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The LMS development for a blended EFL e-learning: open questions

Whereas Japanese students are often harassed for not being good at EFL listening/ speaking, but good at reading/writing instead, the recent surveys show this is not the case. In a Japanese university setting, therefore, making the students have a sufficient level of EFL reading ability is a formidable task.
This poster illustrates the general idea of an on-going project for the development of a new blended e-learning package specifically designed for the EFL reading instruction in Japanese universities.
The package consists of three major components: (1) learning materials for EAP (English for academic purposes) reading classes, (2) a robust e-learning system that operates on mobile devices and (3) a LMS (learning management system) that combines in-class (face-to-face) with out-of-class (CALL) modes.
Of these three components the authors would like to attract the attention of the audience to the LMS and start discussion on the role a new e-learning system plays in actual face-to-face classrooms. In the face-to-face teaching mode a teacher can browse particular words, phrases or sentences where his/her students have learning difficulty on a real-time basis on the tablet screen. In other words the teacher can decide where he/she should put the heaviest stress in reading instruction without overlooking students’ needs. In this sense our new e-learning system would successfully bridge the gap between the teacher and the students.
Grasping graphically particular parts in a given reading passage the students do need to be instructed, the teacher can then choose the ‘granularity’ of information the students are permitted to browse, e.g. the readability of the entire passage, word/phrase level, Japanese translation, etc. In other words the teacher is allowed to determine the level of teaching in accordance with the students’ capability, even if he/she uses the same teaching materials for different EFL classes. The teacher even can specify the reading speed if he/she wants the students to prepare for the reading section of international English tests such as TOEFL or TOEIC.
In addition to the management of the students’ learning status, such as learning date/time, log-in places, quiz score, etc, the LMS generates word (phrase) lists for individual learners. The list is tabulated for further vocabulary training. The table consists of words or phrases a learner ‘highlighted’ on the tablet screen during the reading process together with their corresponding word level indices and Japanese equivalents. What is also useful for the blended e-learning is that these word/phrase tables accompanied by additional information about learning records such as date, passage ID, reading ease score, type/token ratio and lexical density, may turn out to be a useful e-portfolio for individual students.
The authors do not want to get into discussion on the technical details of the e-learning system itself but look forward to having an opportunity to share some pedagogical issues concerning EFL reading instruction with people working on similar projects. The ultimate aim of the present project is to make EFL teachers and learners embrace the benefits of blending actual face-to-face classroom meetings with online CALL technologies.


Takeshi Okada    
Department of Language Education
Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University

Professor of corpus linguistics and English education

Yasunobu Sakamoto    
Department of Information Science
Tohoku Gakuin University

Associate Professor of information science

Kensuke Sugiura    
Department of Cultural Uses of Language
Graduate School of International Cultural Studies, Tohoku University

Professor ofDaF, CALL and e-Learning


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