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Adapting to the medium of delivery and collaboration features in a CMS: An analysis of learners’ perceptions in online writing assignments

Today, course management systems (CMSs) are the preferred form of delivery of content in higher education, especially in developed countries. However, the implementation and use of CMSs convey advantages, challenges, and limitations. Course objectives and organization may be highly influenced by the features and affordances possible with the CMS used (Anderson, 2008). In this presentation we will describe an approach incorporated in online writing assignments in intermediate Spanish courses. With the integration of a new CMS, the courses needed to be re-designed to adapt to the new platform (Blackboard 9) and to allow for the incorporation of the available collaborative tools. In addition to the incorporation of collaborative tools, course writing objectives and assessments were revised. The approach aimed at facilitating collaboration and communication among students when engaged in peer-review writing activities. This presentation will describe (1) the creation of an online environment that considered learner’s affective needs by integrating writing activities designed with a low affective filter in mind (Krashen, 1982); (2) accessibility to online content to promote interactions between student-student, instructor-instructors, and student-instructor; (3) the integration of discussion forums as an opportunity for peer-review during the editing process; and (4) the integration of interactive grading rubrics across sections of the same course in the CMS to foster greater student awareness of the assessment methods.
The approach and integration in the CMS were evaluated by analyzing learners’ judgments and perceptions of method used and its effectiveness. The study followed a longitudinal approach that took place over the course of two years. 384 students enrolled in two sequential courses of Spanish 201 and 202 participated in the study. 3 surveys containing Liker-scale items and open-ended questions were administered in each course during the semester, 16 weeks: at the beginning, at week 7, and at the end of the semester. Participants’ responses to the surveys were compiled and analyzed quantitatively and qualitatively. Quantitative information derived from responses to Liker-scale items was used to establish general trends in regard to participants’ impressions about the approach followed in the online writing assignments, judgments about peer-review activities, and usefulness of collaboration. Answers to open-ended questions were compiled, and responses were analyzed for content to help explicate the general trends encountered in the quantitative data. Findings show that students’ perceptions about the approach used, effectiveness, and preferences for peer-review activities changed over time. Overall, students’ perceptions of the approach were positive. However, findings showed that the medium of delivery affected the perceptions that participants developed. Students reported an increase in awareness of their proficiency level as a result of the collaboration and interactions in the online writing assignments.


Cristina Pardo    
World Languages and Cultures
Iowa State University
United States

Cristina Pardo-Ballester is currently an Assistant Professor of Spanish as well as the Language Coordinator for the elementary and intermediate Spanish courses in the Department of World Languages and Cultures at Iowa State University. She received her PhD from the University of California, Davis in Hispanic Linguistics with a Designated Emphasis in Second Language Acquisition. Her research interests center on Computer-Assisted Language Learning, Second Language Acquisition, and Language Assessment. She has published and presented scholarly papers dealing with the development of hybrid and blended language courses, the development of online instructional materials (such as online readings with multimedia glosses, listening tasks based on web-based video and audio, and online writing tasks), the use of networks for teaching, student attitudes towards the use of CALL, and the integration of technology into the language curriculum. She has also edited 1 book: Design-based research in CALL (2013 published by CALICO). Her more recent publication is Pura Vida: A beginning Spanish textbook (Wiley 2014).

Adolfo Carrillo    
Modern and Classical Languages
Valdosta State University
United States

Adolfo Carrillo Cabello received his PhD in Applied Linguistics and Technology from Iowa State University. He has taught at Minnesota State University, Mankato, Gustavus Adolphus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota, and Iowa State Univeristy. He is currently Assistant Professor of Spanish in the Department of Modern and Classical Languages at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia. His research interests are intercultural communicative competence, cross-cultural communication, distance and online learning, language program assessment, and language learning materials.


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