Telecollaboration language learning has been going on for more than 10 years. However, experiments involving non European languages are not common (Belz, 2003). Projects involving Chinese language learning are very rare.
Based on the result of a pilot research on pedagogical designing of an eTandem Chinese-French writing course in the year 2009 (Wang et al., 2011), aChinese-French eTandem language course was conducted by the Chinese Unity of the University of Geneva, Switzerland and the French Department of Hubei University, China in the academic years of 2010-2011 and 2011-2012. The course included theme-based learning activities on Moodle as well as task-based oral communication via Skype. The participants were the second year students from both sides (49 in the academic year of 2010-2011, 81 in the academic year of 2011-2012). Teachers from both universities worked collaboratively to coordinate course planning that included deciding course hours, choosing themes, identifying classroom learning and online learning content, designing oral tasks for each theme as well as guiding students to provide peer-correction as native speakers and managing tandem partners. The purpose of this course is not only to develop linguistic competence, but also to improve intercultural competence. (the project description in French can be found here: the project description at http://elearning.unige.ch/projets/projetsUnige/2011/projet19.pdf ? )
The course is design-based, iterative and progressive, an approach that the course designers consider as essential as soon as practical findings are targeted. The course design has followed the three main phases proposed by Cobb et al. (1990) I “Preparing for a Design Experiment”, II “Conducting a Design Experiment”, and III “Conducting Retrospective Analysis”. Moreover, each design cycle consists of analysis, design or redesign, development, implementation and evaluation (ADDIE). Based on the analysis of the result of the pilot project in 2009 (supported by the Continuous Training Department of the University of Geneva), pre-course preparation, fixed course schedule, and tutoring were proposed in the designing for the large scale course in 2010, while the writing activity was eliminated for lacking of evaluation standard. Following that, the course in 2011 was credited in the University of Geneva based on the statistic analysis of the learning platform presence and students’ participation in online exercises, etc. The normalization of the course in Hubei University is under negotiation.
The course is closely related to the ongoing curriculum of both universities. The carefully chosen themes correspond to what the students from both universities have learnt or are learning. The registered students log in Moodle to do theme-based online listening and translation exercises and get precise oral communication instructions in the forum. There are generally there type of oral tasks : theme-based description or narration (vocabulary learning and practice, peer correction), discussion (communication skills and intercultural awareness), and forum feedback (students benefit from the feedback / resume written by their tandem in their mother language. ).
After each Skype communication, the students should fill in an auto-evaluation questionnaire. There is an oral test at the end of each semester. The course was evaluated by the University of Geneva in 2011 and 2012. Almost all students reported in the interviews of having benefited from this course, both linguistically and culturally. They enjoyed the learning procedure and were satisfied with the learning result.
The three-year eTandem course experience shows that formal eTandem language learning between two languages with big cultural differences like Chinese and French can be realized under careful design and coordination. (Wang et al. 2011). However, a lot of research questions as how to “normalize” the course (O’Dowd 2010), how to evaluate the oral exchange, how to train teachers etc.remain to be solved in the long run. The course designers,Mrs. Claudia Berger (Claudia.Berger@unige.ch) and Mrs. Jue Wang Szilas (Jue.WangSzilas@unige.ch) are ready to share more eTandem language course experience with whoever is interested in this domain.
- Belz, J. A.: “From the special issue editor”; Language learning & technology, 7,2 (2003), 2-5.
- Cobb, P., Confrey, J., diSessa, A., Lehrer, R., & Schauble, L.: “Design Experiments in Educational Research”; Educational Researcher, 32, 1, (2003), 9-13.
- O’Dowd, R.: “Online Foreign Language Interaction: Moving from the Periphery to the Core of Foreign Language Education?” Language Teaching, (2010), 1-13
- Wang, J., Berger, C. & Szilas, N.: “Pedagogical Design of a Chinese-French Writing Course” in Proceedings of the Red-Conference: Rethinking Education in the Knowledge Society (Ascona, Switzerland, 7-10 March 2011), Lugano (Switzerland): Università della Svizzera italiana [ISBN: 978-88-6101-010-9] (2011), 323-336