Kuwait University

ELU/Science_Jan 19, 2004

Some Notes & Reflections on 162 Students' Final Project

by Buthaina Al Othman

The purpose of this report is to describe my reflection on an experiment, using a synchronous computer mediated communication, (CMC), tool,a Virtual Room at Alado.net/Webheads, where 9 of my students, registered in an ESP, English for Science course # 162 volunteered to present their required final project live online. The rest of the class, 13 students preferred to present in-class.

The 9 students presented, before remote global audience comprising ESL/EFL Webhead teachers from Denmark, Spain, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Portugal, Germany, and Brazil. The local audience, comprised a few EFL instructors from the English Language unit of Science in Kuwait University, and the 13 students.

Notes & Comments:

First, I would like to confirm, as the class teacher, that the positive outcome of the online presentations was remarkable, and significantly reflected on both groups, the 9 online and the 13 in-class presenters, later throughout the end of the in-class presentations week.

Performance of both groups was beyond my expectation in that the 9-student group, being the audience, took the role of the Webhead teachers in the following terms:

1. They were very observant and focused on each presentation, asking intelligent and interesting questions in a very efficient and professional manner.

2. They attended all presentations on time, showing respect, interest and enthusiasm toward the 13-student group; since they realized the important role of the audience to a presenter, following their online presentations

3. Most of them, including the poorest student performed much better in the final exam, particularly in the essay writing that was to be produced by combining notes and phrases from a 5-paragraph essay detailed outline format.

4. Some of the nine students have registered in an advanced elective writing course # 163, stressing their need to enhance their academic writing skill. Meanwhile, other students asked for tips and recommendations on how to practice their English speaking, listening and writing skills via the Internet. (I directed them to Writing for Webheads, but haven't seen any of them joined the community, yet).

These were the positive desirable results regarding the online presenters.

As for the 13 in-class presenters, the following remarks were noticed:

1. Most of the students who created PowerPoint slides to use for their presentations modified the slides after they saw the lay out and organization of the online PowerPoint presentations. Some of them were very creative and managed to add images and sound.

2. Regarding their actual performance, presenting in-class, they were very skillful as first time, face-to-face presenters. They spoke in a loud, clear voice and used good English that was beyond my expectation.

3. Most of them managed to maintain good eye contact with the audience, while reading directly from their slides projected on a screen.

4. They responded to the audience's questions efficiently, practicing what they saw and heard at the distance-learning center, where they observed the online presenters closely and learned what to say when they don't have a ready answer to an inquiry. They used professional expressions, such as, "I'm sorry I don't know the answer or I'm sorry I didn't search this point but I promise to further search it and bring you the answer as soon as I can". (I was very impressed as this was also beyond my expectations, regarding responses in this kind of situations).

5. Their final exam results, in fact, showed higher achievement than those presented online, which their midterm results, on the contrary, showed higher achievement.

6. Some of them also asked for tips and recommendations on ways to improve their English, writing and speaking skills in particular, during this Spring break, officially, starting this Wednesday. (They were also told to join Writing for Webheads).

In conclusion, I believe that the webcast project or the online activities, using a synchronous computer mediated communication, (CMC) tool, such as, the webcasting tool of Alado.net/Webheads, is feasible, and has resulted in a positive, desirable outcome for both students and the class instructor. It has positively influenced and motivated both groups, benefiting them with various language, computer and Internet or IT skills. The main outcome that I would like to stress here is that this webcast activity has created a constructive academic competition between the two groups, enhancing their face-to-face and e-learning experiences. By asking for tips and recommendations on ways to improve their English language, students are actually taking their first step toward independent learning, which I believe is the first step towards the future or the 21st Century.

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©2003-04 Buthaina Al Othman