Web-Based Multimedia in Business Italian: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Learner Experiences and Attitudes

by Katrien N. Christie
Web-Based Multimedia in Business Italian: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Learner Experiences and Attitudes
Katrien N. Christie
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Web-Based Multimedia in Business Italian: A Longitudinal Evaluation of Learner Experiences and Attitudes

Introduction: 'I?le Impact of Computer-Aided Foreign Language Learning he advent of the World Wide Web (WWW) with its wealth of authen- tic and upto-date linguistic and culturalresources is starting to have a major impact on foreign language (FL) teaching. The WWW, like other technologies before it, has the potential to dramatically change what and how we teach and learn. For instance, a 1995 report on the use of infor- mation technology by the American Association of State College and Universities (AASCU) discusses a study by Collins in which eight shifts in teaching/learning in the classroom due to the impact of new tech- nologies (4-5) are identified. Four of these changes are particularly rele- vant in the context of this study: they include a shift, first, from lecture and recitation to coaching, second, from the primacy of verbal thinking to the integration of visual and verbal thinking, third, from less engaged to more engaged students, and fourth, from a competitive to a coopera- tive socialstructure.' When, as a result of the first shift, the teacher is seen by students as an interlocutor, coach, and resource person, technology plays an important role in making the FL classroom a more communica- tive and interactive environment. The second shift has brought about a change in FL teaching toward more visually oriented language learning materials, replacing the early text-based software. As for the third shift, more engaged students see technology as supporting their learning and increase personal investment in their work Educational research undoubtedly confirms what teachers know instinctively: time on task leads to more learning. Technology can therefore help to motivate some of our students and become more successful language learners. Finally the fourth shift creates several ways in which technology can help to establish a cooperative rather than competitive learning environment in the FL classroom, for instance, by students sharing computer terminals or soft- ware, communicating with each other on-line via e-mail, newsgroups or discussion forums, or with native speakers in a nearby or distant com- munity (Standard 5.2. in the Standards for Foreign Language Learning).

Technology-enhanced language learning (TELL) applications have been developed and studied for a variety of commonly taught languages in recent years. Several studies have focused on computer-assisted

ITALICA Volume 78Number 4 (2001)

reading in the foreign language and have reported positive effects in terms of comprehension or student attitudes, but here we will report only on a few relevant studies. Davis and Lyman-Hager find that third- semester French students react positively to the availability of glosses in an exit interview after reading a computerized text, although there is no evidence of computer use leading to better comprehension (as meas- ured by a recall protocol and multiple-choice test) (68).Of all the types of glosses available (such as French definitions, grammar, pronunciation, and pictures) English definitions are consulted most often (85%), but again, the type of information accessed from the computerized glosses appears not to have an effect on comprehension. It is worthwhile to mention that, as Davis and Lyman-Hager propose, a "halo effect" (as discussed in Brown 33), "resulting from the novelty of computer use" may explain the favorable student attitudes. According to Davis and Lyman-Hager "the question of interest is whether the subjects would still feel as strongly motivated if they had used a computer to read ten or fifteen texts in French during a semester" (68). The present study should shed more light on this issue. Davis and Lyman-Hager also suggest to add "interspersed questions throughout the passage to venfy that the reader is constructing a memorial representation consonant with that of the text" because they find that students in their study "misjudged how much and how well they had understood" (68).

Using a think aloud procedure and tracker software, Lomicka also studies the effects of glossing with second-semester French students. She similarly finds that students consult definitional glosses (in English or French) most and that they do not fully explore other resources avail- able, such as pronunciation, grammar, question, and reference glosses. The latter two, she argues, could contribute to a deeper understanding of the text by helping students to construct a situational model of the text and integrate the text base with background and other world knowledge (48). To help students achieve a deeper level of comprehension Lomicka proposes the addition of more interspersed questions as well as the use of activities involving group work and discussion before, during, or after reading (50).

Hong measures students' reading efficiency and comprehension assisted by a multimedia reading software package in comparison with the conventional paper-pen-dictionary method in a fourth-semester Business Chinese course. Hong finds that students obtain higher com- prehension scores (on interspersed multiple-choice questions) when reading with multimedia computers and that they complete the read- ing in a shorter time. According to Hong, this result can be attributed to the use of an electronic dictionary, which provides easier and faster access to Chinese characters than a conventional dictionary, and also gives contextually appropriate definitions (339). Finally, the audio fea- ture, whereby students can press a button to hear the pronunciation of a character, is beneficial since students reported that to hear the pro- nunciation would at times help remind them of the meaning.

In sum, a number of studies report beneficial effects in terms of stu- dent attitudes or reading comprehension when using specific types of TELL software. Yet, investigations that focus on the use of the WWW in particular, measuring its impact on foreign language learning, are few so far.2 Indeed, one of the questions still to be answered is whether there is any sigruficant difference in the impact of PC-based versus WWW-based multimedia applications on foreign language learning. In one study of Web-based language and culture activities, undertaken as homework by thirteen first-quarter Spanish students, Osuna and Meskill find that, based on students' perceptions, the Web is a suitable tool to increase lan- guage and cultural knowledge. In post-activity assessment question- naires, 77%of the participants agrees with the statement that the activi- ties have increased their language knowledge and 81% agrees that they have increased their cultural knowledge (74). In the same questionnaires 85% of the subjects indicates they enjoyed using the Internet, while this figure rises to 100%in a final retrospective questionnaire (75).

Nonetheless, it is fair to state, as Nunan does, that "despite all the interest, little research evidence exists to support claims for the effec- tiveness of Web-based instruction" (52)and that "descriptive and inter- pretive accounts of programs that are utilizing the Web for the admin- istration and delivery of their programs" (53)are needed.3 In Italian, in particular, both the development of up-to-date applications (PC- or WWW-based) and studies of their impact on FLlearning have not been forthcoming.4 Moreover, there is a need for longitudinal studies exam- ining the evolution of student attitudes, use and effectiveness of spe- cific multimedia programs over the course of a semester, a point which was made by Davis and Lyman-Hager with respect to the evaluation of computerized glosses in their study of L2reading. In order to explore the impact of Web-based multimedia technology in teaching Italian, this study describes a semester-long evaluation of CD-Rom- and WWW-based videos in a second-year Business Italian class.

