EUROCALL Conference 2015, Padua, Italy.
Pendragon Educational Publishers were invited to present HandsOnTurkish at the international EUROCALL conference in Padua, Italy.
Delegates from 37 countries attended this year’s conference, which was held from August 26 to 29, to present papers on “Computer Assisted Language Learning” (CALL).
The theme of this year’s conference was Critical Call. The aim was to “critically appraise the field of CALL, to unpack and examine some of the assumptions that may have become ingrained in our practice and reflect on the current state and the future of CALL, language pedagogy and research.”
Many of the talks were surprisingly uncritical and were merely presentations of research undertaken by the speakers delivering the presentation.
Of particular interest to the HandsOnTurkish team were the talks on MOOCs, MALL and digital badges.
For the uninitiated MALL stands for Mobile Assisted Language Learning.
Carl Taylor showing delegates the latest HandsOnTurkish smartphone app
The conference has recognized that there has been a significant shift from learning with computers to learning with handheld devices, namely smartphones. And this poses new challenges. Carl Taylor addressed some of these challenges in his own presentation, which will follow in a separate article.
MOOC is defined as a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC ) aimed at unlimited participation and providing open access via the web.
In the MOOCs talks there were some surprising revelations, which confirmed what many critics have been saying for some time.
MOOCs can generate massive initial interest. But the drop out rates are equally massive. The courses are often unregulated and not monitored. The providers of MOOCs frequently don’t have the staff who can be available to support students. MOOCs can also be criticized for offering education on the cheap, and potentially sub-standard education as well.
One of the core ideas of MOOCs is to provide content free but charge for the exam or certificate. One speaker reported that her university had offered a MOOC for which 50,000 users had enrolled. But only 650 paid to receive the Certificate of Completion. This represents about 1% of students taking the course, which raises the question just how viable is such a business model if you calculate staff time in developing and delivering the MOOC. A further worrying aspect is that a user could, theoretically, click through a MOOC course and then click on the button to receive the Certificate. In other words, the content is not only free but unimportant as the important thing, for which the user is prepared to pay, is the Certificate.
On the plus side, as one speaker mentioned, 50,000 now know about the university and its courses, so the MOOC has had an important marketing role. But are those users likely to attend the university and pay for a course? Possibly, but not.
Interestingly, one speaker reported that 25,000 users had enrolled for a 3 week 9 hour MOOC for Dutch as a Foreign Language, but statistics sowed that only 50% started. When asked what the other 50% had done, it seems they had done absolutely nothing. Even with a modest and manageable three week course the numbers of active participants fell dramatically after week one!
The solutions put forward were all highly sensible comments: create small classes, regulate the courses, monitor and support users, offer online discussions and guidance, charge for the course. But then, once implemented, have you still got a MOOC, or have you reverted back to an established supervised online eLearning course?
The topic digital badges was discussed by one speaker. The HandsOnTurkish team are pleased to learn that their decision to go down this route and develop digital badges for the Turkish course was the right one.
Carl Taylor presenting HansOnTurkish at Eurocall, discussing digital badges and eLearning
We now look forward to developing digital certificates that reflect genuine achievement. As we intend to monitor user activity, we are confident that our digital badges will certify real learning and not be the result of a click-through process.
As always with such conferences the most constructive and productive discussions took place in networking sessions over coffee and during the social events.
The conference offered an opportunity to enjoy the culinary delights and local wine from the region, and delegates were also able to explore the ancient city of Padua.
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