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Published May 12, 2013 | Multidisciplinary

"Repeat After Me" Moodle's Language Laboratory

The Moodle digital learning environment offers many modules to meet various academic needs. One of these modules, OWLL (OOHOO Web-based Language Lab), is intended for language labs.

From the past… to the present!

My memories of language labs go back a few years. Despite my young age, I have used good old audio cassettes not only for recording music, which I then listened to on a yellow Sony Walkman, but for educational purposes as well.

During my only English class in college, we had to record and then listen to our manhandling of the language of Shakespeare. Wearing a large headphone with attached microphone, each student responded to instructions given by the teacher. For a time, I thought I was alone in my bubble. But, during one of my flights of oratory, I was surprised to hear the voice of my teacher in my headphones, seemingly a voice from the heavens. I realized at that moment that not only could the console be used to communicate, but alas, to spy on us as well.

The digital revolution has replaced tape in favour of the disk and even the cloud. Regardless of the medium, the need remains for the student to hear themselves in order to acquire the skills to self-correct, and the teacher needs an alternative to face-to-face conversation with 150 students to assess and to provide effective feedback.

There is a lot of specialized software to perform this function; some is very expensive and its use limited to the physical space of the language laboratory. Fortunately, there are other simple solutions that can meet most needs. This is the case of the OWLL Moodle module (OOHOO Web-based Language Lab), developed at the Saint-Jean Campus of the University of Alberta, and tested for two years in a few colleges.

Free, but with strings attached

Although Moodle is a free software (or rather a shareware), which we can use, study, modify and distribute without restrictions, there are still costs. The OWLL Moodle module is fairly complex and needs to communicate with a Red5 media server, which allows live recording and playback of audio (and also video). The installation, hosting and maintenance of such a server are not without costs.

OWLL has two components :

1) The first part is a space that allows the teacher to collect student recordings from a master tape that simulates a dialogue or not as required. It is like collecting homework, except that the collected work is an online audio recording.

screenshot 1 OWLL

A screenshot of the first part of OWLL

2) The second part, which is related to the first, is used in class creating a virtual teacher console allowing the teacher to listen live to students at work, to start a private conversation with one of them or to speak to the class as needed.

ScreenshotOWLL

A screenshot of the second part of OWLL, the virtual teacher's console.
Here we see the members of the coordination team of DECclic playing the role of students.

Interesting choices… and more to come!

Primarily designed for learning a language, the tool could also be used in an English class pertinent to the student's field of study for the evaluation of oral expression. Next year, the DECclic Corporation will also offer another learning module named PoodLL language, which contains tools that integrate some interesting modules into Moodle, such as the submission of an audio recording as a response to a question in a test.

Without pretending to compete with more sophisticated products, the DECclic Corporation is proud to make such tools available to its members at no additional cost.

Could Moodle tools for language labs help you in your classes? Are they helping you there already? We want to hear about it!

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