Let’s start with the first question that comes to my mind while thinking about large classes. In my context, a class of more than 40 students is a large one. This is annoying to most of the teachers. We are not used to teach a class of 56 students for example especially in classes designed for smaller numbers. I am more or less lucky in my school because we don’t have such large classes. 30 students is the normal class size. But, I have learned that there are places where people teach more than 200 students in a class. Wow! To be frank, I can’t even imagine how tough the work is. I wish I can see how things are done is such situations. So, what is a large class then? This differs from a context to another. But whatever what is supposed to be a large class, technology can bring to it a great change and make teaching and learning more effective.
The potential of technology may ensure better teaching/learning in such condition. I can understand the fear of Khang Nguyen in his experience with teaching 200 students. How can I make such a huge number learn English? I can’t even memorise their names and faces. How can I check they are learning? How can I check they have understood? How can I check they have done their homework? How can I assess them?... Technology can help solve the problem. It can ensure interactivity and the involvement of all the learners. Using some technological tools in class would be of great help. Interactive PowerPoint is a good example. Multimedia can attract the students’ attention especially the displayed material is well chosen. Course websites can function as an additional for students to get lessons and do tasks. The internet provides a good number of tools that could be exploited to raise interactivity in class and outside class. Class blog, listserv, online platforms, such as Moodle, Nicenet, yahoogroup… can bring the whole class into real interaction prompted by the teacher. Using virtual environment is also feasible to make students more exposed to English outside class. Second Life is for instance offers good facilities to the learners to study online and interact with each other synchronously or asynchronously. In virtual classes, the students don’t always need to teacher to be with them. They can interact with objects to learn and do activities. (If you have some time, drop to my platform in Muvenation region: http://maps.secondlife.com/secondlife/MUVEnation/172/83/301
Teachers can use different techniques to guarantee their learners engagement in learning and interaction. One good way is to divide the class into collaborative groups to do projects, webquests, podcasts… I think each group could also work in a blog which could be called “group blog” where they can carry their tasks on collaboratively and may interact with their peers from other groups. Teachers should not get stuck to the textbooks. They should make their lessons more meaningful and comprehensible by making them stem from their real life world and cultural background. Interactive lectures and interactive PPT can ensure interactivity in class. Another technique that could be used to maximize engagement in activities and learning is rubrics which have been already tackled the previous week in the course.
Technology can offer alternative ways to assess, but this should not be the only type of assessment. Some examples of tools that would help do blended online assessment are Blackboard’s Assessment features, WiziQ, Moodle, Second Life, the Quiz Chair in Sloodle, rubrics… Some of these use synchronous interaction such as WiziQ and others don’t need synchronous interaction such as Sloodle and Moodle.
I am thinking of using two different tools in my classes. The first is Yahoogroup for for discussions, documents exchange and presentations (asynchronous) and the second is WiziQ (synchronous) to have more time for English outside the classroom. I have chosen these two tools because they can complement each other. Moderating Yahoogroup is not difficult and I can control the students’ posts and correct them before approving them. Wisiq give the possibility to interact using audio, video and written chat and to share interactive slides which the teacher controls and can give the students “tools” to with them online. It also displays a whiteboard which all the member can write on if the teachers wants them to. It is very simple to use and everyone can get a free trial of three classes. All we need is to invite students and fix time and the duration of the class/group with them and go for it.