Ana Bertolossi is a Learning Advisor at the Skills Centre where she also teaches Brazilian Portuguese at the Foreign Languages (FL). The FL offers non-credit bearing language courses to all students, staff, and members of the public. In this case study, she shares her experience of running the Centre's first hybrid language course in the Academic year 2022/23.
Introduction to Brazilian Portuguese is a 5-week course which has four entry points during the academic year. It was previously taught as a LOIL (live online interactive learning) attracting between 10 to 15 students each course. The main objective is to develop students’ intercultural awareness of Brazilian culture and equip them with basic user skills to communicate in Portuguese. This year, the course was offered as a pilot to test a hybrid model to teach languages and it attracted around 60 students in Semesters 1 and 2 who enrolled via the MySkills portal.
The pandemic also gave students the opportunity to learn languages in more flexible and accessible formats, for example via LOIL sessions and apps. Having had experienced this shift in learning practice, The FL team was keen to explore more flexible models of teaching in addition to its traditional 10-week in-person courses.
Data collected from the end of course surveys in the past two years, clearly indicated that students missed learning in the classroom, but some positive aspects of the online learning experience such as working in pairs in breakout rooms, taking part in Mentimeter quizzes, and having a structured Moodle space were highlighted as the best features of the online course.
Taking feedback on board, Ana decided to pilot a hybrid course trying to combine the best features of in-person and online lessons. This would offer students more learning flexibility and the opportunity to meet the teacher and their peers to practice language skills and group work.
Moodle was an essential tool for the delivery of this course which consisted of two in-person, on campus lessons and three asynchronous online lessons accessed via the course Moodle space. In the design stage, Ana followed the Bath Blend to support the hybrid nature of her course and applied the four principles of the CASE (Consistency, Accessibility, Scaffolding and Engagement) theme to create her weekly sessions in Moodle.
Content was created using Books, Pages and Labels. Plenty of opportunities for formative assessment and feedback were created for the students throughout this course using a mix of tools and formats. Where Moodle quizzes were used, these included text, audio and video question types which provided instant feedback. Minimum grades and number of attempts were set to make the assessment system robust.
A variety of H5P (open-source content collaboration framework integrated onto Moodle) activity types such as Audio Recorder, Dialogue Cards, Quiz Question Set, were used as stand-alone and embedded content into Moodle Books. This followed a consistent approach in all lessons and provided students with opportunities to enhance and self-assess their pronunciation skills and increase their cultural awareness. Creating content straight into Moodle helped to keep students inside the virtual learning environment without the dangers of sending students to third-party websites which could potently display adverts and deviate their focus from learning.
At a beginner level, it was very important that students learned how to say each letter, a combination of letters as well as accented letters in Portuguese. So, providing plenty of model opportunities for students to practice and assess their pronunciation skills during online lessons was essential. The Audio Recorder activity in H5P and the voice recording function on Moodle were simultaneously used for this purpose.
The attendance criteria had to be set differently for this course. Whilst a class register continued to be kept for in-person lessons, Activity completion on Moodle had to be set for the online lessons. Students who marked, completed and met the conditions of certain activities highlighted as ‘Essential work’ were eligible to claim ‘attendance badges’ for their online lessons.
At the end of the course evaluation, 61.1% of the students definitely agreed and 27.8% mostly agreed that the Moodle space was structured in an organised and logical way. Students also stated that the online element of this course provided a good mix of engaging activities to consolidate their learning
One student also said:
“I developed speaking skills to accurately repeat different vocabulary and sentences through pronunciation videos and audio exercises provided. Additionally, with the accompanying lessons on grammar, I developed critical thinking skills in conjunction with these developing speaking skills to make sure that I was properly working through my understanding and learning of specific pronunciations surrounding s's, r's, varying tildes and, of course, the ‘cedilha’ that I was used to pronouncing differently due to my background learning Spanish.”
