The Design and Implementation of Blended Language Courses in Tertiary Education

by Sylvia Maciaszczyk (Author)
©2019 Monographs 192 Pages
Series: Gdańsk Studies in Language, Volume 14


The book proposes a comprehensive framework for blended language course design. It builds extensively on existing literature on the subject and draws from empirical research presented therein. The framework will be of help for blended language course authors and designers, as well as publishers, heads of studies, teacher trainers, decision makers at all levels and also language teachers.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title Page
  • Copyright Page
  • Dedication Page
  • Acknowledgements
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • Citability of the eBook
  • Contents
  • Introduction
  • 1. Computer-Assisted Language Learning – A Historical Overview
  • 1.1 CALL developments before the microcomputer (1960s–1970s)
  • 1.2 CALL developments in the 1980s
  • 1.3 CALL developments in the 1990s
  • 1.4 Technological advancements after 2000
  • 2. Theoretical Underpinnings of CALL
  • 2.1 Behaviourism
  • 2.2 Cognitivism and cognitive constructivism
  • 2.3 Social constructivism
  • Sociocultural theory
  • 2.4 Social constructivism as a basis for the Communicative Approach
  • 2.5 Implications of cognitive constructivism and social constructivism for CALL
  • 2.5.1 Implications of cognitive constructivism for CALL
  • 2.5.2 Implications of social constructivism for CALL
  • 2.6 Analyses of paradigm shifts across the history of CALL
  • Phases of CALL (Warschauer)
  • Approaches to CALL (Bax)
  • 3. The Present Context of CALL – Towards Technology Integration
  • 3.1 Language learners of the New Millennium
  • 3.2 New technologies and new literacies
  • 3.3 Open Educational Resources (OERs)
  • 3.4 Teacher training and development
  • 4. Course Design and Implementation in Foreign Language Teaching
  • 4.1 Elements of course design
  • 4.1.1 Aims, goals, and objectives
  • 4.1.2 Needs analysis
  • 4.1.3 Situation analysis
  • 4.2 The process of course design
  • 4.3 The syllabus as an outcome of course design
  • 4.3.1 Content of the syllabus
  • 4.3.2 Sequencing in the syllabus
  • 4.4 Implementation of a new course
  • 4.5 Evaluation of a course
  • 5. Blended Learning Course Design
  • 5.1 Definitions and conceptualisations of “blended learning”
  • 5.2 Reasons for the use of blended courses
  • 5.3 Key characteristics of successful blended courses with a tutorial component
  • 5.4 Design of blended courses in higher education
  • 5.5 A (preliminary) framework for blended language course design and implementation
  • 6. Blended and Online Language Learning in Practice
  • 6.1 The e-learning platform
  • 6.1.1 The discussion forum
  • 6.1.2 The interactive quiz
  • 6.2 Websites and tools outside the e-learning platform
  • 6.3 Challenges in online/blended learning and teaching
  • 6.3.1 The changing roles of the teacher
  • 6.3.2 Online communication and group work
  • 7. Implementing New Technologies – The Case Study of a Blended Course Design and Implementation Process
  • 7.1 Research organisation: aim, questions, sample, and instruments
  • Sample and instruments
  • 7.2 The designer’s perspective
  • 7.2.1 Goals of the language course. Situation and needs analysis
  • 7.2.2 Syllabus design
  • 7.2.3 Instructional materials
  • 7.2.4 Implementation, communication, and support
  • 7.3 The students’ perspective
  • Questionnaire findings
  • Interview findings
  • Student 1
  • Student 2
  • 7.4 Teachers’ perspective
  • 7.4.1 The content of online modules
  • 7.4.2 Relation of the modules’ content to the F2F meetings
  • 7.4.3 Teachers’ use of the platform
  • 7.4.4 Teacher management of F2F meetings
  • 7.4.5 Teacher and student difficulties in the course
  • 7.4.6 Suggested changes in the course
  • 7.4.7 Teachers’ attitude to blended courses
  • 7.5 Conclusions
  • 7.6 Implications for course designers – a framework for blended course design and implementation
  • 7.7 Limitations of the study
  • Conclusions
  • Appendices
  • Appendix 1: The questionnaire for students – week 5
  • Appendix 2: The questionnaire for students – week 15
  • References
  • Index


The present work is concerned with integration of computer and Internet technologies into tertiary language education, and it puts special focus on one form of such integration, that is, blended courses, here understood as courses which combine face-to-face (F2F) tuition with online learning.

