UDC 37

THE USE OF MODERN INFORMATION TECHNOLOGIES IN DISTANCE LEARNING AND PERFORMANCE ASSESSMENT OF STUDENTS STUDYING BUSINESS ENGLISH AT UNIVERSITY

Zvereva Lidia Ivanovna
Peoples' Friendship University of Russia

Abstract
The article is devoted to the application of information and communication technologies in the learning process. ITCs help students to acquire, develop and improve the knowledge of English in more familiar and effective way as they are digitally literate and belong to digital natives. This article is aimed at demonstrating the significance of a new teaching model which implies the widespread use of digital technologies in various forms: online tests, educational software and learning platforms, electronic resources, and the Internet. We emphasized the relevance of integrating innovative teaching strategies into educational process. In addition, we researched the role of ICTs in students’ performance assessment to evaluate their language acquisition as the former provide vast opportunities to remote testing.

Keywords: digital literacy, distance learning, information and communication technologies, ITCs, online education, online testing, personality-oriented approach, social constructivism, students’ performance assessment


Category: Pedagogics

Article reference:
Zvereva L.I. The Use of Modern Information Technologies in Distance Learning and Performance Assessment of Students Studying Business English at University // Humanities scientific researches. 2020. № 12 [Electronic journal]. URL: https://human.snauka.ru/en/2020/12/36457

View this article in Russian

Введение

В эпоху цифровых технологий интеграция информационных и коммуникационных технологий в образовательный процесс и практику тестирования становится особенно актуальной. Следует отметить, что специалисты по стратегическим проблемам образования называют эту форму обучения образовательной системой 21 века. Она позволяет строить индивидуальные маршруты для студентов, изучающих деловой английский, и предполагает тщательное и детальное планирование деятельности каждого отдельного студента. Как мы видим, Интернет стал основным инструментом обучения.

Во-первых, и учителя, и ученики используют Интернет в качестве поисковой системы для подготовки к урокам, что помогает сэкономить время в процессе обучения и позволяет получить доступ к большему количеству ресурсов. Самый яркий пример – электронная библиотека, которую можно рассматривать как источник учебных, дидактических и учебно-методических материалов для преподавателя или студента.

Во-вторых, Интернет, несомненно, расширяет способы общения преподавателей, учащихся и руководства школы. Онлайн или офлайн общение на тематических форумах и в чатах способствует формированию и развитию письменных навыков, являющихся элементом коммуникативной компетенции. Таким образом, дистанционное обучение становится популярным способом получения не только обычных знаний, но и степени бакалавра или магистра.

Наконец, любая форма оценивания может проводиться онлайн на сайтах образовательных Web-сайтов, а также на сайтах образовательных учреждений. Очевидно, что быстрое распространение Интернета привело к появлению множества образовательных компьютерных программ, которые определяют пути развития современного образования.

Introduction

In the digital age, the integration of information and communication technologies into educational process and testing practices is becoming particularly relevant. It should be mentioned that experts in strategic problems of education name this form of learning as the educational system of the 21st century. It allows to construct individual routes for students studying business English and involves careful and detailed planning of each individual student’s activity. As we can see, the Internet has become a major learning tool.

Firstly, both teachers and learners use the Internet as a search engine to get ready for classes, which helps save up time during the learning process and allows you to get an access to more resources. The brightest example is an electronic library that can be considered as a source of educational, didactic and educational-methodical materials to be used by an educator or a student.

Secondly, the Internet is sure to expand the ways educators, students and school management communicate between each other. On-line or off-line communication on thematic forums and chats fosters the formation and development of writing skills being an element of communicative competence. Thus, distance learning is becoming a popular way of getting not only knowledge but also Bachelor’s or Master’s degree.

Finally, any form of assessment can be carried out online on the websites of educational Web-sites, as well as on sites of educational institutions. Obviously, the rapid expansion of the Internet has led to the appearance of numerous educational computer programs that determines the way modern education is developing.

DISCUSSION

Nowadays educators are facing the problem of designing a new learning model to find the ways to raise the cognitive interest of students in learning and increase their positive motivation, therefore the integration of various forms of information and communication technologies (ICT) into the educational process is highly relevant to modern learning process.

