Arabic e-learning website

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Arabic e-learning

1 Introduction

Within the English idiom there exists a maxim that 'knowledge is power' - this statement is substantiated by the fact that throughout recorded history civilisations have placed great importance upon learning and the acquisition of knowledge.

However, this brings forth a more important question - how in reality was this knowledge-base acquired. Fundamentally, the most efficacious means in preserving this knowledge was writing. This presents a problem of its own - the invention of alphabets and languages dates back around 5000 years with the Sumerian cuneiform being considered the oldest known language. For the most of history people relied on oral transmission. However, orality is subject to change and is susceptible to alteration with far greater ease than writing and subsequently writing holds far greater value, especially within the modern context. Languages have consequently evolved (albeit borrowing from other languages) to identifiable and recognised systems of sounds and grammatical patterns, and importantly various scripts.

English in today's society is deemed lingua franca and has become the preferred language of commerce as well as academia. However, most people in the UK (due to the system of education) learn either French or German as a subsidiary language to some extent. These languages present difficulties of grammar, syntax, vocabulary and pronunciation foremost, but not with the script - as all employ the 'Latin' alphabet.

However, there is an increase in people learning other languages (besides the aforesaid) like Arabic. This presents the student ab iniitio with a greater challenge - that of learning an entirely new script. Also, Arabic is unique in that it behaves as a language both as an Abjad (a consonant based Alphabet that normally only represents consonants) and as a standard alphabet. Therefore, an initiate must spend time
familiarising themselves with the alphabet before diving further into the language. Arabic presents another problem, its script is not static like English - i.e. the characters remain a constant shape graphological shape irrespective of their position in a word - Arabic, is fluid, the letters readily change their appearance depending on where they appear in a word, each Arabic letter posses an initial, medial and final form, as well as a stand alone form. Recently, the democratisation of computers (and technology at large) especially in the Western world has resulted in a great dependance upon knowing how to use them and in bringing information to the masses through them. E-learning is becoming increasingly popular - especially with greater access to the internet. Professor Diana Laurillard re-affirmed the significance of e-learning when she said “no sane person can say that e-learning is not essential.” Rather, e-learning is “the most exciting thing to have come our way since the invention of writing”. The effectiveness of E-Learning is further underscored with the increased popularity of programmes like Rosetta Stone and Pimslow - designed to help teach languages expeditiously and efficiently.

The above being considered the intention of this project is to undertake the development of such an e-learning programme for the Arabic Language. The project will aim to teach how to write and read the language. To do this the latest e-learning techniques will be employed in particular to assist a beginner in the correct way to read and write various letter forms and diacritical marks (dots and dash's above and below letters that influence the corresponding letters sound). The project aims to help beginners to gain a greater confidence in learning to read Arabic.

1.1 Aims and Objectives

The aims and objectives of this project is to research into several key areas to develop an effective e-learning system and evaluate if the techniques implemented in the system were effective.

The key areas to be researched are:

• E-learning
• Computer aided language learning
• The Arabic language
• Software development tools

Hypothesis:

In an e-learning environment if an“integrative” learning approach is implemented over a “behaviourist” learning approach then the end user will benefit more from the learning experience through using the e-learning application.

1.2 Report Structure

1. Introduction, briefly outlines the context and area the project is concerned with also touching on the aims and objectives of the project and a brief hypothesis.

2. Research, contains the literature review providing an in depth look at the definition and development of e-learning and computer aided language learning. Furthermore the Arabic script is discussed as a means to understand how it will be taught using e-learning and CALL. The requirement analysis is also shown here looking into existing systems and interviews to gain essential knowledge on how the project should be implemented. And finally a look into what tools are available to develop the proposed system.

3. Design, contains the pilot study of the project and its experimental design what was learnt from undertaking the pilot study and the final development of the system before it was used for gathering results.

4. Testing and Results, looks at the test strategy implemented, what results were gathered after the testing had taken place and what findings could be drawn after evaluating the results.

5. Conclusion, looks at the findings from the project and what conclusions can be drawn from them and how this relates back to the hypothesis.

2 Research

2.1 Literature Review

2.1.1 E Learning

The term e-learning can refer to the process of learning through technology such as a personal computer or the internet[Poulin R]. However the term e-learning can be broadly defined due to the nature of technological development and the speed at which this is occurring [Meyers, Jeremy] and the materials that are used in the elearning process.

Furthermore E-learning is not only becoming increasingly common and popular because of technological advancements but because of the availability of personal computers to the average household [BBC News, 2002]. Also consideration must be given to the increase in use of e-learning within educational institutions like universities for example to distance students and organisations to train employees[BCS News 1]. Other reasons as to why e-learning has become widespread are the great advantages it presents over traditional face-to-face learning. Although this point raised is debatable e-learning does have some clear advantages over face-to-face learning such as:

• The price an organisation or educational institution has to pay to implement an e-learning system which can be used by a large amount of users is considerably cheaper than employing teachers or trainers to teach students or train employees.

