Teaching business english in the new digital age
Innovative approach to teaching students of higher educational institutions business English. Use of opportunities of cloud technologies, computer training, elements of systems of an artificial intellect and computer games at instruction of pupils.
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TEACHING BUSINESS ENGLISH IN THE NEW DIGITAL AGE
Trends in technology utilization, economics and globalization show that complex Internet-based information communication technologies will continue to be available to everyone and will be used extensively in the world. Mobile information communication technologies, however, will become more important and the systems of artificial and ambient intelligence will be actively used for different purposes.
The development of technology and the emergence of wireless network clouds, will continue to change the ways of how people communicate, work and learn. In the scientific and technical report «Envisioning Digital Europe 2030» (Misuraca, G., 2012) it is argued that by 2030 educational system will be developed around the concept of ICT enabled, open, personalized digital «learning spaces» and mixed-reality learning environments or intelligent/smart education systems. While guidance and interaction will continue to be very important, the role of teachers and tutors will also be shaped by ICT to a large extend (Misuraca, G., 2012; Warschauer, M., 2011; Seidametova Z., et al., 2012; Garrison D. R., 2011).
The goal of this article is to analyze how the teaching of Business English to university students can be further optimized by using digital media and discovering what kinds of learning environment, curriculum and assessment are necessary to enable this teaching. This article will be divided into three parts. Each part will analyze a current trend in technology. The three trends are which: 1) advances in technological development and new educational paradigm, 2) advances in computer-based language instruction with web and mobile based learning being applied to Business English teaching and 3) artificial intelligence systems and gamification of Business English teaching.
Advances in technological development and new educational paradigm. Since the development of the personal computer, constant attempts have been made by business entities to make it available in every home. Since the computer's beginning in 1960 it has become commonplace and thus has become a powerful tool that can be used for foreign language training. Computer technology has been able to bring a foreign language environment to the classroom and at the same time has provided additional possibilities for teachers to present learning materials in the attractive media way and to create appropriate exercises for students to practice.
Ever since computer technology has been actively involved in foreign language teaching, its role has been shaped by technological development as well as changing the pedagogical approach to language teaching. Hence, the mainframe computer technology was considered to be an additional tool for language teaching within the behaviorist pedagogical theory, while the personal computer was considered to be a technology actively used within communicative theory. The use of multimedia network computer technology was associated with an integrative approach to language teaching and with the coming of the XXI century, the further technological development has resulted in Cloud computing technology, that has further changed the way people communicate and do business and thus has made it possible to radically transform the way people can now learn Business English (Misuraca, G., 2012; Warschauer, M., 2011; Seidametova Z., et al., 2012; Garrison D. R., 2011).
The term «The Cloud» means that software, platforms, infrastructure can be sold as a service and can be easily accessible everywhere, in any part of the world (Seidametova Z., et al., 2012). Presently big corporations such as Google, Microsoft and Amazon provide services in clouding computing. As it concerns education, they have developed a number of free applications which can increase the efficiency of information exchange, processing, storage, access and retrieval of data. These applications allow for the organization of more efficient interaction between students and teachers and help attain learning goals more quickly. The cloud technology has already been successfully implemented in the creation of the Microsoft Virtual Academy (MVA) (Seidametova Z., et al., 2012) and it could potentially be effectively implemented for teaching Business English to University students as well. The same Cloud technology and relevant services are presently being proposed by corporations such as Microsoft, IBM and Zoho. All of them can be used to develop virtual educational spaces which would combine a variety of media, texts, images, sounds and video. Developing these relevant learning management systems will prepare students to fully function for effective in the network society and to develop skills necessary for the 21st century.
This corresponds to the basic statements of the new learning paradigm «21st Century Skills» and the «Framework for 21st Century Learning» (Garrison D. R., 2011), developed in the United States through the cooperation of Government, Founding Organizations and individuals. In this framework, in addition to the defining content for core academic subjects, the authors have stressed the importance of mastering three types of skills, necessary to succeed in work and life in the XXI century. The skills to be integrated into teaching all subjects are: 1. learning and innovation skills;
2. information, media and technology skills; 3. life and career skills.
