Using WebCT to support Language Learning (18 Feb 2005)

Date: 18 February, 2005
Location: Coventry University, George Eliot Building, 6th floor, room GE614
Event type: Workshop


workshop attendees

Past event summary

This workshop illustrated how WebCT Campus Edition 4 can be used in a blended learning context to support language learning. A practice web was created for all participants to practice with before, during and after the workshop. For further inforamtion email:

From the technical point of view, participants practised the following WebCT features:

  • Use of the communication tools (discussion and module mail)
  • Content management (including uploading of Work and PowerPoint documents)
  • Student area/homepage design (including creation of web links)
  • Interface between WebCT and the Sanako interactive audio-lab

Issues relating to accessibility in keeping with DDAIV directives was also covered. Participants were also welcome to bring e-files to use for practice.

This event was organised by the University of Coventry and sponsored by the Subject Centre.

Programme for 18 February 2005
Time Session
10.00 - 10.15 Registration and coffee
10.15 - 10.30 Introduction to the workshop
10.30 - 11.15 Creating content in a variety of formats and uploading it into WebCT with DDAIV accessibility issues in mind
Kathy Courtney and Anne Dickinson, Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED)
11.15 - 12.15 WebCT and Wimba Communication Tools and their use for language learning
Marina Orsini-Jones (Languages) and Andy Syson (CHED)
12.15 - 12.45 Discussion and hands-on
12.45 - 13.30 Lunch
13.30 - 14.30 Using WebCT in conjunction with the Sanako audio-lingual laboratory
Billy Brick, English
14.30 - 15.15 Using the WebCT Student Area and Homepage design
Marina Orsini-Jones
15.15 - 15.45 Discussion and close

Event report:

by Marina Orsini-Jones

Twenty five participants from a variety of HE institutions attended this event (see list below) organised by Marina Orsini-Jones, Coventry University , in collaboration with the Subject Centre.

The day started with a talk by Anne Dickinson and Kathy Courtney of the Centre for Higher Education Development (CHED) at Coventry University, who explained how to create accessible materials for language teaching and showed participants how to:

  • mark-up foreign texts in word;
  • using styles' in word to make documents more accessible;
  • converting PowerPoint files into rich text format;
  • uploading files into contents in WebCT.

Anne demonstrated JAWS. JAWS for Windows is a piece of assistive software that reads information on the screen of the user using synthesised speech. JAWS provides many commands that help the blind students to use programs, edit documents, and read Web pages. JAWS also has a refreshable Braille display and can provide Braille output in addition to, or instead of, speech. highlighted the importance of marking up the foreign language sentences we upload onto WebCT contents through the Tools' and Language' menu of Word. Language markers do have an effect in Word, if spell checking and grammar checking is activated. When converted to HTML, appropriate language tags are created, enabling assistive technologies like JAWS to process the web page appropriately and with the correct accent. If this procedure is not followed, JAWS will read a French text with an English accent.

During the hands-on all participants practised downloading files, creating PowerPoint presentations, converting them into rich text format and then uploading them into a practice WebCT website. They also had a go at creating word files using Styles' and at marking up foreign text.

For further information of assistive technology and language learning, with particular reference to teaching languages to blind students refer to:

Orsini-Jones, M., Courtney, K. and Dickinson A. (forthcoming August 2005) Supporting language learning for a blind student and creating an inclusive curriculum for all: a case study from Coventry University. 'In Roaf, C. and Panchler, N. (eds.) Support for Learning , special languages issue.

In the second session Marina Orsini-Jones illustrated the ways in which she has maximised the use of communication tools for language learning purposes, encouraging students to use separate language-specific forums and creating dedicated group areas for them where they could discuss forthcoming presentations in Italian and also deliver them electronically to the tutor via WebCT.

Andy Syson then had a live session with Horizon Wimba, showing how the use of Wimba with WebCT can create talking discussion boards'. Students can submit spoken' messages to the tutor. Students can also edit what they have said. The discussion can be synchronous or asynchronous with Wimba and listening comprehensions can also be easily created and delivered within WebCT. Unfortunately there were technical problems and not all participants could try out the Horizon-Wimba live connection. It is possible to book Horizon-Wimba demonstrations via the website indicated above. LSE has made a successful use of the tool.

At the end of the communication session, participants engaged in a live chat in WebCT, but the laboratory that was being used had become a bit hot, participants were hungry, and the simultaneous chat resulted in a general request for lunch... so we moved to a cooler room for the hot buffet lunch that appeared to be greatly appreciated.

In the afternoon participants were introduced to the Sanako interactive laboratory by Billy Brick and Marina, who showed them how the tool can be used to add subtitles to films and other video clips. Marina illustrated how the same clip (an extract from The Aristocats by Walt Disney in this case) could be used for different subtitling activities and how it could also be used to highlight contractive translation issues. Billy showed how he had filmed foreign students doing EFL modules while they were talking about themselves in their own language, and then asked them to subtitle in English what they were saying. This innovative feature proved to be very popular with all students at Coventry University in 2004-5. Participants then practised subtitling the clip themselves and the feedback about this activity was very positive.

In the final session Marina illustrated how the homepage feature in WebCT Campus 4 can be used to encourage students to create homepages in the target language(s) studied. The advantage of using WebCT for this exercise is that all the pages come under the Student Area'/'Student Homepages' area and each student can study/access their peers' work within the module's website and that they are relatively easy to create and make active. Also, students appear to enjoy the activity and take some pride in carrying it out. Marina also showed how she uses the student area for translation project in which students analyse Italian at a high level in group hypertexts created with the help of Kathy Courtney from CHED, and then display their work in WebCT and present it to their peers in a micro-teaching session, as in figures 1 and 2 below:

Figure 1, WebCT screen shot


Figure 2, WebCT screen shot

In the discussion participants asked many questions in relation to Wimba and the interaction between WebCT and Sanako in terms of audio and video files. There was some disappointment that Sanako cannot be integrated with WebCT as much as Wimba can.

19 participants filled in the evaluation sheet. The feedback was quite positive (all entries between good and excellent). Participants commented favourably on the innovative applications of technology explored during the workshop. Most participants stated in the feedback that they had learnt something new and that they would try and use some of the innovative ideas/tools learned in their institutions.