The reason for such focus is twofold. Firstly, more and more tertiary schools and universities are introducing blended courses in their standard offering and, consequently, there is a great demand for knowledge on how to design and implement such blended tuition. The present work aspires to add to the existing knowledge on the subject. Secondly, it is also believed that blended courses exactly are that form of technology integration which can take advantage of the best techniques and approaches available in both: modern face-to-face language classroom and computer technology.

Admittedly, the research discussed in the last chapter of the work was initiated in 2006 and continued over the next few years. It might thus be considered “too old” to be relevant to the field. However, from the vantage point of 2017, the subject literature still reports on the need to share knowledge on how to effectively design and implement blended courses (NMC Horizon Report: 2015 Higher Education Edition, NMC Horizon Report: 2017 Higher Education Edition). In the field of language education specifically, McCarthy (2016: 248) points to the lack of “canon” or “rulebook” for BL programmes in language education. Hence, I hope this work will contribute to the discussion on the subject among scholars and practitioners.

To understand the potential of blended language courses, it is necessary to see them in the bigger context of Computer Assisted Language Learning (CALL) as a developing field, with its history and ongoing efforts to wisely use computer technologies in language learning. Therefore, Chapter 1 is a short account of major developments in CALL from the 1960s till the initial years of the New Millennium.

Chapter 2 is a discussion of theories and assumptions used as bases for research in, and practice of, teaching languages with technologies. In no way exhaustive, it serves to accentuate those theories which have the biggest potential for blended courses. Each of the theories discussed in Chapter 2 has had its moments of strongest, and then weaker, impact on CALL. For example, while behaviourism was considered a valid learning theory (in CALL and in other fields) in the 1960s, it fell out of favour in the 1980s, when cognitivism took lead. These trends are presented in two analyses of paradigm shifts in section 2.6, which will hopefully ←13 | 14→allow the reader to see the leap that has been made in how technologies once were, and now are, seen in educational contexts. Evident is the move from the focus on the technology only, with a relative disregard of the student’s cognitive abilities and needs, or the context in which learning takes place, to the view of technology as only one element in the intricate net of learning experiences, in which not only the technology itself but also the students, teachers, situations, smaller, and bigger contexts all have a considerable impact on learning outcomes.

Chapter 3 outlines the more recent context in which CALL has been taking place. Hence, it offers an overview of some issues shaping the landscape of tertiary language education today: the changing profile and learning needs of the student, the impact of computer use on the notions of literacy, and the growing phenomenon of Open Educational Resources.

Chapter 4 is an overview of classic literature on language course design and implementation, and it provides the context for the discussion of how blended courses specifically are written and constructed, which is the subject of Chapter 5. After a revision of available literature on blended course design, Chapter 5 ends with a proposal of a framework for blended course design and implementation. The framework aims to bring together our knowledge from two sources: classic literature on curriculum/syllabus design and implementation on the one hand, and latest research concerning blended courses on the other.

Chapter 6 surveys some of the most salient practical aspects of language learning and teaching in online delivery, as a part of blended courses.

Chapter 7 reports on empirical research presented therein and aims to add to the framework for blended course design and implementation. The final framework consisting of 59 questions is proposed at the end of Chapter 7.

As can be seen from the outline above, the focus taken in the present thesis is not on the technology itself but rather on how the technology affects educational experience. Such a decision was dictated by the fact that technologies themselves change very quickly, whereas course design and implementation processes remain, to a large extent, similar. Another reason for the course-design focus is that, within the field of CALL, it has been the individual technologies themselves (rather than pedagogy or course design) which have received greater attention and have undergone better research (as pointed out in Levy 1997 and Davies 2005–2008), even though it was noted a long time ago that the success in technology-enhanced learning depends not so much on the kind of technology used but more on how this technology is put to use (Jones 1986).

