed on a college intranet for you to access.
2. Using digital cameras to record
practical work for your portfolio of evidence.
3. All assignments submitted in an
electronic format and feedback provided in the form of annotation.
4. Email and conferencing with tutors in
place of face-to-face tutorials.
5. Simulations of laboratory experiments as
part of a conventional/ science course.
6. Distance learning course with regular
face-to-face meetings (Alan Clarke, 2004).
In order to choose the most suitable
variant it is necessary to consider several factors including students,
teachers, time, money, goals, resources.
So, the main difference from distance
learning is an opportunity to have onsite support, which may be crucial especially
for not very well-prepared from technological perspective. It means that there
should be some requirements for tutors, in particular, a certain level of information
culture, psychological skills for helping students to overcome communication
and other barriers.
The list of professional skills of teachers
should also include
• ability to design their own training technologies;
• ability to independently and efficiently resolve constantly arising
difficulties and challenges;
• ability to develop and use non-standard methods of solving
• ability to rationally evaluate their own professional work and put
The ability to analyze their own teaching
activities is of high priority as well, as it helps to correct, improve and
match them to modern requirements (Malinina, 2012).
Speaking about problems that are likely to
occur in blended learning low level of computer skills is of high priority.
Some researchers (Yunus, Nordin, Salehi, Embi, & Salehi, 2013) also
underline difficulties in class controlling and distraction of students'
attention as the main obstacles they face while implementing ICT.
In language education a special form of
receiving knowledge is distinguished: a tandem language learning, which is
based on mutual individualized language exchange between tandem partners.
Tandem learning can be autonomous and integrated (Kydryavtseva, 2012). The
chief purpose of the first type is to refresh or maintain the certain language
level. While the latter is supplementary to regular classes and aimed at
improving language competence, first and foremost, communication skills. Tandem
learning makes great use of Web-related technologies, such as skype, videoconferences,
webinars, blogs, forums to interact, socialize and communicate.
Learning a foreign language involves
getting acquainted with national traditions, mentality and culture of the
country where this language is spoken. Lack of language environment can be
compensated with the help of interaction with the native speaker who can demonstrate
different aspects of the life of another nationality (cultural, social, domestic,
economic, etc.) and promote the understanding of the language in the way local
people use it.
Sociocultural competence is a key to
successful intercultural communication, as it assumes awareness of social
factors' influence on the choice of linguistic forms, appropriate words and
knowledge of ethical behavior. So, it is better to form it with the help of
sociocultural approach to learning. Sociocultural approach is traditionally
considered as an interconnected learning of the language and culture of native
speakers. However, to limit the language training by learning the culture of
only the target language country is unjustified. Studying native culture should
be an equal component in mastering the art of intercultural communication.
Learning a foreign language culture should have a comparative nature and
include links to the native culture, so as to be a dialogue between the two ways
of life and thought.
Social networks such as Facebook, Twitter
provide opportunities for meeting new people, making friends, getting acquainted
with lifestyle and traditions of other nationalities, in other words, they are
perfectly suitable for reaching aims of tandem learning.
Some researchers (Yunus et al., 2013) claim
that ICT provide a tendency for the students to use short forms and informal
abbreviations in their writing tasks and it may have a negative effect, but
they emphasize that advantages of using ICT outweigh possible drawbacks.
Our educational program was designed for
first-year students of the Faculty of Economics in the National Research
University Higher School of Economics in Nizhny Novgorod. 72 participants took
part in our program, all of them are from different backgrounds: they have come
from different cities and finished different schools. According to the curriculum
first-year students have 4 hours of English a week, so a lot of work should be
done at home. But we want it to be collaborative and monitored.
The main purposes of the pilot project on
implementing Web-related technologies into educational process were:
• to determine what Internet resources will suit the standards of educational
program of the English language learning best of all;
• to analyze motivational state of students, their willingness to
implement ICT into educational process and expectations of learners;
• to prove the necessity of using Web-related resourses in a foreign
language learning and suggest one possible approach of integrating new
technologies into educational process;
• to research the influence of ICT on motivation of students and
results of training.
The main methods used in the project were
questionnaire, survey, interview and observation as well as analyses of students'
Methods of teaching
Before starting our project we provided
students with information about educational strategy, corporate culture of the
university, requirements for the level of knowledge both in English and computer
technologies, aims and objectives of learning as well as methods and techniques
used to achieve them. Moreover, in order to minimize the possible negative
affect of the lack of computer skills before starting to implement each tool or
resource we give our students detailed information on their using and always
give time to get acquainted with the basic elements of the user interface
For our project we have selected 5 Internet
resources, the choice was made according to the skill we wanted to develop:
• www.cloze test creator
Tricider.com is aimed at arranging
brainstorming and sharing ideas. Besides, it can be used to vote for or against
the suggested idea and provide your arguments.