Advances in computer-based language instruction, web and mobile based learning as it applies to Business English teaching. According to this new educational paradigm, while teaching the content of Business English to University students, teachers should be able to create a learning environment and propose adequate learning tools which encourage the development of critical thinking, problem solving, communication and collaboration skills (Garrison D. R., 2011). Students should then be able to set goals and to guide themselves and others toward their accomplishment using the best tools and resources, including ICT tools and resources. This should encourage us to think about introducing some changes into the methodology of teaching Business English to university students such as shifting the emphasis to individual work and performance as a basis for evaluation of group/team performance.
In practice, it means on one hand, providing each student with tools allowing him/her to perform in the most efficient way, and on the other hand, providing a teacher with tools to organize and monitor this work in the most efficient way. To reach this goal all achievements in computer assisted language learning (instruction) should be taken into account and used to communicate, process and assess that information. Hence, below we will provide a general analysis of what Business English content can best be taught with computer-assisted technology.
According to the curriculum of the National technical university of Ukraine «Kyiv Polytechnic Institute»
- future economists should reach level B1 in Business English by the end of the first year of study, level B2
- by the end of the third year, level B2+-by the end of the fourth year and level C1-by the end of the fifth year of studying. To prepare the curriculum for students to achieve these levels, teachers are guided by the Common European Framework of Reference for languages (Verhelst, N., 2009). This framework provides a clear proficiency description for each level and provides the requirements for passing internationally recognized exams on Business English. The examinations referred to above are called BEC Preliminary for level B1, BEC Vantage for level B2 and BEC Higher for level C1. According to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (Verhelst, N., 2009), it takes ap-proximately 180 hours to lead students from level A2 to B1, and about 200 hours to lead from level B1 to level B2 and from level B2 to level C1. The above time frames basically correspond to the number of hours given by Kyiv Polytechnic Institute for studying Business English.
Yet to reach the goals within allocated time, there is a necessity to change the way of communicating the content to students and organizing the work for them. Currently the content is presented by a teacher during class time and then students work on the lesson at home and the results of this work are checked by a teacher at the next class. However, the assessment that is taking place is limited in time and could be characterized as being rather subjective. A teacher simply doesn't have enough time and or the tools to check everything with everybody. Thus the progress that is taking place depends mainly on the general learning capacity of the group, however, this can be changed through the active use of computer technology in the classroom of Business English. In the modern classroom in the digital age, a teacher should be involved only in those activities that computer software cannot deal with.
Hence, concerning teaching Business English to University students, computer technology can be actively used for teaching Business English Vocabulary and Grammar. According to the general practice in Ukraine, when students start the first year of a University program they already have level B1 in general English, thus they are able to deal efficiently in most situations that are likely to arise while travelling in an area where the English Language is spoken (Verhelst, N., 2009). Therefore, during the first year of University studies, students should learn to deal efficiently in most Business situations and to master special vocabulary for level B1 in Business English and learn grammar structures that are frequently used and necessary to become an efficient language user in typical Business situations.
In regards to teaching vocabulary, the University of Cambridge's, ESOL Examinations has developed a BEC Vocabulary list (Preliminary-Higher levels) to give teachers a guide to the vocabulary needed to prepare students for BEC examinations (O'Sullivan, 2006). These lists can be used as the basis for developing a special computer program to present Business English terms and also to help learn them and to assess the knowledge of students. To present vocabulary, the technique of flash cards could be used where for each word will be given a sound representation, definition and a translation into the native language. For learning these words some other techniques can also be used. For example, students can hear the word in English (or in native language) and can be asked to type it and learn spelling of this word in such a context. Then, after the work with flashcards and on spelling, students could do a computer based test on comprehension and play 2-3 comprehension computer-based games. These can be activities with low level game elements such as rewards, competition, collaboration or story/ narrative.
Teaching grammar is also an important part of preparing students for passing the BEC exam. Numerous researches have defined a number of grammar topics to be mastered for obtaining the levels from BEC (B1) to BEC (C1) (O'Sullivan, 2006). For B1 it's about 22 topics, for B2- it's about 17 grammar topics and for the level C1-it's about 8 topics. All grammar material can be easily presented to students using computer software as well as relevant training and assessment of learning outcomes. In the beginning of studying grammar, diagnostic testing has to be done and after that students should get access to grammar material that can be presented in the form of a video lectures, text and tables. The use of activities with low level game elements such as competitions/ collaboration rewards and story narrative is also appropriate at this level and can increase process motivation of students.