Web-Based Materials in Business Italian

Students at the University of Delaware usually take Business Italian as one of the first courses after having completed the introductory twelve-credit basic language sequence. The course aims at reinforcing essential communicative language skills and at expanding them into new areas and situations. It is, at the same time, a content-based course in which students acquire language skills by learning subject matter. Such an approach, it has been argued, can be especially valuable at an early point in the Italian curriculum (Musumeci). Over the course of the semester, groups of students create and operate their own (ficti- tious) Italian businesses. With the aid of the textbook (Cherubinips L'italiano per gli nffari) such topics as describing a company and its product or service, writing business letters, looking for a job, preparing a resume, interviewing, and conducting business meetings are explored. Students apply the linguistic skills and vocabulary gained from the textbook within the context of the company they created.

In describing Web-based instruction, we adopt Nunan's definition as "a form of teaching that utilizes the World Wide Web to carry out some or allof the functions that are traditionally performed through other media such as print, face-to-face communication, and the use of telephone and fax" (54). This definition can, but does not in the present context, refer to distance education, since the BI course has traditional classroom meet- ings. Web-based instruction in the BI course is a feature both out of the classroom (when activities are first assigned as homework) and in the classroom (when the topic is further elaborated). The development of Web-based materials integrated into the BI course was undertaken to accomplish two pedagogical objectives: (1)to provide interactive Web- based reading assistance so as to facilitate the comprehension of the business-oriented readings in the textbook, and (2) to expose students to culturally authentic Italian business experiences. The first objective arose from the concern that the readings in the textbook are quite difficult and no glosses or other type of assistance is provided. Many students, upon entering the BI course, had no or very limited exposure to long and domain-specific texts. They needed help to achieve a reasonable level of understanding. When these readings were assigned as homework in pre- vious semesters, many students came to the next class insufficiently pre- pared and in some cases frustrated from looking up many words in a dictionary without achieving the comprehension they were seeking. The Web-based reading assistant developed for BI provides students with a variety of comprehension aids and organizes the reading so that appro- priate reading strategies are accessed. In sum, the objective is that by interactingwith the Web-based reading students can reach a basic under- standing of the reading on their own, at their own pace and ahead of class time, so that they will be prepawd to achieve a deeper understanding through subsequent class discussions and other post-reading activities.

This idea reflects current pedagogical thinking in the area of foreign language teaching, where the focus has changed from a teacher-centered to a student-centered classroom. The teacher is seen more as an architect and resource person than as an authoritative transmitter of knowledge (Lee and VanPatten), or, to use Collins' terminology, as a coach. Our pedagogical philosophy follows Walvoord and Johnson Anderson's proposal to use class time more effectively by building on and strengthening the knowl- edge students have previously and independently started to gather. Walvoord and Johnson Anderson call this the "first-exposure part of learning, when the student first encounters new information, concepts, vocabulary, and procedures" (53). When "first-exposure" learning is achieved in the preparatory phase before class time, the latter can be used more effedively because students are ready for the "processing part of learning" where they "synthesize, analyze, compare, define, argue, or solve problems based on the material to which they have been exposed" (53). To this end, technology can be incorporated effectively in the space- time continuum of student and teacher roles in and outside the class- room. In other words, Web-based materials make it possible to ejjectively locate first exposure outside of and ahead of class time and to help stu- dents prepare for more productive class time.

As stated before, the second pedagogical objective for the BI course was to expose students to culturally authentic Italian business experi- ences. While the textbook is a valuable tool for teaching culture, it would be a shame not to take advantage of the endless possibilities offered by the WWW, which lets students explore authentic and up-to-date cultural products and practices. Incorporating culture is beneficial both from a language-learning and a content-learning perspective. For instance, the videos used in the course enhance students' listening skills, but also their understanding of non-verbal behavior such as gestures, handshak- ing or personal distance.

In analyzing the link between "language and culture in digital form" (31), Kramsch and Andersen refer to the Standards for Foreign Language Learning developed by the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) that state that "access to a variety of technologies ranging from computer-assisted instruction to interactive video, CD-Rom, the Internet, electronic mail, and the World Wide Web, will help students strengthen their linguistic skills [. ..]and learn about contemporary culture and everyday life in the target country" (31). Kramsch and Andersen list several studies in various languages that urge teachers to use multimedia materials based on original videos filmed in culturally authentic contexts. Importantly they point out that it would be a fallacy to believe that the context (or culture) is easily rendered transparent by the multimedia tech- nology. They argue that "the power and the complexity of multimedia technology increases the need to contextualize the texts and textualize the contexts presented on the screen" (39). In doing so, teachers and stu- dents can and should go beyond understanding simple sociolinguistic conventions and can come to a meaningful interpretation of attitudes and beliefs of the target culture.

To implement the pedagogical objectives outlined earlier, two types of activities, one video-based, the other text-based, were developed and integrated in a Web-based course management system developed at the University of Delaware (http: / / www.udel.edu/ serf). Access to the on- line course is password-protected, restricted to the University's students registered for the course and lasts for the duration of a semester. Several of the features made available by the course management system were used in the BI course. First, a day-to-day syllabus was created, which automatically presents the scheduled instructional materials on the right day The system also provides templates for the teacher to makea variety of questions (true-false, multiple-choice, fill-in-the-blank or open-ended), thus allowing students, teacher and course content to interact with each other. A third feature used was the grade book, which gives students instant information about their progress in the course (e.g. number of assignments completed, grades and running average).

