The Implementation of EPOS, a Web-Based Learning-Platform for the ELC-ELP and other Validated ELP-Versions within a Tutorial Programme in Combination with Language Courses at the University of Bremen

Author(s): Bärbel Kühn, Astrid Buschmann-Göbels, Rüdiger Fehse
Institution/Organisation: Fremdsprachenzentrum der Hochschulen im Lande Bremen (FZHB) (DE)

1. DESCRIPTION OF THE SUCCESS CASE

1.1 Scope of the initiative


The Language Centre (FZHB) at the University of Bremen is the central service institution for language training as it offers language classes for students of the four public universities of Bremen, the University Bremen, the Universities of Applied Sciences of Bremen and Bremerhaven and the University of the Arts, Bremen. Furthermore, collaboration has been established with the University of Oldenburg, the (private) Jacobs University Bremen and the three great European Cultural Institutes Goethe Institut, Instituto Cervantes and Institut Francais.

With the combination of classes, autonomous language learning and the tutorial program we want to enhance language learning and language activities by establishing modern and successful forms of language learning on the campus- given that students are already knowing autonomous learning from other field of study.where students else where know since long what it means to learn autonomously. So we offer individual coaching and support the idea of peer- and project-based learning. By using EPOS, students have to reflect on their learning process, their success and mistakes. EPOS serves the cognitive and the affective learning fields and the tutorial program as such brings in a social constituent. EPOS is used as a tool for blended-learning in all the above-mentioned institutions; newly it was implemented within the tutorial program at the university. The first evaluations have shown that by the tutorial program autonomous learning has become more attractive and that peer- and project-based learning has a great fun factor for the students. As such - this is where it comes full circle - it is extremely motivating for autonomous learning.

The tutorial programme aims to provide students with transferable communicative skills relevant to mobility, employability and academic life in general and to provide a motivating learning environment dedicated to language learners living in a knowledge-based society.

Furthermore, with the implementation of the tutorial program as a pilot project in winter semester 2007/08, more students have the chance to learn another foreign language or develop their language skills. Although the participation is limited here as well, more students can be accepted than in regular classes.

The programme is running during the semester or in the semester break and ends with a presentation of the projects and an evaluation.

 

1.2 Range of languages learned


Students who register for the tutorial programme can study any language; the Self-Access Centre has material for. Over 150 language learning programmes on CD-ROM from over 40 languages are offered. Additionally, students can use a large amount of books and the TANDEM-service as well.


At the FZHB classes for the following 17 languages are offered: Arabic, Chinese, German, English, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Swedish, Spanish and Turkish.

In the tutorial program students can get 3 ECTS for a one-semester "participation" with a workload of 90 hours – that is the same as in blended learning classes, where they can get 3 ECTS for a 90-hour-class In order to get ECTS they can register for the program twice. All other registrations are ECTS-free. There is no fixed level to start from. Students can register from A0 up to C1.1/C1.2 level.


1.3 Learning outcomes


Once, students have registered for the tutorial program, they formulate their learning targets together with the tutor. In the first meeting between student and tutor a thorough advisory takes place. The learning targets together with the current level and the level, they strive for, are fixed in the learning agreement. Here it is possible to have intermediate levels from A1- C2.

 

By helping students to prepare their studies abroad due to developing certain communicative skills, increasing their intercultural awareness and competence, they are extremely motivated to study abroad. At the same time the number of incomings (students who come to study at Bremen University) is raising constantly. Studying abroad, they can register for another program: They agree to learn for a language certificate in the country they stay in or they can choose a proje ct, which has to have a strong connection to language- and/or intercultural reflection, do their studies, write a report and earn 3 ECTS by being back in Bremen.

 

1.4 Practical realisation


Students can obtain either 9 or up to 15 ECTS for a program passed. Depending on their starting level, students can choose and set up their learning targets, based on the "can do – statements" of the CEFR. The learning goals are noted down in EPOS as well as in the learning agreement. On the basis of their aims they should choose a topic for a project they have to work on together with a fellow student.


As far as Spanish, French and German is concerned, the FZHB has implemented collaboration with the Instituto Cervantes, Institut Francais and Goethe–Institut in Bremen. The end of a program is a kind of fair, where papers are held and posters are done, teachers from these institutes as well as from the FZHB came to have a look at the presentations, do an evaluation and give a formal feedback to the students.

Tutoring first of all is the task of our skilled students. But in case it is necessary the coordinator of the tutors will be there to meet the tutees for advisory hours. And she or he meets the tutors every week who have then to report the state of the learning processes with their tutees. So the coordinator is coach and supervisor for them AND for the learning students.

