Blended Language Learning Using Moodle: Examining the Significance of Course Design

Israel, ID CLEaR2015-241;

The Division of Foreign Languages at Tel Aviv University offers courses for academic purposes in approximately fifteen languages. Like most English instructors in our Division, I have incorporated blended learning principles in my English courses for many years, using Moodle as the exclusive LMS (learning management system). In the past two years, I have used my extensive experience as an English teacher to develop and teach first and second year Turkish courses. During this process I have realized that course design is not to be taken for granted and that the layout of an advanced English course may not apply to other language courses. In our digital age where Kindle is more popular than printed literature and course websites have replaced traditional textbooks, the question arises as to what is the ideal layout for such a website. What parameters should be considered when designing a course for blended language learning and how should its contents be formatted? How can a well-designed course website help enhance reading and writing and engender meaningful communication in the target language? The aim of this paper is to illustrate an effective, user-friendly way of organizing materials (readings, videos, grammar and vocabulary lessons as well as forums and custom made on-line tests) for foreign language teaching using the Moodle platform. It is argued that the thematic course design which is commonly used for high intermediate/advanced English courses is less suitable for teaching foreign languages where students have little or no prior knowledge of the language. A model will be proposed for blended language learning in which custom made teaching materials are presented in a monthly chronological layout supplemented by certain thematic units. The audience will receive a detailed handout summarizing the characteristics of different course layouts and the benefits of the one presented in this paper. The guidelines given here will inspire language teachers to design an aesthetically appealing, uniquely tailored course website where educational materials will be easy to locate, so the students will be happy to explore its contents. Ideally, this website will be both engaging and enriching and will cater to the specific needs of their classroom populations.

Keywords: Moodle, language teaching, blended learning, course design