The two types of activities (video clips and textbook readings) make up the instructional core of the Web-based materials. Over the course of the semester, students completed six video-based and three text-based activities. All activities are enhanced by glosses, links to relevant Web pages and comprehension checks in the form of true-false or multiple- choice questions and dialogue trdpts of the videos. Each of these features is designed to provide students with the necessary tools so that they can successfully and independently accomplish "first exposure" (Walvoord and Johnson Anderson 53). All activities are accompanied by pre-, during-, and post-viewinglreading exercises (Bancheri and Meri). The readings aresegmented into a number of learner-friendly, paragraph- length passages, each of which is followed by one or more comprehen- sion check questions to which automatic corrective feedback is supplied. As was suggested by the above-mentioned findings of Davis and Lyman- Hager and Lomicka, interspersed questions were added to avoid or corm major misconstructions of the meaning of the text.

Appendix A contains an example of a video-based activity featuring a conversation with an Italian bank employee.5 Students first read what is on the syllabus for that day's class and get some background on the bank where this inte~ew was taped (with a link to the bank's Web site). As a pre-viewing activity, students visit the Web site of the bank and answer several questions. By then clicking on the appropriate link the video seg- ment starts to play from a CD-Rom. As a during-viewing listening activ- ity, students are asked to fill in the appropriate missing words in text boxes with dialogue from the segment, and are given immediate feed- back as to the accuracy of their answer. The digital format of the video is particularly useful here as students can pause, rewind and replay easily and as often as they need to. Following this,studentscan read the written transcript of the spoken text. The transcript contains highlighted words and phrases, which are linked to glosses (usually paraphrases in Italian, Enghsh translations or grammatical explanations). The transcript allows students to focus on language mechanics (vocab~, structures, spelling, etc.). As a post-viewing activity, students answer true-false questions about the video and prepare an answer to a question for discussion in the next class.

The text-based materials use readings from the textbook, which are recreated on the Web with appropriate first-exposure tools. Before the first on-line reading, students are told how the readings are organized and are given reading strategies. An example of a text-based activity, based upon a reading about different business customs in the various countries of the European Union, is presented in Appendix B. As a pre- reading activity, students follow a link to a European Union Web site from which they have to retrieve some information (the number of mem- ber states) and type it in the designated answer box This activity is designed to activate the appropriate background schemata for the reading at hand (Lee and VanPatten 1995). The text itselfis segmented into chunks of paragraph length, short enough to be manageable for intermediate students and long enough so as not to fragment the whole text too much. Each segment is enhanced as follows: first the unaltered text is presented, which is aimed at giving students the opportunity to come to a rudimentary understanding of that segment. It is followed by one or more comprehension questions (true-false, multiple-choice or fill-in-the blank), the objective of which is to verify that students have indeed grasped the main idea(s) of the segment. After that, the same segment is presented again, this time with highhghted words and phrases linked to glosses (usually paraphrases, translations or explanations, similar to those in the video-based activity). After students have finished reading the entire text, they answer more questions about different business practices and customs in the various countries of the EU.

Longitudinal Analyses

At the beginning of the semester all fourteen students registered for the BI course were given printed instructions and a classroom demon- stration of the Web-based course management system. Over the course of the semester qualitative and quantitative data were collected to eval- uate the impact of Web-based materials on students' perceived learning of Italian.6 These data consisted of: (1) an initial questionnaire at the beginning of the semester, (2) formal observations of students working in pairs on assignments at three intervals during the semester, and (3) a final questionnaire at the end of the semester.

(1) Initial Questionnaire

During the first class of the semester an anonymous fourteen-point questionnaire was distributed to twelve students, assessing their com- puter access and experiencewith softwareprogramsand the Internet. From this questionnaire, it appeared that the students had easy access to com- puters and the Internet, but that they were not frequent users of foreign language softwarenor of the Internet. They had not previously used the Universiqs Web-based course management system. Their responses at the start of the COW meal a fairly negative view towards the use or poten- tial benefits of thistypeof technology in the FLclassmom. Most students did not thinkthe Internet or computer softwarewm very beneficial in the FL classroom compared to other instructional aids and they were not eager to try them.

(2) Observation of Pair Work

Pairs of students were observed in their interactionswith video-based WWW materials at three points during the semester, with each pair working together at one computer station. All students were given one questionnaire prior to and one after completing the activity. In the former students were asked what they expected to learn, while the latter queried them about what they had actually learned and how it corresponded to their expectations.The activityitself consisted of completing one of the video-based activities, which included watching the video and completingthe pre-, during-, and post-viewing activitiesassociated with it. The students were also able to consult the written transcript of the video, which was annotated with glosses explaining difEicult words, expressions and grammatical constructions. The researcher and several assistants observed the pairs interactingwith the Web-based activity, noting how students proceeded through the activity and writing down interesting actions or comments by the students.Only technical, non content-related assistance was provided when students asked for help, so they would not be influenced in how they proceeded with the activity.

First Observation

On the second day of the class four pairs of students were observed during their first interaction with a video-based activity integrated in the on-line BI course. All eight observed students answered in the pre-observation questionnaire that they did expect to learn something from thisassignment, mostly about how to use the Web-based course management system or how to use computer programs designed for foreign languages.7 During the activity, the most common types of behavior the observed students engaged in were:

taking notes, copying words and phrases from the Web-based mate

rials into their notebooks,

speaking English to each other and using translationto check correct

comprehension with each other,

consulting a paper dictionary,

consulting equivalent Web pages in ~nglish,~

watching the video repeatedly.

It is interestingto note a commonbehavior observed at thistime, narnely when in the pre-viewing activity students were asked to visit the Web site of an Italian fashion designer discussed in the video. Although the task was short and uncomplicated, i.e. to answer a simple question which required them to scan the Web page for basic information, students tried to understand all of the text. Thus a substantial amount of time was devoted to the pre-viewing activity which was unproductive in terms of finishingthe entire activity.It is possiblethat studentsengaged in this type of behavior because they did not yet control important reading strategies in the foreign language, such as skimmingfor the main ideas or scanning for specific information related to the question asked. As a result, they may have felt the need to understand eachword and lost track of the overall meaning. In the end, students spent a lot more time on the pre-viewing activity than anticipated (about fifteen minutes in the case of one pair)? Another explanationcould be that a "novelty" effect kept studentson this activity for a long time, as reported in the Davis and Lyman-Hager study mentioned earlier. In other words, these students, novices as far as reading authentic Italian texts on the Web was concerned, could have simply been captivatedby the newness of the experience.