What is great about using a tool like this
is it makes learning experience social as it connects students with each other.
Moreover, it teaches students to work in a team, listen to, agree, disagree,
convincingly prove their points of view, give reasons and make conclusions.
The purpose of voxopop.com is to record
your own speaking for others to listen and respond to (Peachey, 2012b). You can
get the general information about the person who recorded the word; also you
can add your own pronunciation. It is also a great tool to record and practice
pronunciation drills, which are very useful when studying a foreign language.
It is an excellent audio tool for real communicative speaking and listening
practice out of the classroom. This site can be used for writing dictations as
well, when a teacher records a dictation text and gets students to write it
Web-related communication technologies,
such as Quizlet, let learn words in a new, more interesting, exciting and, as a
result, effective way. It is well-known that it is impossible to master a
foreign language without constant exercising and drilling. And Quizlet is of
great help here, as it allows in a playful manner to practice words and word
ESLVideo is a tool of video based quizzes.
Here there is a choice to create your own quizzes, you can ask as many multiple
choice type questions as you wish or use available ones. It is possible to add
transcripts, translation or notes to the video. What is also great is that the
site can assess the work: students get the feedback on their answers and then
their results are sent to the teacher (if the class are registered users of the
site), so it can be done at home. Or a teacher may get students to create
quizzes for each other as a hometask.
Web-related tool Cloze test creator is
excellent for revising and testing. You can upload any text and choose what exactly
you want to check. The choice is every n-word, articles, prepositions, link
words, auxiliaries, wh-words, quantifiers or modals. You can also add clues if
Taking all these points into consideration
we can conclude that the use of Web 2.0 resources causes the intensification of
students' self-directed foreign language learning, identifying their potential
and thereby leads to the increase of the level of foreign language training of
The table “Technology of professional
language training in the conditions of the information educational environment
Web 2.0” represents a set of methods used in foreign language training, corresponding
types of speech activities as well as mechanisms for their intensification
through the use of the Internet resources (table 1).
Table 1. Technology of professional language
training in the conditions of the information educational environment Web 2.0
Methods of foreign language
Types of speech activity
self-directed foreign language learning
- work on lexical and
grammatical side of foreign speech (repetition, consolidation and training of
- reading and translating
language material on the topic using a dictionary
- training of lexical
items and grammatical phenomena while performing interactive tasks in the
game form related to studied topics of a certain level of complexity;
- different types of
giving an answer (multiple choice, matching);
- receiving feedback in
the form of:
on the results of each task;
for the implementation of a set of tasks;
- sending the teacher a
report on the results of tasks as a form of the current control (Quizlet Web-resource)
understanding, information extraction process:
reading (viewing, searching, exploring);
listening (perception and understanding the information by ear)
- listening to information and watching video;
- getting acquainted with the translation of
individual words, the peculiarities of their pronunciation (transcription),
as well as notes on the video;
- performing automated tasks to test understanding
with the "multiple choice" form of answering;
feedback in the report form to check the correctness of each task;
- sending a
report to the teacher indicating their "code" and performer's name, (http://www.eslvideo.com)
- commenting on statements on everyday topics;
message / report on a professional theme;
creating an original idea / giving various perspectives in preparation for
- participating in brainstorming and sharing ideas;
- voting for / against any idea;
- giving convincing arguments;
- collaboration in a team;
- preparing for participation in the role / business play,
discussions and other forms of interactive communication
Participation in the question-answer interview
on the text, simulations of communicative situations, in role / business
plays, in discussing any professional problem, in the debate concerning finding
the way out of problematic situations, etc.
- interactive and communicative collaboration outside the
- recording own speech for partners/ colleagues to listen to and
- writing an automated dictation
performing to control mastering key communicative
competence (language, speech, discourse)
Doing tests on:
checking text understanding
learning grammatical phenomena and lexical items
(сloze test creator)
Results and conclusion
At the beginning of our educational program
students were presented with some questionnaires in order to gather
information about students' perception of the English language, their
motivational state and their attitude to introducing ICT. We wanted to research
each student’s motivation of success and fear of failure and to assess their
willingness to implement ICT into educational process and their expectations.
According to the received answers of our
questionnaire about their expectations of the content and the aim of the
English Language course, the majority of the respondents would like to improve
their communication skills (92%), and 74% want the training to be relevant to
their future job-related activities, 46% admit that they will need English for
Another questionnaire and some interviews
were conducted in order to find out the attitude to introducing ICT in educational
process among participants. At the end of the program, the same questionnaire
and interviews were presented once more to gather more information about the
participants' motivational state, their attitude to ICT.
