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(Report) Introduction

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Task: Flexible Language Acquisition (FLAX): Analysis for feedback and grading of dynamically generated language exercises. (300 level directed study)
Computer-mediated language instruction is a rapidly growing option for language providers. With the implementation in more and more institutions of Learning Management Systems, the scope for augmenting and supplementing resources formerly only available in textbooks is increasing rapidly. While there are a lot of good language presentation programs available, those of real pedagogical value often require significant knowledge of subject content as well as a degree of technical expertise. Even programs with extensive html editors are fiddly to manage, requiring the teacher to know which buttons to push to allow the program to write the underlying code. When that is completed the teacher then has to work out how to export the exercise into the right format for presentation in an e-learning environment. But now there is FLAX! Gone is the need for specialist technical knowledge; the user is presented with a simple 'click and choose' interface for selecting the parameters from which the program sources the text and compiles an exercise (with feedback). The problem is that it is one thing to provide formative feedback to a user in a computer-generated exercise, but using this information for assessment purposes is another matter entirely. Requiring a computer to replicate examiner-moderated assessment is rather like expecting a person to distinguish colours from a black and white photograph. Herewith is a brief description of a few of the more popular electronic language exercise products, and a summary of the issues of language assessment. The six modules of FLAX are described, with a mind to helping its developers understand what a teacher (or student) needs from an automated language product to make it viable as a pedagogical tool. Included within this description therefore, are suggestions and recommendations for formative feedback and grading.