Virtual School Meanderings

March 26, 2013

SITE 2013 – Online Distant English Language Hybrid-Course for a Rural Chilean School: Potential and Barriers Identified

site-conf-logo-2013The fifth session that I am blogging from the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education (SITE) International Conference is:

Online Distant English Language Hybrid-Course for a Rural Chilean School: Potential and Barriers Identified

Paola Perez, Texas A&M University, United States, Texas A&M University, United States

A joint effort between a rural school in Chile and the Educational Technology program at Texas A&M University was conducted in 2011 in order to implement an online English language module in Moodle. This implementation focused in listening and speaking skills. The module was oriented to 11-year-old children whose first language was Spanish. The team in USA implemented a need of assessment; the instructor in the Chilean school provided the content to be taught. Tasks were defined and assigned to each participant. The team in USA implemented the activities in Moodle and the Instructor in Chile practiced them with the students. Based on the students’ responses the module was effective to support the practice of listening and speaking skills in a course management system as Moodle. Barriers discovered in this project were associated to the school internal organization and administration. The implementation of needs of assessment was not to be enough to detect the profile and needs of the instructors and members involved in the project.

I was about five minutes late getting to this session – after having to leave the roundtable early.  This was the first Virtual Schooling SIG session that was accepted under the “Best Practices” category – which was a new format to the conference this year (where presenters only had to submit a two paragraph proposal), so the SIG would be very interested in hearing any feedback about these sessions and how they compared to other sessions that had to submit a more traditional – and rigorous – proposal.

The session itself focused on the various tools that were used in an English language program in Chile.  The program itself was a single online module that was delivered to the students in Chile through Moodle, but was administered from Texas A&M University.  This module was the first time that the students had ever learned online, which meant that the Texas A&M folks had to provide a lot of initial work to simply get the students online and into the system.  The content of this first module focused on the topic of greetings.

The presenter spoke about the need to customize or tailor the course content to the students own cultural context – as opposed to content with an American context.  The modules made use of YouTube (and in particular the caption feature – so the video could be in English, with Spanish captions), as well as discussion forums.  Skype was used as a synchronous tool, in addition to the asynchronous materials in Moodle.

The assessment of the program was very good at capturing the learning aspects of the online module, but were lacking when it came to capturing the human aspects (e.g., student conflict, teacher discomfort with the technology).  On the teacher discomfort with the technology, the evaluation team suggested that more time with the teacher before the online module – particularly interaction with the teacher initiated by the evaluation team – would help address this issue.

As I was late in arriving, Kathryn Kennedy (the Co-Chair of the Virtual Schooling SIG) sent me these notes to include in the entry:

Identified problem that Chilean students do not have enough teachers to teach English; more complex in rural areas

Distance education seen as a way to support teachers in rural areas

Provide practice for students when learning English in rural areas

Designed and implemented online English course through LMS for rural school


Participants – Rural school, ed tech program at TAMU

Needs assessment and org charts to assign roles and tasks

Manihuales School Project

Students used nanogong (recording device) – listen to themselves and get better with speech.

Videos used as well where English was being spoken and there were closed captioning in Spanish.

Students were listening, recording, actively learning with technology.

Weak technology skills of students.

Needs assessment – need to address things that are missing in the first iteration

Next steps

What do teachers need?

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