The use of ICTs in the sphere of education should be aimed at:

- supporting and developing systems thinking skills of a student;

- raising the cognitive activity of students to acquire and produce new information and skills;

- implementing the principle of individualization of the educational process while maintaining its integrity.

According to studies conducted by German scientists, a person remembers only 10% of what he reads, 20% of what he hears, 30% of what he sees; however, by participating in group discussions a person memorizes 50-70% of information, compared to 80% in case of personal research and formulation of problems. In contrast, when students are directly involved into learning activities, stating a problem, decision-making process, articulating conclusions and forecasts, they memorize 90% of information [6].

Given students’ digital literacy and their interest in information technologies, the latter can be used as an educational tool to enhance students’ motivation in learning, since the application of ICTs allows educators to resort to various learning strategies, to intensify the cognitive activity of students, to implement personality-oriented approach, to improve students’ evaluation and to engage students more in the learning process.

The application of ICTs in the education process is considered to be a significant advantage for the learning process since the focus is shifted from the verbal methods of teaching to students’ creative activity.

Preliminary analysis shows that modern information technologies tend to:

- boost the process of learning business English 1.5 or 2 faster;

- contribute to students’ involvement into the learning process as a result providing positive motivation for learning;

- improve digesting of information twice faster;

- individualize the learning process and shape the skills of independent study;

- contribute to the actualization of cognitive processes and the development of research activities;

- develop digital competence;

- provide an objective assessment.

Thus, by integrating ICTs in the learning process, university students are given an opportunity to systematize their knowledge and skills, practice them, and also realize their intellectual potential and abilities [9].

One might highlight the positive aspects of distance learning:

- Self-paced learning: students get an access to learning materials and study them according to their own schedule.

- Flexibility and accessibility: students decide for themselves when, where and how to learn.

- Instant messaging: students communicate with educators on a regular basis and get feedback which enables effective learning.

- Creativity: learning tasks allow students to express themselves through various digital tools.

- Cost-efficiency: distance learning costs less than traditional learning at universities.

- Efficiency: an individual approach implies effective learning outcomes.

Therefore, integrating ICTs in the learning process implies students’ full-time access to educational resources, teachers’ assistance, and mastering skills according to study programme [14].

Nowadays ICTs are being integrated into various learning environments: from primary schools to higher education institutions and professional programmes. In other words, distance learning is aimed at broad age range of students. It has to be emphasized that students and teachers are equal participants in the learning process and it is performed through active students’ interaction. In this respect, it seems relevant to develop methods for handling students’ independent study while learning business English through digital means.

Integration of ICT into the learning process suggests as follows:

- designing methodological systems aimed at developing the intellectual potential of students, developing essential skills to acquire knowledge independently, carrying out learning studies and experimental research, as well as building independent learning skills.

- developing and using computer-based technologies to monitor and evaluate students’ understanding of a topic.

Distance learning is by definition an educational technology. Strictly speaking, the term ‘distance learning’ implies a set of procedures, methods and forms of organization of the educational process based on ICTs. One should distinguish distance teaching which is the activity of a teacher from distance learning that means student’s activity carried out within the learning process.

One could identify the following benefits of distance learning:

- low-cost and more affordable education;

- wider range of students;

- more comfortable learning environment due to the application of ICTs;

- the improvement of quality of education;

- establishing a unified learning environment.

It should be mentioned that the learning process is carried out through educational technologies being combined with teaching methods, digital educational tools and e-resources.

Primary goals of distance learning include as follows:

- An in-depth study of a topic or a unit of the course;

- building up a solid knowledge, developing abilities, skills of students in academic subjects.

One could highlight certain advantages of distance learning, namely: its higher efficiency and shorter learning period [15].

The goal of distance learning is to increase the effectiveness of the learning process, enhance the motivation and students’ independent study, integrate them into the professional and social environment while studying.