In the post-observation questionnaire,studentsmentioned they liked having the transcript to the video available. They used it to find certain chunks or segments of the video they did not understand and tried to make sense out of it comparing the oral to the written input. In the questionnaires, students also remarked that they learned to use the course management system (as stipulated in their expectations), but they also commented on their technical problems ("They [computers]don't always do what you want them to do").lo It was thus apparent from the observation itself and from the post-observation questionnaires that students were not as technologically savvy as was expected.More computer training and technologicalsupportwould have to be provided. Pedagogically, it became evident that students needed clear and detailed instructions on what was expected and what reading strategies were necessary to successfully complete the task

Second Observation

On the sixth day of classes, two pairs of students were followed again.All four studentshad alsoparticipated in the first observation. An interestingchange of attitudeswas observed with one of the pairs at this time. In the questionnaire preceding this observation both students in the pair had stated that they did not expect to learn anything from this assignment. However, they were more positive in the post-observation questionnaire. One student wrote in the postquestionnaire to have learned "some new vocabularywords" and elaborated: "It refreshed my memory on some vocab and verb conjugations." The other student also acknowledgedin the postquestionnaireto have learned somethingfrom this activity and added: "It's not a speaificthing,but just practicelistening and speakinghelps me learn."" These examples illustratethat students' negative attitudes about the opportunity to learn Italian using computers can be turned around as a result of the learning experience itself.

Third Observation

During one of the last classes of the semester, a third and final observation was carriedout. At thistime it became obviousthat the widespread misgivings and negative opinions about the technology had waned considerably, even totally It was clear from the pre-and post-observation questionnaires that the students were much more focused on what they were learning about the Italian language and culture, rather thanon tech- nology issues. For instance, most students declared in the pre-observation questionnaires that they expected to learn about the topic at hand, bank- ing and credit cards,and these expectations were confirmed in the post- observation questionnaires ("[I learned] about the reason why the first credit card was made due to carrying the heavy money around which was also risky," commented one student). Students dove right into the assign- ment and there was no "wasted time, as witnessed at the first observa- tion. After a semester of working with the Web-based materials they had learned what to do and stuck to the assignment presented to them. It is possible that such more "efficient" learner strategies and behaviors are either the result of the disappearance of a novelty effect or due to a better use of readinglviewing strategies, two hypotheses that were raised after the first observation. Although the present data do not allow us to decide in favor of one of these hypotheses, it is nonetheless worth mentioning that the behavior of students in terms of how they proceeded with the activity was markedly different at the end of the semester compared to the beginning. Another observation to be made isthat the students' comments in the postquestio~s were more specific and detailed thanin the pre- questionnaires and than in the first two observations earlier in the semes- ter. One example is in the student comments just given. Other students wrote after thisobservation: "I noticed the speaker's accent -he said his "s" with a "sh' sound and "[Ilearned] the vocab word consentiva." Unlike the more generic student comments in the earlier post-observation ques- tionnaires, these remarks relate to specific linguistic elements they learned and can be taken as evidence that the students did indeed learn more, or learned in a more targeted fashion, during thisactivity.

(3) Final Questionnaire

At the end of the semester, eight students responded to a four-item e-mail questionnaire assessing their semester-long experience with Web-based materials. The first question was: "What aspects or characteristics of the Web-based course have you found the most useful?" Many stu- dents answered that the videos coupled with the transcripts and the glosses were helpful in increasing their comprehension and their vocab- ulary in Italian. They also appreciated the direct exposure to the culture which came through the videos and the Italian Web sites. Interestingly the interspersed questions were not mentioned by students as a beneficial tool which aided their comprehension. Perhaps thisresult can be likened to Lomicka's finding that students consult definitional glosses more than question and reference glosses.12 According to Lomicka, students may behave this way because they don't understand the relevance of other (non-definitional) glosses, or because they are content to build a simple text base instead of a situational model (i.e. focusing on understanding words and sentences rather than on a more global or integrative under- standing), or simply out of habit (49).While such factors may have played a role in the present study it cannot be detennined objectively if this was indeed the case. The fact that students did not mention the interspersed questions as a beneficial tool in the final questionnaire does not preclude the possibility that the questions did assist comprehension during the activity itself, even ifstudents were unaware of this benefit.

Answers to the first question also made it clear that students were definitely shedding some of their anxiety about computers. One student commented, for instance, that "to mix Italian with the computer field" was very useful and went on to say: "It helped me understand how com- puters can be used in different ways." Finally students liked the con- venience of the Web-based course management system, which made all materials available on a day-by-day schedule. This helped them to be organized. For instance, one student commented that "if you missed a class, you could see the work you missed and know what to do for the next class." Many students especially liked the fact that they could check the status of their assignments and grades instantly and at any time. To read more extensive quotes of student responses to the first question in the final questionnaire the reader is referred to Part I of Appendix C.

The second question was: "What aspects or characteristics of the Web- based course have you found the least useful?" Students mentioned tech- nical problems such as access to a computer with a fast CD-Rom to play the videos. For instance, "gaining access, finding a place where I could watch the videos" one student remarked in answer to the above question. None of the comments, except for one, expressed possible negative effeds in relation to the students' language learning. Part I1 of Appendix C contains other examples of the students' answers to this question.

