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Summary

The restructuring of the existing modules "German as a second language" - that are obligatory for all teacher training students of the Berlin universities - allows, amongst other things, a first approach regarding the differentiation of the introductory lecture "German as a second language" at the Freie Universität Berlin which to date has been provided to approx. 800 BA students. The main goals of the systematic implementation of the FU LMS Blackboard was a lecture-accompanying differentiation offer (learning modules) for the subject group Humanities as well as creating an additional online interaction possibility for the tutorial groups (wiki). 

Table of contents

Course / Module

Course titleGerman as a second language for teacher training students of the humanities
Course typeLecture with tutorial
Department/InstituteCenter for Teacher Training / Institute for Romance Studies; Language / German as a second language
Degree courseBA with teacher training option
LecturerDr. Kristina Peuschel
No. of participantsca. 390
Phaseduring the academic lecture year
Durationone whole semester, every summer semester
SWS/CP3 SWS/3 CP

Tools

Learning Management System Blackboard

  • Learning modules (thematic in accordance with the lecture structure)
  • Work groups (in accordance with the tutorial groups)
    • Wiki
    • Mail
    • Forums

Realization

The lecture "German as a second language for teacher training students of the humanities" was undertaken for the first time in the summer semester of 2015 and was attended by approx. 390 students. The weekly lecture was split up into 12 thematic face-to-face sessions. The subject-spanning tutorial that belonged to the module and was only one weekly semester hour long took place on a bi-weekly interval. The face-to-face as well as contact time of the students is split up within this large lecture group with little chances of interaction and the indeed smaller tutorial groups which though still had an average group size of 40 students.   

During the early planning stages of the semester a blended learning structure was developed for the module of the subject group of the humanities which served two focal points. On the one hand the extensive contents of the module should be presented in a structured way and enough material provided for self-study purposes (cf. Illustration 1). On the other hand supportive online interaction offers were to be made. For the first goal repetitive structures were set up within the Blackboard course regarding thematic learning modules from the lecture. For the support of the tutorial 10 work groups were set up within the framework of the lecture course (cf. Illustration 2) in which the students filled in wikis with lecture protocols and reading excerpts during the course of the semester. In addition, in the respective work groups the tools e-mail and forum were available.   

In order to also display the structure of the face-to-face sessions, all of the registrations for the lecture as well as for the 10 parallel occurring tutorial groups were collected (CeDiS setting before the start of the semester: Setting up registrations of the tutorial groups as a subfile for the lecture in BB).  

Illustration 1 - Screenshot: Learning modules within the lecture structure

Illustration 2 - Screenshot: Wok groups within the lecture course

The thematically prepared learning modules were related to one respective lecture each and contained the following content elements, here clearly portrayed using the example of the third lecture in the series:   

  • Questions to lecture 3
  • Exam-relevant knowledge
  • Text for preparation (excerpt → wiki post)
  • Tasks and material for the tutorial
  • Follow-up material

The learning modules were activated in Blackboard according to the right schedule. The adaptive availability of individual elements turned out to be very helpful for this. The exam-relevant knowledge was activated only approx. 5 weeks before the exam (final exam of the module).

The requested wiki posts by the students were based either on preparatory or follow-up work to the individual lectures. For the follow-up collaborative protocols were drafted for the preparation of collaborative excerpts of a text provided within the learning module. The execution of the assignment "Create a wiki post" was the prerequisite for the confirmation of active participation in the tutorial.  

Experiences made by the lecturer

Setting up a properly filled Blackboard course in order to accompany a lecture and a tutorial within the BA module German as a second language was, in all cases, worthwhile. A few select experiences made are briefly presented here:   

Didactic added value:

  1. The dovetailing of lecture contents and independent activities by students within a module that, based on the high numbers of students enrolled does not allow for individual supervision, is a success.
  2. The students access the online leaning offers provided in various different ways.
  3. The task of "Creating a wiki post" was fulfilled by most students (active participation), this - though - in a myriad of ways. Some of the students did actually work online in a collaborative manner. A few of the groups met face-to-face in order to mutually work on creating the wiki posts. Only very few posted individual text fragments. The contents of the wiki posts were the basis for the oral design of the tutorial sessions by the respective student groups (protocol group, excerpt group). The wiki pages were therefore partially public texts that the students created for one of the semester sessions. The oral presentation of the topics and the related design of the face-to-face sessions based on the wiki entries were realized very differently. Some groups read out the wiki texts, others made their peers carry out supplementary exercises for which the wiki posts had to be read beforehand by the entire group.   
  4. Thanks to the wiki entries the students were made to "write something" even though the module doesn't really allow for this in its current structure. Even those that don't have any say within the larger groups were able to provide a bit of active participation. This contribution was not the "traditional university seminar presentation".  
  5. The e-mail feature was used by the students independently, e.g. for the on-time handing in of protocols and excerpts that were independent of the wiki. The forum function of the work groups was not used.
  6. The wiki entries serve partially as exam preparation. In order to use the potential available here even better, the tasks assigned need to be structured even better. The danger of turning university education into school-like teaching should, though, be counteracted with suitable as well as challenging tasks that need to be worked on and completed.  

Problems and developed solution strategies:

  • Making tasks provided for the collaborative wiki entries more precise
  • Systemizing feedback for the wiki entries
  • Providing models for properly worked-out wiki entries (thematizing text types "protocol", "excerpt")
  • Structuring face-to-face sessions that build on online activities in a stronger and more sequential manner (offering protocol + excerpt + exercises as a task)
  • Maintaining / creating free spaces for mutual reflection even though suitable online structures are in place

Further information / Excerpts from the course evaluation (FU, Department of Education and Psychology)

What did you really like about this course?

  • it was good that everything was so well organized in Blackboard!
  • the offers in the LMS
  • good online realization
  • I enjoyed that the lectures were summarized by the students and were made available in the wiki for all
  • the integration of the online offers provided - here the online platform was very helpful -> texts were made available
  • the protocols for learning were very good!
  • Blackboard was used well -> keep up the good work! One can find everything very easily
  • good combination of lecture, tutorial and online learning portal → the interplay was used to its maximum benefit
  • I found the group wiki to be very helpful
  • the revision and preparation of the lecture within the tutorial was very good - I was "made" to confront and deal with the wiki and thereby I learned how to use it

Support offered by CeDiS

  • Consulting services for the implementation of digital solutions in teaching: The Center for Digital Systems (CeDiS) has extensive experience of many years when it comes to the implementation of digital media and systems within the fields of teaching, learning and research. We offer a wide variety of consulting services on the implementation of these tools and systems within the entire academic scope and especially at Freie Universität Berlin. 
  • Training courses and workshops: For lecturers at Freie Universität Berlin (professors, employees, tutors) as well as lecturers of other universities CeDiS offers training courses and workshops on the topic of teaching and learning with digital media. These course enable participants to implement online elements within their own sphere of teaching.
  • The Executive Board of the Freie Universität supports e-learning initiatives: With the e-learning funding program financial resources are provided to lecturers that enrich and improve their courses quality-wise by implementing technological and media-related support. All of the academic staff teaching, the lecturers or even the institutions of the Freie Universität - without the Charité-Universitätsmedizin - can be supported within this program.

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