To meet her aims and objectives, Ana followed the 5 phases of the ADDIE Model when planning her Moodle space. She dedicated the end of the Summer and the weeks preceding Semester 1 to analyse, design, develop, implement and evaluate the hybrid course. Despite the initial hard work, it saved her time in the long run as all the content created could be used in the next 4 courses in Semesters 1 and 2.
- In the end of course evaluation, 72.2% of students stated that the hybrid nature of this course made it easier for them to complete the course alongside their studies. This statement is backed up by the answers taken from the ‘reflections on employability skills’ feedback in lesson 4 where most students mentioned that this course offered a level of flexibility which allowed them to develop their time management skills.
- 83.3% of students definitely or mostly agreed that the online element of this course provided a good mix of engaging activities to consolidate their learning.
- 88.9% of students definitely or mostly agreed that the Moodle space was organised in a logical and structured way.
- The end of course evaluation, 50% of students stated that the balance between the online and two in-person lessons was not adequate as they found difficult to motivate themselves to complete the online lessons.
- Despite acknowledging the benefits of the hybrid format, 61% of students stated that they would have preferred this course to be delivered in-person only as opposed to a mix of online self-access and in-person lessons.
- In the open comments, some students stated they found the course content too much to complete in a period of five weeks. They said the hybrid is useful for being able to do the work in their own time, however it makes it really easy to leave it until the last minute, which could result in falling behind and giving it up.
This extra-curricular course was taught 3 times in the 2022/23 academic year. At the end of each course, Ana was able to evaluate and adapt the content and improve the attendance criteria for the online component.
The last cohort followed a much clearer path to access their Essential work than the first and second cohorts. Cohort 3 had to complete one Moodle quiz as a compulsory task, obtain a minimum grade of 50% in a maximum of three attempts. This change benefitted students as it was easier for them to locate and complete their Essential work as well as the teacher. In the Activity completion report, it became easier to identify which students had completed the activity.
Another feature adapted from the original Moodle space, was the removal of Chat. In the first course, a live Moodle Chat was set up for the first 15 minutes of the scheduled lesson. The aim was to provide a channel for students to come forward to any questions when working online. Despite being encouraged and instructed to use this, students never made use of this feature.
In each online lesson, students were given the opportunity to connect with each other by engaging in activities on Padlet. Padlet is a collaborative online board which students can take part anonymously and upload different file formats. The activities in Padlet were embedded in a Page in order to keep students in the learning environment. Padlet boards were embedded in Pages and were preferred over Moodle Boards because it offers variation formats whilst Boards is formatted as sections and columns only. Plus, the number of characters is limited to 250, while the number of characters in Padlet is unlimited.
Despite monitoring students’ interactions and encouraging active participation, a small number of students took part in these activities. Padlet is not a Bath platform and presents a few accessibility issues such as poor colour contrast and posts cannot be created or edited using keyboard only. So, before you adopt any tools, make sure your students can take part in the activity and follow these guidelines.
In the design stages of this course, Ana has learnt how to use H5P as there was a need to vary the assessment format from Moodle Quiz. She added H5P interactive content from the Content bank such Question set, to develop cultural awareness and test knowledge in isolation (i.e. after teaching a specific topic). To access data on progression, she used Moodle quiz as it provided a comprehensive breakdown of grades, attempts and timestamps which were informative when re-designing activities.
This Moodle space and its activities were shared during the FL Digital Development Day as best practice to showcase the Bath Blend Baseline and a practical session teaching TFs how to create H5P activities for their language courses. Ana received a Recognising Excellence Award for her contribution to enhancing the student experience by introducing creative solutions in her work on the Skills Centre’s first hybrid Foreign Language Course.
Unfortunately, due to insufficient numbers, the course did not run for the fourth time in Semester 2. If the course is offered in 2023/24, Ana is considering adapting the course format again and add an extra in-person lesson to the hybrid model. Ana believes this would support students to stay more motivated throughout the course and engage more actively and timely with the online activities.
Written by Ana Bertolossi, Learning Advisor, Skills Centre