A CONFERENCE ORGANISED BY UKOLN IN ASSOCIATION WITH
THE BRITISH LIBRARY, CNI, CAUSE AND JISC
9th and 10th February 1996 at the Ramada Hotel, Heathrow, UK
This account was drafted for this report by The Marc Fresko Consultancy. It is based on notes taken during the presentation and slides used.
Over 30 UK universities have joined together to produce and evaluate language learning courseware in five European languages. The project is nearing completion, with over 40 packages coming on stream in 1996. Issues such as consortium management, pedagogic design, formative evaluation procedures, training and dissemination all suggest lessons to be learned.
The focus of the Technology Enhanced Language Learning project (TELL) was the production of courseware for language learning. The project was initiated in 1992, and was funded by the Teaching and Learning Technology Programme (TLTP).
The objective was to produce courseware for French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese. All levels of learner were to be catered for, from beginner to final-year expert. The courseware was developed to run on current desktop systems; as the project started in 1993, the basic requirement is a PC with a 80386 processor or an equivalent Macintosh.
The project started in January 1993 and was formally completed in December 1995, with a total budget of £1.35 million. Being funded ultimately by top-slicing from the funding councils, it was undertaken in order to determine the value of computer-aided learning, and the place it should have, in this field.
The products to be delivered by the project were divided into three strands, namely:
For example, there is a translation environment, which provides help and hints etc; and sets of grammar exercises to get students to apply their new knowledge.
In the end, the project has produced 43 packages. These include seven CD-ROMs and 36 networkable packages. They are at present being commercialised, but are available to higher education institutions at cost.
TELL was performed by a consortium led from the University of Hull, which is also the location of the Computers in Teaching Initiative (CTI) Centre for Modern Languages. The project has thus benefited from CTI expertise in requirements, its knowledge of appropriate developers, and experience in project management. There were 15 development sites and 21 affiliate (evaluation) sites.
Project management was performed by the speaker (about 25% of time), a project manager (50%), and one other (100%), with secretarial support. It turned out that project management was difficult and demanding, for several reasons. The obvious reason is that tight production deadlines and academia do not necessarily sit well together. Less obvious perhaps is the complexity of managing and distributing funds to so many other institutions through the University of Hull. Finally, liaison with the funding councils was problematic in the early days of the project, specifically in the area of co-ordination between projects (for example over the issue of copyright).
Some of the motivators, or "adhesives", which helped the consortium work together effectively included payment deadlines, and the requirement to complete tasks in order to get paid; reputation, which impelled contributors to produce good quality work; and a degree of camaraderie with co-workers engaged in similar tasks.
Co-ordination of work and standardisation of approaches was of course important with a consortium as large as TELL. Within about six months of the start of work, we had agreed common guidelines (down to the level of fonts and colours). As an evaluation of the value of tools of this type is an important part of the project, we also agreed common evaluation procedures, including a particularly extensive exercise to monitor students using software packages.
We undertook and planned widespread dissemination activities, using common materials. This included workshops, site visits, and prospective user group meetings.
The project materials are now being promoted (copies of promotional literature are available on request), and the materials themselves will be available from April 1996 onwards. Some funding has been obtained for ongoing maintenance and development.
We are optimistic of success, but obviously it remains to be proven. Signs of success will be a sense of ownership of the products by the HE community; development of a "materials bank" consisting of additional compatible resources, and development of new packages. The amount of success will become apparent in a timescale of some two or three years.
On another level, we already know we can claim some successes. We successfully steered a consortium of over 30 universities to work together and to produce results. Teams have been formed, some of which are continuing to work together. Many skills have been acquired and enhanced during the course of the project. And we have created a seed bed into which the nuclei of new ideas can fruitfully be planted.
Further information is available by e-mail from firstname.lastname@example.org
British Library R&D Report 6250
© The British Library Board 1996
© Joint Information Systems Committee of the Higher Education Funding Bodies 1996
The opinions expressed in this report are those of the contributors and not necessarily those of the sponsoring organisations.
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This report of the conference was prepared by The Marc Fresko Consultancy Telephone +44 181 645 0080 E-mail email@example.com
Converted to HTML by Isobel Stark of UKOLN, July 1996