The third question was: "How beneficial to learning Italian do you think the Web-based mated can be when used in combination with your Italian classes?" It appears that students realized the potential ben- efits the Web can bring to learning Italian. In four responses the Web- based learning was rated as "very beneficial" in the Italian class, one student singled out the "video aspect" as the most beneficial and one student used the term "semi-useful." The other two students didn't respond directly to the question of benefit, but their responses in the questionnaire overall were very positive. The actual responses can be found in Part III of Appendix C. This finding is especially positive in light of the negative attitudes toward the usefulness of computer tech- nology in language learning in general, and the Internet in particular, at the beginning of the semester. Returning to an issue raised by Davis and Lyman-Hager, namely whether students would still feel motivated after reading several texts on a computer during the semester, the answer suggesting itself here is clearly positive.


From the semester-long observation and data collection it is clear that the use of Web-based instructional materials in the present Business Italian course was beneficial. This successwillbe described next in terms of its impact on the learner, on the instructor and on the language lab.

The impact on the learners in the Web-based BI course is positive in terms of their pelreived learning of the Italian language and culture. Students reported they learned a lot in one semester, not only about Business Italian, but also about the WWW and computers in general. As was stated before, this finding is especially relevant when taking into account the negative expectations of students at the start of the semester. Moreover, in learning Italian, students were also learning valuable com- puter skills which can prove useful in their later academic or profes- sional careers.

The students' satisfaction may be related to Collins' observation men- tioned in the introduction of thisarticle, namely that technology can create more engaged students. Whether or not thisis due to a novelty effect, students did spend more time on task and cognitively engaged with the Italian language and culture, thanks to the Web-based materials. For that reason alone, the Web-based materials can be evaluated as a beneficial tool for learning Italian in thiscourse. The success can also be explained in terms of Walvoord and Johnson Anderson's idea of putting more of the responsibility for learning in the hands of the learners at the time of first exposure, provided they are given sufficient and appropriate tools.

What impact does the creation and use of Web-based materials have on the instructor? In order to give students appropriate learning tools, the instructor must be prepared to invest a considerable amount of time in designing pedagogically justified learning activities. This in itself is not very different from designing other low- or no-technology-based, peda- gogically sound activities. However, the instructor does have to become aware of the special conditions that a Web-based medium creates and learn how to put them to the best use. Becoming acquainted with the technological fine points of Web-based teaching requires the teacher to be open-minded, patient and creative. For thisinstructor/researcher, there was a steep learning curve at the beginning, but producing Web-based materials quickly became almost effortless. It can alsobe daunting or time- consuming for the instructor to take on the role of tech support person for students, even when such support is available to students in the foreign language media lab or via the university's computer user services. Therefore, it is crucial that not only students, but also instructors receive appropriate demonstration and training opportunities when the tech- nology is first introduced.

When those "barriers" are overcome, the classroom time does become more productive, more interesting and more engaging for the teacher as well. As Walvoord and Johnson Anderson argue, first-exposure work provides a built-in assessment which "shows the teacher where the stu- dents have arrived on their own, and it provides the basis for classroom interaction in which the teacher helps students move beyond what they could achieve on their own" (54).Because some of the mechanical work required to achieve basic comprehension is done outside of the class- room, more class time can be devoted to cognitively more demanding and engaging tasks. This,in Collins' terms, illustrates the shift from lec- ture and recitation to coaching, which new technologies such as the WWW make possible. Or as Lee and VanPatten have put it, it conveys on the teacher the role of resource person or facilitator and helps to relieve the "Atlas complex" teachers may feel, i.e. the responsibility or burden they may feel in making their students learn (5-6).

Finally the foreign language media lab is impacted by the arrival of Web-based technology as well. Traditionally, the media lab is the only place on campus where students can use foreign language word process- ing packages, computer-based FL writing assistants, CD-Roms, DVDs, or other software. By using Web-based rather than PC-or LAN-based instructional materials, there is less need for students to come to the media lab, since they can access course materials from their dorms, homes or at other university computing sites. This reflects a changing philosophy in terms of how technology is delivered to students. At the author's institution, for instance, alldormitory rooms have been equipped with Internet access, so that students, who are encouraged to use their own computers, have direct access to course materials on the Web. This should ease the pressure for computing sites, and language learning lab- oratoriesin particular, to continuously upgrade their equipment in order to remain state-of-the-art facilities.

At many universities students are required to have access to a personal computer powerful enough to use the WWW and run common office software. This requirement is instituted to help alleviate a "seemingly insatiable need for more and bigger computer labs," which makes it difficult for students to find seats during peak times (McCollum 3).Although some students worry about the added cost of their college education, they say that they can usually rely on friends and roommates to let them use their computer. Consequently it appears that the new language lab will invest less in providing work stations and more in technology that makes Web-based teaching possible, such as Web servers, multimedia laptop computers, as well as other equipment and software that will make the development of multimedia Web-based foreign language materials feasible for the faculty or media lab staff.


In conclusion, this paper has discussed Web-based multimedia course materials for Business ItalianI delivered to students in a total course management system. After one semester of Web-based BI, both the instructor and the students evaluated the experience as a positive learn- ing experience in spite of some misgivings on the part of students at the beginning of the semester.

Keeping in mind the qualitative natureof the data and the small number of students involved, this study has demonstrated the need to prepare students so they feel comfortable using the technology. In addition to training to use the specific application at hand (as well as some general computing skius), developers are reminded to include clearly spelled out expectations and strategies. For example, students may need to be taught or reminded that it is not necessary to understand every word (an inherent feature in working with authentic texts whether they are on the Web or on paper). If the instructor wants students to practice reading strategies such as skimming or scanning a text, students should be made aware of it and receive training in it if necessary. Instructors may also want to inform their students of the value of certain features of the appli- cation, such as interspersed questions.

As far as research methods are concerned, it is to be noted that the behavior of students in terms of how they proceeded with the activity was markedly different at the end of the semester compared to the beginning. It stands to reason that researchers investigating the effects of Web-based FL instructional materials should determine how much train- ing is necessary and appropriate for their subjects before actual data col- lection begins and that they should include in such research studies a description of technology training and the students' level of comfort with the technology, as this may well influence the results.