At the end of the program the attitude to
using Web-related technologies has changed greatly towards the positive impact
on the results of training. The participants were very willing to continue using
Internet resources to improve their language skills and all of them admit that
these tools are useful, helpful and practical (especially eslvideo.com and
Another positive aspect they indicate in
using Web-resources is that they allow to train necessary skills at a
convenient time wherever they want. Moreover, they can interact with each other
in a more comfortable (than email) and less intrusive (than telephone call)
Another question we would like our students
to answer was about the desirable way to study English. The received responses
show that the majority of learners (86%) want to study English with the
teacher, but they expect to be approached individually (76%). During interviews
they explained that it is very important for them that their characters,
peculiarities and the level of knowledge should be taken into account.
In addition, at the end of the experiment,
we conducted a survey of students to identify their self-esteem of professional
foreign language capabilities in the experimental and control groups. All students
were trained at the Economic Faculty. It should be noted that in the control
group classes were arranged by traditional educational methods without implementing
Web 2.0 resources, and the number of students is 72, which is equal to the experimental
The results of the survey indicate that the
students of the experimental group more highly estimate their professional
foreign language abilities compared to the students from the control group.
Results of the survey are presented in Table 2 “Self-assessment of learning
content mastered by future economists”.
Table 2. Self-assessment
of learning content mastered by future economists
foreign language abilities
error of estimate
Discuss in a foreign language issues related to planning and
Participate using a foreign language in the discussion related to
the problem-solving of increasing financial control
Fill in official documents (invoice, letter of credit) in a foreign
Inform in a foreign language on general professional topics (management
functions, delegation of authority, controls, economic areas, organization,
Use a foreign language in situations of direct professional communication
(business talks, discussing conditions of shipment, delivery, price, payment
Note: Assessment based on a five-point
scale: 1 point is the minimum value; 5 points is maximum; * means the
difference in indicators is statistically significant
So, to sum it up, participants of our pilot
project considered the offered educational program efficient, useful and beneficial.
Implementing Web-related technologies into educational process makes it more
social and collaborative as well as interesting and exciting. The information
is original and up-to-date. All of these contribute greatly to the rise of
motivation and desire to continue learning English.
Eventually, the most important advantage
of eLearning is that it may be adapted to the individual student needs and
state of minds, and thus, become more effective and motivating in all eLearning
areas, including simple vocabulary trainers and even entire university
programs. Nowadays it is impossible to imagine educational process without
1. Clarke, A. (2004). A.
e-learning skills. Palgrave Macmillan, 258 p.
2. Kydryavtseva, E.
(2012). Online tandem as a form of foreign language learning. Proceedings of
the 7th International conference on modern information technologies and IT
education. pp. 15-24.
3. Lightner, S., Bober,
M., and Willi, C. (2007). Team-based activities to promote engaged learning.
College Teaching, 55(1), pp. 5-18.
4. Luskin, B. (2010).
Think "Exciting": E-Learning and the Big "E" Retrieved on
October 2, 2013 from
5. Malinina, I. (2012). Blended learning of the English language: combining online and face-to-face
teaching. Proceedings of London International conference on education
(LICE-2012). Infonomics Society: London, UK, pp. 247-251.
6. Moore, M., Anderson, W. (2012). Handbook of distant education. Psychology Press.
7. Parks, E. (2011).
What's the "e" in e-Learning? Retrieved on October 2, 2013 from
8. Richardson, W. (2006). Blogs, wikis, podcasts and other
powerful Web tools for classroom. Thousands Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
9. Rosenberg, M. J.
(2001). E-learning: Strategies for delivering knowledge in the digital age. New York: McGraw-Hill.
10. Peachey, N. (2012a).
An overview of blended learning.
11. Peachey, N. (2012b).
Web 2.0 tools for teachers.
12. Snyder, I. (Ed.) (1998). Page to Screen: Taking literacy into the electronic era. New York:
13. Swan, K., Bowman, J.
E., Jr., & Holmes, A. (2003). Virtual teacher education: Affordances and
constraints of teaching teachers online. Retrieved on April 1, 2003 from
14. Wankel, C. (2010),
Cutting Edge Social media Approaches to Business Education, Information Age
publishing, 2010, pp.1-5.
15. Watwood, B., Nugent,
J., Deihl, W. (2009). Building from content to community: Rethinking the
transition to online teaching and training. White paper. VCU Center for teaching excellence.
16. Yunus, M. M.,
Nordin, N., Salehi, H., Embi, M. A. & Salehi, Z. (2013). the Use of
Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in Teaching ESL Writing Skills,
English Language Teaching, 6(7), Retrieved on October 2, 2013, from http: // www. ccsenet. org/ journal/ index. php/ elt/ article/ view/27998
Table of contents: The Kazakh-American Free University Academic Journal №8 - 2016