2. BACKGROUND TO THE INITIATIVE

2.1 Context

 

The FZHB was established to enhance language learning in the Bremen-Bremerhaven- region. Thus we soon started to look for cooperation. The Round Table of Languages Bremen (Runder Tisch Sprachen in Bremen), a cooperation of the University of Bremen and some schools is a kind of learning network with the aim to manifest the idea of lifelong learning within a regional structural change in Bremen. Here,  EPOS was created as an the instrument of long life learning, to bridge the gaps between school and higher education, schools and further education and schools and companies.

As an instrument of language policy we are working closely together by providing teacher trainings, public discussions and workshops.

From the beginning onwards, the federal state of Bremen and the universities has asked the FZHB to foster CALL - and by that the FZHB was to consider thoroughly the advantages and disadvantages of CALL for autonomous language learning.

We have a networking Self-Access Centers atwith seven placescomputer workstations at the four member universities plus one at the cooperating Jacobs University. They altogether have 270----computer-workplaces plus 60 in class rooms for establishing blended.learning. workstations, which. They altogether  are running by two technicians who are educated in advisory for students and teachers as well.

The head of the Self-Access Centre is a skilled media educator pedagogue and he is supported by a skilled language expert.

We hoped and now see that the combination of classes, advised autonomous language learning, TANDEM-Learning and the tutorial program  is successful and leads to a higher percentage of students going abroadout (outgoings) as well as students coming to study at Bremen University (incomings).

New since winter-semester 2008/09 at the university within the common program of general studies: To enhance plurilingualism and encourage students to learn autonomously we combine language classes, autonomous language learning (at Bremen or abroad), the tutorial program and a tutor-education-program in a  modulated system, which enables students to gain 9 ECTS(teacher education) or 15 ECTS (enhance European Student Mobility, no students of language science and no teacher  education). The program is free of charge when combined with  a semester abroad (as well for incoming Erasmus-Students).

2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

 

The tutorial program is designed to

 

3. SUCCESS INDICATORS

In the first 6 months from the start of the tutorial program in October 2007 up to March 2008 (pilot phase) 1800 students have booked a place in the Self-Access Centre to study autonomously and 220 students have registered for the tutorial program for the following languages (ranking from the most frequented to the less frequented ones): English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, Norwegian, Russian, Swedish and Turkish, levels ranging from A0 up to C1, with a success rate of nearly 90%.


A network of scholars and pedagogues not only from the University of Bremen but also from cultural institutes in Bremen, schools as well as scholars from other German universities and from neighbouring countries has been established. Schools are interested in tutorial advisory service and language learning centres from abroad are interested in EPOS. The latest inquiries are from Kent (UK) and Keio University (Yokohama, Japan).

4. SUCCESS FACTORS

The evaluation which took place after the end of each run of the tutorial program (during the semester and in semester break) has shown that 82% would recommend the programme; 85% are satisfied with their tutors. The quality of the material that was either available in the self -access centre or recommended by the tutors and professional language advisors was seen as rather positive by 85% of the participants. Nearly 65% think that learning in peer-groups is quite supportive for language learning.


The possibility of individual learning at individual places and times is one great advantage of the program.


The tutorial program is part of the ERASMUS-program of the University of Bremen. By this, incoming students can use the program in combination with their German classes. As such the program is a great help for the teachers as well as the students, as it offers a special kind of project-based learning that cannot be offered in the regular classes.


The tutorial programme is financed with some of the money, the University of Bremen gets by tuition fees. The fact that the tutorial program is free of charge is another success factor, because it doesn't imply an inferior quality in contrast to regular classes. The qualifications and motivation of the responsible FZHB staff as well as of the teachers of the cultural institutes and our tutors is another crucial factor.

5. LESSONS TO BE LEARNED

5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

 

The experience we have made so far with the tutorial program has shown that we have bridged a gap  and met a need of the students: autonomous language learning is becoming attractive! A consequence of the great reception of the program could be, for example, an extension of the self-access centre. But the tutorial program does a lot more besides: it has established a network of teachers and language experts of diverse fields (university, cultural institutes, schools, …) - a community of discourse  talking about language and language learning in any kind of mutual exchange and assistance.

5.2 Broader implications

 

The tutorial program and above all EPOS has proved its relevance for other European and non-European universities (see § 3 and § 4). EPOS is and can be used for autonomous language learning in classes as well as in teacher trainings etc.


We offer a special tutor training which has the form of the workshop and which helps our tutors to become skilled advisors in the tutorial program and later on at school, because most of our tutors are future teachers. Furthermore the new study guidelines also have a module which offer credits for tutors.