When the BI course will be offered again, some improvements will be made. One of those will be to provide more sophisticated glosses, which are not limited to text, but which include graphics. Research on the effects of various types of glosses in computerized reading environments have shown the benefits of providing pictum in addition to words to explain difficult or new concepts (e.g. Chun and Plass). Although that was impos- sible to accomplish technologically within the system until now, work on making these more sophisticated glosses available is currently underway.

KATRIEN N. CHRISTIE University of Delaware


This article was originally presented as a paper at the annual meeting of the Inter- national Association of Language Laboratories (IALL99) at the University of Maryland, College Park, MD.I wish to thank the anonymous reviewers of Italica for their com- ments and suggestions.

l~ollins discusses four more shifts: small group instruction, working with weaker students, effort/progress-based assessment, and collaborative (not) individual learning.

2~ccordingto Lee (1997),who reports on the use of the Internet to enhance culture teaching, most Internet studies involving foreign language learning have focused on the use of e-mail and of browsing tools for informational searches, which is not the focus of the current study.

3~hileNunan is referring to education at a distance, the point also applies to the BI course, since students mostly interact with the Web-based materials at home as part of the homework assignment.

4~eeBancheri or Mnbteau, Morgan and Sinyor for discussions of pedagogical soft- ware in Italian, or Sinyor for a description of how the Internet can be used in Italian lan- guage classes.

%deo segments were videotaped by the instructor in Italy and then digitized on a CD-Rom, which the students had on loan for the duration of the semester.

6~heterm "perceived learning" is used, because the data reflect students' own per- ceptions of their learning. To objectively measure differences in learning outcomes would have required comparing an experimental to a control group, which was imprac- tical in light of the class organization and size.

'L.ess frequently mentioned expectations are: more information about Italian culture, practice for reading and listening in Italian ("but I think we may spend a lot of time wait- ing for the computers to work" one student added), overall review of some vocabulary. 'bo students were unsure what to expect.

%s happened when Web sites offer visitors the possibility of viewing the same page either in English or Italian.

9~lthough students unexpectedly spent a great deal of time on this pre-viewing activ- ity, it should not be considered "wasted time." They did actually &nd time on task and were learning Italian.

l~whnical problems mostly had to do with connecting the locally played CD-Rom to the Web-based course management system.

llThe same student also voiced negative expectations at the time of the first obser- vation, especially where the use of computers was concerned ("waiting for computers to work").

12~owever,in the Web-based application used in the present study the interspersed questions followed each segment of the text and were, therefore, presumably harder to ignore or skip than the question glosses in Lomicka's study.


American Association of State College and Universities (AASCU). On the Brink:Report on the Use and Management of Information Technology at AASCU Institutions. Washington, DC: AASCU, 1995.

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACIFL). SSrcmdrrrdrfor Foreig Language Learning: Preparing for the 2Ist Centwy. Yonkers, NY: AClTL, 1999. Bancheri, Salvatore. "Criteri per la valutazione di software pedagogico grammaticale."

Italica 74.4 (1997): 497-516.

Bancheri, Salvatore, and Michael Lettieri. 'The Integration of Language Games and Video in SLT A Gaming-Based vs a Non-Gaming-Based Methodology." Italiana K Selected Papers from the Proceedings of the Eight Annual Conference of the American Association of Teachers of Italian, November 22-25, 1991, Washington, DC. Ed. Albert N. Mancini, Paolo A. Giordano, and Pier Raimondo Baldini. West Lafayette, IN: Bordighera, 1993.319-25.

-. "Gioco e video nell'insegnamento dell'italiano come L2." Problem Solving in Second Language Learning and Teaching. Ed. Caterina Cicogna, Anthony Mollica, and Marcel Danesi. Welland: Soleil, 1991. 212-22. Bknkteau, David P., Leslie Z. Morgan, and Roberta Sinyor. "A Survey of Pedagogical Software Use in Italian, 1995." Italica 72.4 (1995): 425-51. Brown, James, D. Understanding Research in Second Language Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Chembini, Nicoletta. L'ltalianoper gli Affari. Bonacci: Roma, 1992. Collins, Allan. "The Role of Computer Technology in Restructuring Schools." Phi Delta Kappan 73.1 (1991): 28-36. Chun, Dorothy M., and Jan L.Plass. "Effects of Multimedia Annotations on Vocabulary Acquisition." The Modern Language Journal 80.2 (1996): 183-98. Davis, James N., and Mary Ann Lyman-Hager. "Computers and L2 Reading: Student Performance, Student Attitudes." Foreign Langwge Annals 30.1 (1997): 58-73. Hong, Wei. "Multimedia Computer-Assisted Reading in Business Chinese." Foreign Language AnnaLs 30.3 (1997): 335-44. Kramsch, Claire, and Roger W. Andersen. "Teaching Text and Context Through Multi- media." Language Learning and Technology 2.2 (1999): 31-42. Lee, James L., and Bill VanPatten. Making Communicative Language Teaching Happen New York: McGraw-Hill, 1995. Lee, Lina. "Internet Tools as an Enhancement of Culture Teaching and Learning." Foreign Language Annals 30.3 (1m:410-25. Lomicka, Lara. 'ToGloss or Not to Gloss: An Investigation of Reading Comprehension Online." Language Learning and Technology 1.2 (1998): 41-50. McCollum, Kelli. "Now That Computers Are the Rule, U. of Florida Begins to Adapt." Chronicle of Higher Education 45.8 (1998): 7 pp. Sep. 2000 chttp://www.chronicle. com/free/v45/i08/ 08a02701.htm> Musumeci, Diane. "Language and Linguistics in the Italian Curriculum: Towards the Integration of Language Study and the Study of Language." Italica 73.4 (1996): 493-508. Nunan, David. "A Foot in the World of Ideas: Graduate Study Through the Internet." Language Learning and Technology 3.1 (1999): 52-74. Osuna, Maritza, and Carla Meskill. "Using the World Wide Web to Integrate Spanish Language and Culture: A Pilot Study." Language Leaning and Technology 1.2 (1998): 71-92. Sinyor, Roberta. "Integration and Research Aspects of Internet Technology in Italian Language Acquisition." Italica 75.4 (1998): 53240. Walvoord, Barbara, and Virginia Johnson Anderson. Effective Grading: A Tool for Learning and Assessment. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.