It is hoped the framework will be of use for blended language course authors and designers, as well as publishers, heads of studies, teacher trainers, decision makers at all levels and also language teachers.

1. Computer-Assisted Language Learning  – A Historical Overview

The following chapter is a historical overview of how the computer has been put to use in language education. The issues discussed with relation to computer-assisted language learning and, more broadly, technology in education provide a context for the subsequent discussion on blended language learning. The overview presented below is in no way exhaustive. It merely serves to accentuate the main developments that have shaped the mainstream of how educational technologies have been used till today.

1.1 CALL developments before the microcomputer (1960s–1970s)

The 1960s marked the beginning of computer technology in language learning. The technology available at the time was the mainframe computer. It was contained in a large cabinet or wardrobe and connected to multiple terminals in a language laboratory, thanks to which it could deliver learning to many students at the same time. The use of the mainframe computer was sometimes combined with other technologies, for example the telephone or the television.

One of the first language instruction programs based on the mainframe computer was initiated at Stanford University and hence became known the Stanford Project (Suppes 1981 [in:] Ahmad et al. 1985: 28). It initially included an introductory Russian course, within which students were required to type answers to pre-recorded questions. Although students listened to the questions, they could not answer orally. However, twice a week students made recordings of their speech, which was later evaluated by a teacher of Russian (ibidem). The course in Russian was later the basis for other computer-assisted courses at Stanford. Eventually, the Stanford Project brought about valuable know-how which proved fruitful within the IBM company (the major funding body of the Stanford Project) and other organisations (Chapelle 2001: 4–5).

Another program of the 1960s was the PLATO system (Programmed Logic for Automated Teaching Operations) (Ahmad et al. 1985: 30). It was designed at the University of Illinois with five-million-dollar funding from the Control Data Corporation (Levy 1997: 15). PLATO was used to deliver self-study courses, or “learning packages”, in various academic subjects, among which were foreign languages such as Russian and, later, Chinese, English, Esperanto, ←15 | 16→French, German, Hindi, Latin, Modern Hebrew, Modern Greek, Norwegian, and Swedish (Ahmad et al. 1985: 31). Most of the language tasks offered to students in PLATO were translation exercises, grammar explanation, and drills in grammar and vocabulary. The tasks were self-paced and included feedback elements, with which students were informed about mistakes made.

PLATO was considerably developed over two decades, and the most sophisticated and powerful version was known as PLATO IV (Hart 1995). The system allowed tutors to create tasks themselves and to include graphics in the course. PLATO IV could display text in different alphabets on the same screen or give a dictation to students. It did allow for, albeit limited, communication between learners and the tutor (and among learners) via a messaging system and a multiplayer game (Levy 1997: 16; Davies, Otto, & Rüschoff 2013: 21). Also, it included tracking facilities allowing tutors to see and archive their students’ progress (Delcloque 2000).

The two language programs described above, the Stanford Project and the PLATO system, well illustrate the possibilities of computer-assisted language education of the 1960s. Naturally, other computer-assisted language projects were taking place at that time. For example, CLEF – Computer-Assisted Learning Exercises for French – which resulted from the cooperation of three Canadian universities: Western Ontario, Guelph, and Waterloo. Other examples are a course in German developed at about the same time at MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Chapelle 2001: 5), or the Scientific Language Project, which provided computer assistance in reading specialist texts in Russian, developed at the University of Essex between 1965 and 1969 (Ahmad et al. 1985: 33–35).


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2019 (July)
Course design Language education CALL TELL Interactive homework
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2019. 190 pp., 13 fig.b/w., 1 table.

Biographical notes

Sylvia Maciaszczyk (Author)

Sylvia Maciaszczyk (PhD) combines her expertise in English Language Teaching, course design and online learning. Currently Assistant Professor in English Studies and Head of e-learning Center. Formerly Head of Language Center (SWPS) and Country Director of Studies in the largest chain of language schools in Poland.


Title: The Design and Implementation of Blended Language Courses in Tertiary Education
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194 pages