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Numer: 50503
Dział: Języki obce

Teaching English through E-learning

. Teaching through E-learning
In the language industry, traditional learning at a language school or in mini-groups remains very popular, and e-learning is treated as something optional, as an interesting addition that supports the process of acquiring language knowledge and skills. However, it is expected that this trend will be reversed in the future: it is stationary training that will become an addition to e-learning courses embedded on platforms or... disappear from the offer at all.There are several reasons for this:
Learning foreign languages online is simply enjoyable. It has to be admitted that technological tools for teaching foreign languages are increasingly intuitive and offer more and more opportunities. In addition, they are still being developed. Such e-learning components as, for example, scorm packages, activity or resource modules, videoconferencing, playing, quizzes, tests, films, interactive exercises, etc. contribute to increasing the effectiveness of teaching; they make the way content is communicated very engaging, motivating and visually attractive (https://www.e-learning.pl/).
An e-learning platform such as Moodle gives the creators of language courses really modern and innovative teaching methods (fast learning of words and phrases, films, animations, calligraphy exercises, recordings, recognition of words by hearing, dictation, tests, pronunciation recording).
E-learning platforms are available from anywhere in the world. This gives us a wider range of courses: we can properly enroll in any language, not only English, but also, for example, Japanese, Chinese, Swahili, Turkish. We can also find such combinations as: Greek in English or hausa in French.
An important - although mundane - reason is financial saving. The owners of language schools allocate the largest part of their budget to renting offices and lecture rooms. In running an online language school this problem ceases to exist. All courses are conducted online, which, in comparison with full-time courses, is not only a financial relief, but above all, it saves time and any learning pace. Just as in the case of full-time courses, we also have the opportunity to receive a certificate (issued on the basis of a test), which is a confirmation of our language skills.
Learning online is flexible and gives us many opportunities. We can choose: the foreign language we want to learn - not only English, but also niche languages, a general or specialised foreign language; or choose the level of proficiency; the learning mode (whether the classes are to be held as individual or group meetings); the hours of classes; the place where we will study (home, land).
There are many applications for learning foreign languages on mobile devices. There is a huge choice on the market and most of them are free to use. E-learning is an excellent solution for those who cannot participate in regular stationary classes (e.g. due to health, working late, taking care of small children). It is common for customers of foreign language schools to say that the high price of a course is equivalent to its quality. Such an assumption is often wrong, and it does not apply to online training at all. The fees for lessons on the Internet are much lower than those for full-time classes at school, and learning outcomes depend primarily on the student's approach and systematic work (https://www.e-learning.pl/).
These are just some of the reasons - and there are certainly many more - for the fact that learning foreign languages online (and not only!) is gaining a lot of supporters. And not only students, students or university authorities use e-learning platforms to learn foreign languages. Also, employees, managers and owners of companies (small and large) already see the advantages of online language learning.
The Moodle platform supports tools to help to evaluate students. The teacher can define a separate grade scale for each course and copy grades into a spreadsheet for further analysis. Noteworthy resources include the Quiz module (for creating different types of questions - multiple choice tests, short answers, etc.) and the Assignment module (for checking and grading the files sent by the student). Another interesting element allowing for the verification of knowledge is the Workshop module. It allows participants to mutually evaluate submitted works. It also deals with the coordination and appropriate distribution of the submitted grades.
Similarly to Moodle, the OLAT system supports online assessment tools and quizzes. The results can also be imported into a spreadsheet and, what is more, into the software enabling their statistical analysis - SPSS. ( Catheral, 2005, p. 2-10) Checking the students' knowledge is one of the elements of the course. The Assessment module is used to publish the assessments for completed activities and their comments. To verify the theoretical knowledge of the students we use Tests - that is questions based on the IMS Questions & Test Interoperability Specification format, created both on the platform and imported from other tools supporting this format. A variant of the Test is Self-assessment, which enables the user to check their knowledge on their own. Apart from these tools there are also other elements available, such as a survey or a task (a file with commands to be executed).
The Moodle platform supports a number of user account authentication mechanisms, such as standard verification by e-mail, LDAP, IMAP, POP3 and NNTP or external databases. These methods, and especially the latter, significantly expand the user management capabilities. A person with their own account can log in to the system. It is also possible to log in as a guest, i.e. an unregistered user who has limited access to the platform's resources. The system offers many different solutions concerning users' access to particular courses, e.g. it allows creating groups of students and managing them flexibly (even during the course). The administrator assigns users to the created course, and access to particular elements can be regulated with special passwords, and to the whole course with an access key.( Pałka, 2010, p. 1-2)
The OLAT platform also offers many authentication mechanisms, such as LDAP support. In addition, it maintains full integration with Shibboleth and the Central Authentication Service.