Fill-in Question Carta 1.2 che consentiva ai I senesi quando si recavano all'estero

...q uesta lettera di cambio a stampa del 1650 [chelb una carta di credito che consentiva ai mercanti Mquando si recavano all'estero di potere acquistare senza la necessita di avere denaro. Ed e comprensibile I'importanza di questo documento perche &da un punto di vista pratico e da un punto di vista della sicurezza perch6 il denaro, nel Seicento, era costituito da monete, monete molto pesanti, per cui portarsi dietro denaro significava portarsi dietro sacchi di denari molto ingombranti, e

Trascrizione sopratutto era molto pericoloso per questi mercanti viaggiare all'estero perch6 spesso venivano dembati. Ed essendo questa carta nominativa, si vede chiaramente la del proprietario, in questo caso, Ottavio Petrucci b il nome del mercante. Ecco, questa carta poteva essere utilizzata esclusivamente dal mercante, perch6 il mercante, ogni volta che effettuava I'operazione, poi depositava la sua firma, e dal confronto @ala ha della carte di credito e la firma che lui depositava, poteva essere accertata I'autenticitA del documento.

Short Answer Question Euro 0.1 Adesso che hai visto il sito dell'UE, qiianti paesi ne fanno parte? Scrivi la tua nsposta qui sono usando dei nurneri.

After students complete this shon answer question, they will see their score in ths I


The deadline on this item is 32 days from the date it was assigned. Since there is no date on the calendar for ths class, however, the due date cannot be determined. Please tell your instructor about this problem.

Etichetta: parte prima (originale)

Il mercato unico europeo del 1992 armonizzera molte leg$ e standard di lavoro sotto un ombrello comune, ma le notevoli differenze che riguardano I'etichetta negli affari saranno molto piu lente a scomparire.

Un complimento in Danimarca puo essere interpretato come una pesante mancanza di rispetto in Grecia, creando athiti che nessuna direttiva dei burocrati di Bruxelles puo placare in fietta.

In un libm pubblicato di recente, Mind your manners (edito dalla Industrial society, bndra. 200 pagine), il consulente aziendale John Mole, mette in luce le gaffe che il manager europeo di successo dowebbe evitare, 1992 o meno.

Multiple Choice Question Euro 1.1

Cosa ha fatto John Mole?

0Ha creato il mercato unico europeo. 0Ha scritto un libro. 0E' un burocrato di Bruxelles.

I Answer 1


After students complete this multiple choice question, they will see their score In this box. i The deadline on Uus item is 12 days from the date it was assigned Since there1 @ no date on the calendar for this class, however, the due date cannot be determined. /Please tell vour instructor about this vroblem. I

Etichetta: Parte prima (annotata)

I1 mercato unico europeo del 1992 arrnonizzd molte leggi e standard di lavm sotto un ombrello wmune, ma le notevoli differenze che riguadano I'etichetta negli affari saranno molto piu lente a scorn~aire.

Un complimento in Danirnarca pub essere interpretato come una pesante mancanza di rispeno in Grecia, creando che nessuna direttiva dei burocrati di Bnotelles pub placare

In un libro pubblicato di recente, Mind your manners (edito dalla Industrial society, Londra, 200 pagine), il consulente aziendale John Mole, mette in luce le gaffe che ii manager europeo di successo dovrebbe evitare,1992 o meno.

monizzed -futuro del verbo "armonizzare", rendere armonioso, ben proporzionato, che vanno bene insieme riguardare -concernere scomparire -andare via, sparireLessico mancanza -assenza attriti -disaccordi, 6izioni mene in luce le gaffe -dimostra gli errori evitare -di cui si deve stare lontano, sfuggire

Etichetta: parte seconda (originale)

Per manager e dirigenti italiani il libro contiene sia utili suggerimenti sugli usi e costumi del mondo degli affari in altri paesi Cee, sia un'analisi su come gli altri europei reagiscono alle peculiaritB a volte singolari del costume italiano negli affari.

"Una reazione frequente a1 diverso mod0 di fare che hanno gli altri consiste nel giudicare o accondiscendere, con luogh~ comuni quali "tipico tedesco/italianoibritannico",o qualcosa di pih pesante", dice Mole, che esorta i lettori "a sospendere il giudizio e chiedersi il perch6 di tale reazione".

La chiave della cultura italiana degli affari, dice I'autore, 6 la flessibilia. "FlessibilitB significa ignorare le procedure coke parte della routine", spiega. "Protocolli, regole, tabelle organizzative, potranno anche essere compilati e defmiti nei rninimi particolari, ma saranno


ignorati tanto in linea di principio quanto nella pratica".

In Germania, per contrasto, il "rispetto per la perfezione" ha favorito una cultura manageriale basata su una meticolosa pianificazione ed esecuzione, poicht: "cogliere al volo le opportuniti e visto meno come un talent0 e pih come un fallimentonelllorgan~zazione".

Trudfalse Question
La cultura d'impresa italiana e basata sulla flessibilitk

0True 0False

After students complete this truelfalse question, they will see their score in this box.

The deadline on this item is 32 days hm the date it was assigned. Since there is @ no date on the calendar for this class, however, the due date cannot be determined. Please tell your insator gbout this problem

Etichetta: parte seconda (annotata)

Per manager e dirigenti italiani il libro contiene utili suggerimenti sugli usi e costumi del mondo degli affari in altri paesi Cee, &un'analisi su come gli altri europei reagiscona alle peculiaritaa singolari del costume italiano negli affari.

"Una reazione Frequente al diverso modo di fare che hanno gli altri consiste nel giudicare o accondiscendere, con luoglu comuni quali "tipico tedesco/italianohri&co", o qualcosa di pih pesante", dice Mole, che i lenori "a sospendere il giudizio e chiedersi il perch6 di -tale reazione".

