Research article
Issue: № 3 (7), 2016


The article analyses a number of problems that lecturers and students are facing during the process of study. The lack of timetable hours, oversized groups and students of different language levels within one group slow down the process of formation, development and improvement of language skills. The authors stress the necessity to use the elements of electronic learning to organize proper teaching process and highlight the advantages of the electronic course, which gives more opportunities for students to practice their language skills.

The sphere of language education in Russia has changed dramatically in recent years including alterations in content standards, teaching methods and academic achievement control. However, due to the tendency of decreasing the amount of practical classes on the curriculum at Ukhta State Technical University we have been facing great challenges to compensate the lack of timetable hours. Moreover, the students enrolled in our University naturally have different level of language skills as we are a non-linguistic university. Correspondingly, there can be students who are rather fluent in foreign languages and those who have only achieved language level A1. The number of students in a group can vary from 15 to 30 students.

Meanwhile, the new set of Federal State Educational Standard (FSES) requires a certain level of language proficiency, knowledge and competence from the university graduates. It should be noted that the level of language skills, teaching competences, the level of student proficiency and knowledge are described in a rather vague and incomplete manner. According to the FSES general, communicative and professional competences which are to be implemented through the academic curriculum a university graduate is supposed to develop in speaking, reading, listening and writing abilities up to a definite level [1].

The reality shows that both lecturers and undergraduates have been facing a number of problems connected with inappropriate amount of teaching hours. During the class the instructor can only focus on a few language aspects necessarily neglecting the other important ones. Another negative side of this is that the language instructor fails to involve all students in a group in oral and written communication at the lesson. Although the course book we use is suitable for students of all levels and it contains a variety of exercises to do in the classroom and for homework, we lack time we can devote to every student at the lesson. Accordingly, they mostly work on their own to prepare their home assignments and demonstrate them to the instructor. There is no time to give enough feedback to each student. As a result, beginner or elementary students fail to keep up with the acquisition process. Advanced students on the other hand lose motivation and do not feel like the English course is helping them make good progress. Moreover, the results of recent final and current tests show that in some smaller groups where students have practically the same language level the progress is slow, in others there is a decline in learning. Under these circumstances we need to apply a differential approach to teaching languages and systematic control. In fact, over the last few years we have failed to develop the necessary language skills on the level students could use a foreign language as a means of oral and written communication [2].

In order to improve the situation we decided to bring the contents and methods of teaching to the practical needs of the students. To satisfy students’ communicative needs and to allow more time to practice language skills we have been integrating elements of electronic learning into our traditional education system. We have created an electronic resource which can be used by students at home and in class. The course contains interactive material in the form of video, audio and grammar presentations developed for each topic. There are tests and interactive quizzes to practice reading, writing and listening skills on different levels. Some tests and quizzes are time-limited to make sure students are not cheating. Each set of exercises corresponds to a certain module of the course book, which enables students to have extra practice on the topic. As the system provides automatic feedback, it allows more opportunities for students to practice their language skills. In addition, students are able to choose between practicing grammar, vocabulary, listening and reading aspects and select the level of difficulty according to their needs, progress and ambitions [3].

To create the course we have used the iSpring Suite™ toolkit which allows to turn PowerPoint presentations into a fully-featured interactive electronic resource that can be used either as an independent tool for self-educating or as a companion to the course book in the classroom.

Let us consider the process of making the course step by step using the iSpring™ software tools. The starting point is collecting materials for the contents of the future course. Authentic reading and listening materials, engaging topics and context-oriented grammar structures and vocabulary are arranged according to the level of difficulty. The next step, which also appears to be the most time and effort-consuming, is constructing the presentation and branching between the slides to arrange the most efficient structure of the future course. Taking into account the resulting number of slides in the completed presentation (over a hundred), we end up with an intricate hierarchy of the slides and complex branching. An example of this can be seen on Figure 1.


Structure of the presentation

Fig. 1 – Structure of the presentation


However, the resulting course has a user-friendly interface and easy navigation within the modules and activities (Fig. 2). Students are able to choose between the language skills they want to practise and the levels of difficulty. The constituent parts of the units (vocabulary, grammar, reading, or listening) that are not currently in use are hidden and do not confuse the users.


User-friendly interface

Fig. 2 – User-friendly interface


Having selected a particular unit, users move to a number of practical activities designed to train different aspects of the language. For this purpose, each unit contains a set of interactive exercises of certain types. The iSpring Suite™ offers a special tool called QuizMaker™ for developing tests and quizzes of the following types: True/False, multiple choice text, multiple response, hotspot and sequence questions, drag-and-drop matching, word bank, filling in the blanks, and active zone tasks. The tool supports embedding audio and video recordings and images into all types of activities. Such a wide range of assessments provides great possibilities for the developers to ensure the practical application of various teaching methods and techniques. This enables a teacher to organize the learning process in the way when students practise their listening and reading comprehension abilities, as well as spelling, grammar and vocabulary skills.

It should be mentioned, however, that being a universal exercise creating tool, QuizMaker™ needs to be adjusted to meet our specific requirements to design foreign language practising activities. We had to come across with a number of technical peculiarities which made impossible to make some types of exercises or created different impediments. For instance, when developing a listening comprehension activity, the QuizMaker™ tool does not allow placing the audio recording and all the True/False statements on the same webpage and requires a new page for every new statement. As a result, students would have to do the task without any visual support. So, it could cause some confusion but we have managed to adjust this type of activity using the multiple choice text exercise with built-in drop-out menus with the choice between True and False.

The electronic interactive course also includes automated point-based assessment and feedback, which can be selected to be sent to the teacher or saved in the system (Fig. 3). Moreover, this encourages and motivates the learners to continue the course up to the end. In case a student or a teacher is not fully satisfied with the results, the student should retry the activity since the number of tries is unlimited.


Fig. 3 –Test results

Fig. 3 –Test results


The current version of the course contains nine modules, but it can be modified (enlarged, divided into subcourses or integrated with other interactive resources) at any time depending on the curriculum and teaching requirements, making it rather flexible. More than that, the course can be integrated into various distance learning platforms such as Moodle, iSpring Online, Blackboard, Litmos and others, can be hosted independently on the university website or even published on CDs.

The electronic course aims at equipping students with wide practice of language skills incorporating various types of activities and providing a student-and-teacher friendly interface. No doubt, it leaves room for improvement, but even at the current stage it offers more flexibility to the teaching process and encourages students to progress. On the other hand, it should be remembered that this course is just a supplementary electronic resource and cannot be viewed as a full independent course but only as one of its components. Alongside with an excellent opportunity to practise perceptive language skills, this self-study instrument lacks the tools to improve productive abilities in speaking and writing. The teacher still remains the vital component of the acquiring a foreign language process.


  • Primernye programmy po inostrannym jazykam [Approximate programs for foreign languages] [Electronic resource]. – URL: (Accessed 14.09.2016) [in Russian]

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