Users are "added" to courses by the administrator or their data is imported from an Excel spreadsheet or OpenOffice. The OLAT system allows for the creation of user groups and assigning them to courses, and also offers an extensive system of assigning rights. The basic idea is to diversify the roles that can be assigned to users, making them, for example, managers of groups or users. They can register on their own, giving only their e-mail address. Direct login to the system takes place by providing the user name and password. As in Moodle, you can create a guest account (Pałka, 2010, p. 1-2).
Communication takes place either between users or groups of users, in both asynchronous and synchronous mode. The most commonly used communication tools include chats and discussion forums. A forum is a part of the whole course or an element related to a specific part of it. Posts are created using the built-in WYSWIG editor. The author of the course can specify who has access to a given forum and who can speak on it. It is also possible to create private discussion forums.
Unlike forums - chat is a tool for real-time communication, created as a superior component of the course or in connection with a specific stage of the course. It is required that participants are logged in. The teacher can determine the availability of the chat for users. Chat participants can be divided based on their membership in different groups. Moodle also has a communication system - the Messages module, which sends text messages to all platform users. It is possible to search the list of users within and outside the course, create a contact list and block selected users. Unfortunately, the platform does not offer e-mail accounts, as it is assumed that the users have their own, independent of the system.
Another interesting tool of the Moodle platform, which enables cooperation between groups of participants, is the Wiki, a collection of network documents created jointly by students, and the Dictionary - a tool for building a common list of words and definitions. In addition, students can create their own network profiles with a short description and a photo. They help to make contact and contain messages that bring the student's teacher closer to him/her.

Cooperation on the OLAT platform is one of its key elements. It is based on an individual initiative or coordinated by the teacher. A distinction can be made between course communication (asynchronous cooperation between individual users, which is part of the didactic course) and group communication. Three types of groups are distinguished: educational groups (linked to the course), project groups (independent of the didactic process) and authorization groups.They offer the same tools for cooperation, both synchronous and asynchronous, which can be activated or not, depending on individual preferences (Pałka ,2010, p.1-2).
Each group has its own private forum. The forums can also be part of the course - the teacher can then determine their availability for individual users. A folder is used to exchange documents on which users work together. Thanks to the WebDAV specification, the folders can be installed on the user's desktop. A wiki is a tool both for working together while creating documents and for managing knowledge. Real-time communication is possible with Chat - available when the platform has Instant Messaging installed. It enables both individual and group discussions in chat rooms. The chat room can be assigned to a course or user group. What's more, the Instant Messaging is automatically synchronized with the project group.
Currently, the most popular educational content management system is Moodle. It is a very flexible, easy to use, safe and, above all, free platform designed for remote learning. It is widely used by schools, universities and companies. The first version of the platform was published in 2002. Currently, the project is being built by a wide range of people and financed by a network of institutions that want it to grow in strength. Since its installation on the server, Moodle has been equipped with features such as gradebook, calendar and modules allowing for quick knowledge checking and file transfer. You don't have to worry about anything, we've got it all on a tray. (Komputer Świat, 2020, p. 1-2)
In its thirteen years of existence, Moodle has undergone enormous changes. Since version 2.0 it has become faster and its structure has been changed to more transparent. The system began to support solutions such as e-portfolio, and began to actively work with external file repositories such as Flickr, Google Docs, Picasso and YouTube. Today, Moodle supports so-called badges, which are something like achievements known from the game world - or scouting skills. They can be awarded automatically after completing a certain activity in the course, which is an additional motivating element for users. Moodle also offers anti-plagiarism tools, different types of quiz questions and a lot of other useful improvements. The latest version of Moodle can be downloaded from the official project website.
The statistics are available on the Moodle project homepage, there are more than 50,000 registered platforms worldwide (let's note that registration is not obligatory), where you can take part in almost eight million courses. The information on the project website also shows that more users have registered for courses than the population of France. In Poland Moodle is also very popular. It is difficult to indicate a university in our country, which does not yet use this solution. Moodle is used by many schools, or simply by people involved in education.
The Moodle (Modular Object-Orien-ted Dynamic Learning Environment) e-learning platform is one of the most popular e-learning platforms. It is open-source software made available free of charge under the GNU GPL public license. In addition to Polish universities, the Moodle courses are offered by world-renowned universities such as the Open Univeristy of the United Kingdom, the University of York, Ohio State University, Athabasca University - Canada's Open University, the University of Iceland, Open Polytechnic of New Zeland. The popularity of the Moodle e-learning platform is connected with its numerous advantages, which include, in the first place, the fact that the platform is free. Using the platform does not require payment for installation, use and support.