La chiave della cultura italiana degli affari, dice I'autore, 6 la flessibilitii "Flessibilith significa ignorare le procedure come parte della routine", spiega. "Protocolli, regole, tabelle organizzative, potranno anche essere wmpilati e definiti nei minimi particolari, ma saranno ignorati in linea di principio quanta nella pratica".

In Getmania, per contrasto, il "rispeno per la perfezionen ha favorito unacultura manageriale basata su una meticolosapianificazione ed esecuzione, poichb "cogliere al volo le opporhhth e visto meno come un talent0 e pih come un fallimento nell'organiuazione".

sia..sia -congiunzione; tutti e due costumi -abitudii, usanze a volte -ognitanto, di tanto in tanto giudicare-criticare luogtu comuni -proverbi, frasi fane, argomenti banali

Lessico esorta -cerca di persuadere, suggerisce
tale -aggettivo dimostrativo; cosi grande
tanto...quanto -nei comparativi; as ...as
pianificazione-programmazione, organizzazione
cogliere -prendere, approfittare
fallimento -disastro, rovina

Etichetta: parte terza (originale)

11 direttore della delegazione Fiat alla Comunita europea, Salvatore Rossetti, dice che gli italiani "sono piu flessibili nell'adattarsi ai bisogni del mercato". Secondo lui le differenze in flessibilita tra diverse nazionalita sono evidenti anche nelle relazioni quotidiane tra chi vende

o presta i sewizi e i clienti. "Ero in un ristorante di Bruxelles con un importante visitatore italiano, che voleva olio d'oliva nella sua insalata. Quando lo chiese, il camenere rispose che nell'insalata c'era gia aceto, quindi non c'era ragione di volere olio d'oliva. Ora, io credo che se il cliente vuole l'olio, gli vada data la bottiglia dell'olio, perch6 non c'e alcuna ragione per essere cosi rigidi", dice Rossetti.

I1 consenso, nel processo decisionale degli italiani, i. essenziale, dice Mole, perche, "gli italiani in genere si ritengono in grado di fare il lavoro meglio dei lor0 capi e non accettano di buon grado di incarichi se non provano un personale interesse in cib che devono fare".

Multiple Choice Question Euro 3.1

1. La storia del ristorante di Brwtelles dimostra I'importanza di che cosa?

0Spiega che il consenso l: molto importante, ciok, che tutti devono comportarsi nello
stesso modo.
0I1 capire e I'accettare che altre culture hanno altre abitudini e modi di fare.

&I~fter students complete this multiple choice question, they w~ll see their score in

The deadline on this item is 32 days from the date it was assigned. Since there is no date on the calendar for this class, however, the due date cannot be determined. Please tell your instructor about this problem.

Multiple Choice Question Euro 3.2

2. Oltre alla flessibilitk per gli italiani i.molto importante:

0arrivare a un consenso nel processo decisionale 0fare il lavoro meglio dei capi 0 non provare un interesse personale nel lavoro.

I Answer 1

After students complete this multiple choice question, they will see their score in

The deadline on this item is 32 days &om the date it was assigned. Since there is no date on the calendar for this class, however, the due date cannot be determined. Please tell vour instructor about this ~roblem. !




On language learning

"The videos exposed us to Italian culture and gave us practice listening to the Italian language."

"When you had the transcript in case we didn't understand the video. By using the oral, then reading the written, and then using the oral again, it helped me trrmendously to comprehend what was going on."

"The transcriptions with the vocabulary. Coupled with the videos, these really helped us get a better comprehension of the language and develop a more extensive vocabulary."

"Watching the videos while reading the transcription of what people are saying." "Having the text with the narration made it a lot easier to understand than just watching the video. The video was good to hear for the usage of the lanwage." "To see and hear some of the dialogues and stories.The opportunity to be exposed

to the language in more than just one way as reading a book does." "Assignments coincided with the readings in the text." "Words underlined that are further definedlexplainedin the word bank" "I also like it because you were able to read the text and have help with the most

difficult words." "[It] gives dialogues on the CD-Rom which are helpful."

On computer learning

"To mix Italian with the computer field. It helped me understand how comput

ers can be used in different ways." "It was nice to do homework on the computer." "From a convenience standpoint [it] is very good. It requires very little effort to

click buttons on a computer. It almost makes homework fun!"

On the course management system

"The entire schedule of the class was on [it].Thishelped me to organize myself." "It was day by day -if you missed a class, you could see the work you missed

and know what to do for the next class." "[It] keeps all of the classes in a summary." "To keep track of how I was doing grade-wisefor the assignments." "Being able to see your grade."


"Gaining access, finding a place where I could watch the videos. The only place I could watch them was in Smith Hall. I stillhaven't figured out why I cannot play them in. . ." (mentionsthree locations-home, friend, site).

"A hassle sometimesbecause I live in an apartment off campus and don't have a computer. Also I could never get the videos to play in any other lab than Smith Hall. Also there were many days when there were technical problems with [it] that didn't allow me to do what I had to do."

"Having time to get to the library to use the system -access was a problem occasionally (but not a big deal!)."


"When you couldn't get on the system, but it only happened once." "The computer errors. Sometimes the system would just "kick" you off or it wouldn't respond normally. Also, the videos wouldn't play."

Other comments

"When you had to go to other Web sites. They weren't really informative, other than to answer one question." "Overall, I'd say there are no drawbacks." "None."


'Very beneficial, especially with vocabulary."

"Very useful. It helped that the entire scheduleof the class was on [it]."

"Very helpful."

"Beneficial once you are able to understand the program." 'Semi-useful, but overall I don't think it did a great deal for me in learning Italian. The idea is good betause using [it] in conjunction with the book and the Italian class exposes students more to the Italian language,but honestly I don't think it helped very much. [It] was a good idea, but I don't think it's very effective in teaching Italian. Maybe it is me because I really do not like computers very much but overall I feel that I did not benefit from the program." "The video aspect I think is what most applies here."

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