Hampel, Regine and Hauck, Mirjam
Towards an effective use of audio conferencing in distance language courses.
Language Learning & Technology, 8(1) pp. 66–82.
In order to respond to learners' need for more flexible speaking opportunities and to overcome the geographical challenge of students spread over the United Kingdom and continental Western Europe, the Open University recently introduced Internet-based, real-time audio conferencing, thus making a groundbreaking move in the distance learning and teaching of languages. Since February 2002, online tutorials for language courses have been offered using Lyceum, an Internet-based audio-graphics conferencing tool developed in house. Our research is based on the first Open University course ever to deliver tutorials solely online, a level 2 German course, and this article considers some of the challenges of implementing online tuition. As a starting point, we present the pedagogical rationale underpinning the virtual learning and teaching environment. Then we examine the process of development and implementation of online tuition in terms of activity design, tutor training, and student support. A number of methodological tools such as logbooks, questionnaires, and observations were used to gather data. The findings of this paper highlight the complexity of the organisational as well as the pedagogical framework that contributes to the effective use of online tuition via audio conferencing systems in a distance education setting.
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