Skip to main content Skip to navigation

Languages @ Warwick: Creating an international language learning virtual environment

Teresa MacKinnon

Teresa MacKinnon

The Language Centre has spent the past 2 years developing an online portal for supporting blended language teaching using moodle and integrating a suite of international tools for delivery of voice over the internet. The process of language learning poses particular challenges in online environments including the need to cope with accented characters and foreign scripts, the importance of supporting spoken communication effectively, and the need for easy transference of the locus of control to encourage peer collaboration and creativity. Languages@Warwick is a flexible online learning space that is at the cutting edge of teaching and learning experiences for both tutors and students. It currently supports over 3,000 users. Courses have been created within the portal for both the Language Centre, French and Italian departments to address their specific needs.

During this phase of our project we are embedding the research focused approach to blended language teaching, formalising the Community of Practice approach (Wenger, 2006) and building upon the relationship with Language Departments. We are extending the deployment of the environment to increase opportunities for virtual exchanges for other languages, building on the success of a virtual exchange with Université Blaise Pascale in Clermont-Ferrand. After a successful pilot of 100 students, we also continue investigating alternative forms of assessment such as the e-portfolio system using mahara, supporting the recognition of digital literacies and reflection contributing to international communication skills. Furthermore we will continue to disseminate our experiences of computer-mediated communication for language teaching and learning, and our insights into international online language communities through events such as the recent HEA-funded seminar "Connecting at a distance: creating a collaborative language learning community."

Lead: Teresa MacKinnon, B.A. (hons), M.A.

With 30 years' experience in language teaching and education management I find the opportunities available to language teachers through technologies invigorating and challenging. If we are to harness the possibilities of web 2.0 we need to apply the principles of effective language teaching, connect with student needs and offer a sound pedagogy which embeds the technologies successfully.