The current job market sees an increasing demand for applicants with diverse language skills, which not only include the knowledge of other foreign languages besides English, but also the ability to operate and interact in a multilingual and multicultural environment. However, this demand is not always met by graduates of Finnish universities, who, often due to lack of time and resources, tend to include fewer language courses in their studies now than ever before. Alternative solutions are needed in order to offer students the possibility to complete language studies in a more flexible and accessible way. The KiVAKO project (2018-2020), funded by Finland's Ministry of Education and Culture, aims at finding a solution to this problem by creating virtual language study paths for higher education students.
Language teachers participating in the KiVAKO project were asked to collect or create course materials that could support independent study of a foreign language starting from beginners' level. Within the project, we were responsible for the creation of an online study path for Italian as a foreign language. The task at hand required both a general consideration of the peculiarities of online language learning and its implication for teachers and students (see e.g. White 2003, 2005, 2016, Meskill & Anthony 2015) and the practical issue of finding suitable learning materials that could be at the same time informational, self-explanatory, motivating and entertaining. We found that the perfect match for our needs was the usage of different types of videos. The video materials used in the online course were either recorded by the teachers using, e.g, Screencast O'Matic and Lightboard, created with software such as Powtoon or linked from YouTube, and covered a variety of genres. The videos constituted a substantial part of the materials on the course page and were used to fulfil a number of purposes, e.g. raising interest for Italian language and culture, exemplifying communicative situations, explaining grammar or vocabulary topics and establishing a contact between students and teachers (for a model of the didactic use of videos see Schwartz & Hartman 2007).
In our presentation, we will illustrate examples of the video materials we employed and explain our choices. We will also discuss what requirements and challenges the usage of videos implies for teachers, as well as which benefits it has for students. We claim that video materials are, in many ways, essential tools for online language learning.
La presentazione riguarda l'utilizzo di materiali video in un percorso formativo online di italiano per stranieri rivolto a studenti universitari in Finlandia. Il corso è nato nell'ambito del progetto KiVAKO, finanziato dal Ministero dell'Educazione e della Cultura finlandese. Il progetto si pone l'obiettivo di offrire una soluzione ad un problema individuato nelle università finlandesi, ossia la scarsa propensione da parte degli studenti ad ampliare la propria conoscenza di altre lingue straniere oltre all'inglese. Nella presentazione illustreremo quali tipologie di video sono state utilizzate e per quali scopi. Presenteremo inoltre la nostra tesi secondo cui i materiali video, grazie al loro carattere informativo, intuitivo e allo stesso tempo stimolante e divertente, sono strumenti essenziali per la didattica delle lingue straniere online.
- Meskill, C. & Anthony, N. (2015). Teaching Languages Online. 2nd ed. Bristol: Multilingual Matters.
- Schwartz, D. & Hartman, K. (2007). It's not television anymore: Designing Digital Video for Learning and Assessment. In: Goldman, R. (ed.) Video research in the learning sciences. Mahwah, N.J: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Inc. 335-348.
- White, C. (2003). Language learning in distance education. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- White, C. (2005). Towards a Learner-based Theory of Distance Language Learning: The Concept of the Learner-Context Interface. In: Holmberg, P. B., Shelley, D. M & White, D. C. J. (ed.). Distance education and languages: Evolution and change. Clevedon: Multilingual Matters. 55-71.
- White, C., Direnzo R., Bortolotto, C. (2016). The learner-context interface: Emergent issues of affect and identity in technology-mediated language learning spaces. System 62. 3-14.
Laura Senni (MA) is a university teacher in Italian language and culture at the University of Lapland in Rovaniemi, Finland. Her areas of expertise also include teaching German and English as foreign languages. She is currently involved with the creation of online language learning materials in the KiVAKO project (2018-2020) of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture. Her research interests include activating teaching methods for language didactics, gamification in language learning, online foreign language learning as well as reading comprehension research and text type linguistics.
Päivi Korhonen (MA) is a senior lecturer at the South-Eastern Finland University of Applied Sciences. She is currently involved with the creation of online language learning materials in the KiVAKO project (2018-2020) of the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.