Collaborative Language Learning for Professional Adults

Linda Mesh
2010 Electronic Journal of e-Learning   unpublished
Institutions of higher education realise the importance of the role of learning organisations in terms of providing personnel training and updating. Yet further consideration should be given to flexible and accessible means for meeting the growing request for continuous learning. Jason Hughes describes an organization's capability to learn how to learn as a fundamental change in the outlook towards learning, not only by providing training for short-term skill gaps, but by engaging in an ongoing
more » ... aging in an ongoing approach for the development of learning opportunities which encourage innovation and enable a more proactive outlook by organizations. Sustainable support for educational development using new technologies in education depends on having a basic roadmap that links current demands for developmental support to a plan for ways in which longer term needs will be recognized and met. The growing demand for continued learning of a second language is evident within the workplace where new technologies offer flexible solutions. In order to meet the special needs of professional adults the University of Siena Language Center (CLA) has developed a multiple-level series of blended English courses from beginner to intermediate levels for lifelong learners including the hospital staff of the Azienda Ospedaliera Universitaria Senese (AOUS), the employees of a local bank and university technical-administrative personnel. The pedagogical approach takes into consideration both the needs of adults who are working full-time and the aims of the curriculum, which are to develop the four linguistic abilities of reading, writing, listening and speaking up to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) Level B1. Taking into consideration a constructive use of teaching hours, classrooms and, above all, the limited time available to adult learners, a blended approach was chosen. This paper will present conclusions regarding the effectiveness of the blended approach for continuous learning of a second language (L2) by adult learners. Through a primarily qualitative analysis of formative and summative course evaluation data we illustrate that communicative language learning online in collaborative activities fosters improvement in second-language writing and reading comprehension skills, while face-to-face (f2f) lessons were found to be useful for the development of conversation and listening comprehension. This paper also demonstrates that online collaborative learning activities in English for specific purposes (ESP) can increase communicative ability, stimulate motivation and provide a flexible context for language learning which adults view as a definite advantage for structuring study time when and where it is most convenient.
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