Computer-based assessment. The content for Business English teaching outlined above can be delivered to students using computer-based technology. Thus, it's a natural thing to suggest that the progress students make should also be assessed utilizing computer technology with results being available both to the student and to the teacher. We can also suggest that a comparative analysis of a group achievement done by computer software can be useful to make the learning process more efficient. According to the latest publications (Beatty & Ulasewicz 2006, Beetham and Sharpe, 2013,) e-assessment has the following advantages over paper based assessment: instant feedback to students and to a teacher, flexibility in respect to timing and location, high reliability, improved impartiality and quick data processing capabilities.
Thus, we can further suggest that the possibility to provide computer based content and assessment for Business English teaching together with the possibility of having access to information via Internet everywhere including mobile phone, can further lead to changing the approach to Business English teaching to students in Economics in particular, All of this should lead to the development of a special software or customizing of existing software for the creation of a special web-based Intelligent Business English learning Platform (IBELP).
This platform could be characterized as one of the management learning systems which can handle all aspects of the learning process, in particular: to deliver learning content, to provide a multi users environment, to register all students and give them the means to keep track on their progress and to their teacher the ability to monitor and administer their work, to manage skills and competence development and to make assessment of a student's progress in more transparent and objective way. According to current literature (Beatty & Ulasewicz 2006, Beetham and Sharpe, 2013,Garrison, D., 2011) software such as Intelligent Business English learning Platform can be developed with a use of a commercial software Blackboard, open source learning platform software Moodle and web- based application Edmodo.
Artificial intelligence systems and gamification of Business English teaching. Another element that can further improve the efficiency of Business English teaching to university students is the use of artificial intelligence to provide so-called smart learning. Using the term smart learning in this article doesn't only mean to enable the computer-based learning platform to process information about the learning process and to provide statistical information to a teacher, or if applicable, also to students, but to ensure students communication/interaction with the system to be presented in the form of a personal artificial digital assistant that will present students their program, will help to create supportive environment and guide their learning progress providing statistical or other kinds of feedback to them and also keep their procedural motivation at a high level. Of course, to develop such a personal assistant the latest education-relevant achievements in psychology concerning how people learn, that is grounded in cognitive theory, should be taken into account. In particular some basic principles of effective learning (Bandura, A., 1989; Anderson, J., 1989; Carver. & Scheier, 1998).
Another current tendency in education that can be successfully applied to Business English teaching is gamification of learning. Gamification is the use of gaming thinking and game mechanisms in a non-game context to engage users in solving problems and increase users' self-contributions (Van Looy J., 2010; Taylor T. L., 2006).
In the educational context, it is important to understand that a computer game is an art form of a digital society that communicates differently than static media (painting and sculpture) and dynamic media (cinema, radio etc.). It not only delivers a message, but also stimulates experience, providing the possibility of interactive relationship with the environment. As players, students can be offered an active role within a computer simulated real-world system and thus, a game and a computer simulation should be considered as a valuable didactic tool for teaching efficient verbal and non-verbal behavior in a business context.
Applied to Business English teaching to future economists we can suggest that computer game-based learning systems (computer simulations) have to be created for attaining desired cognitive, attitudinal/ or behavioral outcomes. In other words this could be useful to teach students to communicate and act efficiently (develop psychological readiness to act using language as a tool) to choose the right communicative strategies in typical sociocultural and business situations such as Business Meetings, Presentations, Negotiations, Networking and Telephoning, Advertising and Marketing. teaching educational computer training
Game-based learning gives us the possibility to experiment with different strategies, including communicative and business strategies, in a simplified version of reality, and an engaging and exiting environment (Van Looy J., 2010, Razak A., 2011). The decisions made by students will not change the system but will give them an idea how the system will respond. A good example of resources that can be used for this purpose are innovative resources including computer simulations on management developed by MIT Sloan faculty and students www.mitsloan.mit.edu . Also, as a sort of variation a computer game can be developed during the creative course of Business English. Less complicated computer games such as Tetris can be used as a basis for gamifica- tion in teaching vocabulary (exercises such as matching words and definitions, flash card games like typing the translation into English of a number of new terms within allocated time in the context of a group competition) and the same for teaching grammar and pronunciation.
One more possible way of gamification in Business English teaching is the possibility to construct the whole course as a serious computer game where students learn vocabulary, grammar and develop reading, writing, listening and speaking skills implicitly while starting and developing their own virtual company in their native country or abroad. It should be mentioned that the idea of teaching Business English implicitly through a serious game is not a new one, it was developed in Ukraine by Oleg Tarnopolsky and has been successfully realized in the textbook «Business Projects» (Tarnopolsky O., et al., 2006). However, it seems that if it is further developed and implemented on the basis of Smart/Intelligent Business English Platform it can lead to an increase in the efficiency of Business English teaching to future economists.