It is important to point out the stages of designing distance learning technology:

1. Stating learning objectives.

2. Developing the content of a course (it includes skills, abilities, knowledge to be acquired).

3. Creating assessment tests to evaluate students’ progress and achievements.

4. Implementing personality-oriented approach to students before the beginning of the course.

5. Time allocation.

6. Creating and adapting learning materials.

7. Creating self-assessment tests and educational assessments.

8. Setting up an independent study of students to facilitate them to solve their problems.

The application of ICTs contributes to the formation of an absolutely new learning environment (i.e. the Internet environment) which provides vast opportunities for teachers and aims at students’ self-realization, self-actualization and self-education. The Internet environment represents a powerful tool for individual, group and collective communication and learning.

Distance learning technologies seem to be highly beneficial compared to traditional learning. They are:

- flexible in that students have opportunities to study at a convenient time in a suitable place and at their own pace;

- convenient in that students could combine various courses at the same time;

- accessible in that both educators and students have an access to e-resources and materials offered by libraries and sites;

- effective in that ICTs allow to provide the educational process in an efficient way in terms of presenting learning information and students’ easy access to it;

- modern in that they are the outcomes of the latest technological advancements;

- guarantees of social equality i.e. equal educational opportunities for everyone;

- international, i.e. they are available to every student worldwide.

One should pay particular attention to students’ performance assessment using ICT. The notion of online testing is to create clear and well-developed questionnaires to evaluate students’ progress through the application of digital tools available.

One could point out the advantages of online testing: first, it is possible to reach all students no matter where they are located, second, educators could get instant results, third, test data are available only to a teacher, fourth, course learning outcomes might assist an educator to estimate students’ progress, fifth, the familiar learning environment could also contribute to students’ achievements as it eliminates the feelings of anxiety, frustration and nervousness.

All of the above-mentioned statements prove the thesis that online testing is the most effective, fast and flexible way to test students’ knowledge of the subject within e-education framework.

It raises the question if online assessment of business English acquisition has an advantage over other types of learning evaluation models.

The answer is positive since it allows to test groups of students no matter what the class size is and receive test results immediately. Computer-based testing allows an educator to give a comprehensive assessment of what students have learned, to perform this assessment on a regular basis, and to adjust teaching strategies and learning material to students’ needs. In addition, online testing and the analysis of data received could help to identify what students have not understood and improve students’ learning and performance, to develop students’ cognitive skills and motivate them to study a foreign language.

It should be mentioned that the assessment of current students’ performance makes it possible for an educator to estimate skills students have acquired and their ability to choose certain phrases and expressions that are suitable to use in a given context [17].

To be efficient in the field of second language studies, online testing is supposed to meet some requirements. They are related to validity, reliability and practicality. The validity of tests largely depends on their correspondence to learning goals and whether results meet goals or not.

Computer-based testing is of great importance in terms of the development of the assessment methodology. Being the main method of control, its integration into the learning process helps gradually shift from subjective assessment to objective evaluation of students’ performance. It should be emphasized that this pedagogical innovation should be based on the scientific basis and focus on both pedagogical experiments and scientific research. However, online testing should not replace traditional methods of pedagogical control but is to supplement them.

In conclusion, one should point out that distance learning implies learning online with students performing tasks, taking tests, finding information on the Internet which provides higher motivation and interest in the subject. It is an innovative learning model which involves interactions between an educator and students separated by a physical distance. It contains all the components of the learning process (learning goals, content, methods, organizational forms, educator’s supervision) and is performed through the use of digital technologies.

Thus, students are able to study independently, analyze information and complete learning tasks via the application of ICT, which contributes to the formation of key competencies, the development of students’ analytical skills and reflective thinking, and the realization of their creative potential. With ICTs being introduced into the learning process, an educator is capable of reflecting on their activity and evaluate the correspondence of the results obtained to learning goals and learning strategies. Large individualization of learning activities in which students themselves determine the content of the subject of study, and the teacher implements the principles of personality-oriented learning, transforming the educational process according to the challenges of our time. In addition, personality-oriented approach realization combined with the application of ICTs in the learning process meets the demands of modern times and is in line with current education development.

 

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