The latter can be obtained from the documentation and forums on the main website http://moodle.org. Moodle is open-source software, which means that there is a possibility to develop further useful features.
An example of a function can be a mathematical formula editor prepared in CeL, which makes it possible to easily write texts containing mathematical symbols, Greek letters etc. Support systems, on the other hand, prove to be helpful as they allow contact with other developers and Moodle administrators around the world. Moodle users, i.e. authors, course leaders and participants, will appreciate that this platform is very friendly and easy to use.
A learner, if he or she can use a computer (which is common for modern students), is able to master the course without the need for instructions. It should take up to several hours on average to learn how to create a simple course, because working with Moodle software is very intuitive. Once you've laid down the basics, you can begin to broaden your skills. The following Moodle features are important from the point of view of course authors and lecturers, which include:
- Course authors' control over the availability of materials posted on the platform. The resources of the course are not available to all Internet users, and even to all account holders on the platform, which allows for better protection of the intellectual property of the lecturer. The data of both course authors and participants, their assessments and activity reports are also secure;
- Moodle also offers facilitation in terms of organizational and administrative issues related to teaching. As an example, the activity reports make it quick and easy to estimate the commitment of each participant;
- the platform can be compared to Lego blocks in a way, as different constructions can be built from the same, yet relatively simple, elements; these elements are so-called components and resources, e.g. HTML page, discussion forums, exercises. Depending on the goals of the course or the author's preferences, they can be selected and combined in the most suitable way.
Moreover, Moodle resources are flexible, which means that when creating courses, it is possible to set different options, e.g. the period of availability or the method of assessment. This contributes to increasing the range of possibilities offered by the platform; - the platform is based on a specific pedagogical goal called constructivism.
This model means that new meanings are built on existing knowledge in the process of social interaction. In practice, this means putting emphasis on discussion and student activity, which is particularly important in the academic-municipal education system. The last three factors indicate the ease of creating courses on the Moodle platform and the possibility of combining and at the same time coherence of several courses (Marković, 2008).
Like Moodle, the OLAT platform is equipped with an extensive tool for creating and managing e-learning courses. The system of courses is based on the IMS Learning Design concept - courses are characterized by modularity (any hierarchical structure not imposed from above) and flexibility, i.e. the ability to create their own didactic elements. To manage the courses are used elements, with assigned flexible attributes, which can be divided into four basic groups: first - related to the course content (elements enabling presentation of various educational content, e.g. folder, SCORM material); second - elements enabling cooperation (elements allowing for active participation in creating course content, e.g. forum); third - assessment (checking students' knowledge - tests, tasks); fourth - to provide information (elements supporting information exchange, e.g. contact form) ( Pałka, 2010, p. 2-3).
These elements can be used to build courses of any complexity or to modify them (e.g. define their visibility for particular user groups). Courses can be created by the author or downloaded from the platform resources. Additionally, each user has a private and public folder to which he can add files. It is possible to export and re-import educational resources (including courses) to another OLAT installation and share them with other users, which is not possible in Moodle.
OLAT uses modern technology and resource updates5. It is completely JAVA-based and can therefore be used on various operating systems, such as Windows, Linux or Solaris. Therefore, different database management systems (such as MySQL, Postgres, Oracle) can be used on the platform. OLAT system has been optimized for Mozilla Firefox, version 2.0 or later. It is based on JAVA servlet architecture (Java2 Enterprise Edition standard). Since the sixth version, it is possible to run clusters, allowing about one thousand users to log in at the same time. It is also worth noting such important elements as availability, expansion and adaptability of the platform. OLAT implements (and continuously improves) the common W3C policy with regard to accessibility. Elements of the main layout can be activated directly by means of shortcuts (main navigation, menu, content, tools). ( Pałka, 2010: 1-2)
The system can be expanded according to users' needs, without having to modify its basic elements. This makes it easier to update the platform and integrate it with new technological developments. It is possible to install, configure and administer the platform on your own, as well as to use a paid service related to its implementation (installation and configuration of components and applications).
OLAT is an internet platform supporting teaching institutions mainly in German-speaking countries, i.e. Switzerland, Germany and Austria. For several years it has also been gaining popularity in other countries, including Poland. OLAT is based on JAVA language. It has a modern architecture with built-in special translation tools, which can be used to create and modify existing translations and many advanced tools for resource and user management. The platform received the Open Source Award 2008 in the "Swissness" category at the Open Source software conference exhibition in Switzerland and was recognized by the jury members as the largest Swiss enterprise in the field of e-learning.

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