Conclusions. In the new digital age the development of information communication technologies that created new technological possibilities to further increase the efficiency of Business English teaching. These developments will benefit future economists, as well as the development of a new educational paradigm known as «Skills for the XXI century» where it is argued that the special attention should be given to the development of learning and innovation skills; information, media and technology skills, life and career skills.
In such conditions it has become possible to further transform Business English teaching. The analysis of the latest advances in computer assisted language learning, web-based educational applications, artificial intelligence, gamification of learning has shown that it has become possible to create a special learning management system, in the form of an Intelligent/ Smart Business English Learning Platform, and use it as a basis for Business English teaching as a part of a formal University curriculum in the new digital age.
The concept for this new approach is that teaching and assessment of Business English becomes a highly technological process and the role of teacher is, on one hand, to guide students and to effectively manage their platform-based learning and, on the other hand, to develop Business English skills that could only be developed as a result of direct communication and interaction with students. Future features of this new approach are the possibilities of communication between teacher and students which includes constructive feedback all due to the latest advances in artificial intelligence systems.
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Although research studies in education show that use of technology can considerably increase efficiency of foreign language learning, yet technology is still used as an additional not the main educational tool. In this paper we present a new concept for platform-based Business English teaching and assessment, based on the latest advances in computer assisted language learning, web-based educational applications, artificial intelligence, gamification of learning. The concept for this new approach is that teaching and assessment of Business English should become a highly technological process and the role of teacher is, on one hand, to guide students and to effectively manage their platform-based learning and, on the other hand, to develop Business English skills that could only be developed as a result of direct communication and interaction with students. This new learning management system can be referred to as Intelligent/ Smart Business English Learning Platform.
Key words: Business English; gamification of learning; information-communication technologies; intelligent Business English Platform; smart learning.
Рассматривается вопрос оптимизации обучения деловому английскому языку на современном этапе развития информационного общества. В частности, предлагается инновационный подход к обучению студентов высших учебных заведений деловому английскому языку, построенный на использовании возможностей облачных технологий, компьютерного обучения, элементов систем искусственного интеллекта и компьютерных игр, что позволяет автоматизировать процесс обучения студентов экономических специальностей деловому английскому языку и процесс оценивания достигнутых студентами результатов. Описаны возможности реализации данной системы обучения на базе специальной информационной платформы.
Ключевые слова: деловой английский язык; информационное общество; информационно-коммуникационные технологии; компьютерные игры; облачные технологии; смешанное обучение.
Розглядається питання концепція щодо оптимізації навчання ділової англійської мови на сучасному етапі розвитку інформаційного суспільства. Зокрема, пропонується інноваційний підхід до навчання студентів економічних спеціальностей вищих навчальних закладів України ділової англійської мови, побудований на використанні можливостей хмарних технологій, комп'ютерного навчання, елементів систем штучного інтелекту та комп'ютерних ігор, що дозволяє автоматизувати процес навчання та оцінювання досягнутих студентами результатів роботи.
Сучасні хмарні технології надають студентам можливість працювати з навчальною інформацією майже з будь-якого куточку планети, а викладачів забезпечують засобами ефективного керування такою роботою. Мультимедійні можливості сучасних комп'ютерів надають засоби ефективного представлення навчальної інформації та швидкої обробки даних. Розробка систем штучного інтелекту та індустрії навчальних комп'ютерних ігор може забезпечити можливість підвищення ефективності навчання ділової англійської мови за рахунок занурення студентів в ігрове середовище та взаємодію з ним.
Всі перераховані вище досягнення у галузі технологій створюють передумови для реалізації курсу ділової англійської мови для студентів економічних спеціальностей України на основі спеціальної навчальної платформи. Особливості навчання на основі даної платформи полягають у тому, що з одного боку, значний обсяг навчального матеріалу студенти засвоюють під час роботи з інформацією, яка розміщена на платформі, а з іншого, викладач отримує об'єктивну інформацію щодо результатів роботи студентів і роботу у навчальній аудиторії будує виходячи із досягнутих студентами результатів.
Ключові слова: ділова англійська мова; змішане навчання; інформаційне суспільство; інформаційно- комунікаційні технології; комп'ютерні ігри; хмарні технології.
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