• Most people have access to computers and the internet so the issue of whether or not the e-learning system can be accessed is not of high concern.

• The one directly benefiting from the e-learning system saves money as the learning can take place in the comfort of their own home, such is the case with distance learners at universities.

• The wide range of learner types that the e-learning system can adapt to helps keep users focused on the content and enhance the learning experience.[BCS News 2]

• E-leaning systems are flexible, users can learn at their own pace in their own time.

2.1.2 Computer Assisted Language Learning

To have a full understanding of CALL1 it would be wise to look at it's history and development from when it began to present day. CALL has been developing over the past 40 years and has been through three specific stages [Warschauer M, 1996]. The first stage of CALL, namely “Behaviouristic CALL”, was developed in the 1950's and later implemented in the 1960's. It was built on the popular theories of learning at that time. These theories included ideas that learning materials were to be repeated to be effective, the computer was ideal for performing this task and that the user can go at their own pace as each user would have their own computer. Such learning methods were known as “drill and practice” due to the nature of the system and it's low level of interactivity with the user [Warschauer M, 1996].

The second stage of CALL known as “Communicative CALL” like the first stage was based on popular learning theories at the time it was developed and used in the 1970- 80's [Warschauer M, 1996]. This stage was concerned with leaving behind what were seen as ineffective techniques in behaviouristic CALL and implement a more interactive system that would engage the user [Stevens V, 1989].
The third and current stage of CALL known as “Integrative CALL” is built on some recent key technological advancements that occurred in the last twenty years. These technological advancements are digital multimedia and the internet [Warschauer M, 1996].

Digital multimedia refers to a single interface or computer program that is built up from a combination of two or more media [Chapman, 2000]. In using digital multimedia and CALL approach many effective e-learning systems have been developed. However the applications that are fully interactive are few due to the majority being developed lacking a strong pedagogical grounding [Warschauer M,
1996].

The internet is a large collection of interconnected computer networks in communication with one another via a common protocol [Coulouris et al, 2001]. Regarding the internet and development of integrative CALL one can observe that the internet provides a rich resource to the content that is being taught from the world wide web. Furthermore it allows students and teachers alike using integrative CALL developed systems to have one-to-one or one-to-many contact in real time. This helps collaboration of tasks and no limit to the location of the user [Warschauer M, 1996].

1 Computer Assisted Language Learning will be abbreviated to CALL throughout the rest of this report. Although digital multimedia has been restricted to use on computers via CD-ROM in the past looking into recent developments in the world wide web and more specifically web 2.0 we find this is no longer the case and that digital multimedia is ever present on the world wide web via the internet [O'Reilly, 2005]. What this means for intergrative CALL is that the web is no longer a text-based medium which was the case when this stage of CALL began [Warschauer M, 1996]. Rather interactive and integrative environments can be developed to increase the efficiency of e-learning systems via the web realising the full potential of intergrative CALL [Robinsonova N, 2008].

2.1.3 Learning and Memory

An important part of designing an e-learning system is research different types of learners and understanding how the human mind, more specifically memory works. Upon understanding these two important areas the target audience of the proposed elearning system will be easier to understand and specific techniques can be implemented in the e-learning system. Looking at the Honey and Mumford model where four distinct types of learners were identified these were: activist, reflectors, theorists and pragmatists [Honey, P. & Mumford, A. 1982].

• Activist learners were described as being most effective when they experienced new challenges and tasks. This was the case especially in tasks that were of a short span and involved problem solving and teamwork.

• Reflectors learnt the best in situations where they were able to observe the task at hand rather than dealing with it immediately. For example they would have time to think about how they would approach the task before they initiated any action. They also favour environments where they can review their learning and there is little to no pressure on them.

• Theorists learnt more efficiently when they are presented a task in which they can analyse what is given to them which may be part of a larger model or concept. Furthermore situations where they can explore interrelationships between what they have found from their analysis were favourable.

• Pragmatists learnt best from situations that present an explicit link in the task at hand and a real life problem. They prefer to act on what they have learnt when the opportunity would present itself.

Sensory Memory
Working Memory
Long Term Memory

2.1.4 Arabic

The Arabic Language

• Basic introduction and history of language and script
• Why is Arabic relevant and benefits of learning
• Arabic and Computers

2.2 Requirement Analysis

2.2.1 Interviews

Interview with Arabic teacher
-How the interview would be conducted
-What information I wanted from the interviews
-What information I got from the interview Arabic student
-How the interview would be conducted
-What information I wanted from the interviews
-What information I got from the interview

2.2.2 Implementation tools

Research into what potential tools could be used to develop the e-learning system
-Web Based (ASP, Jquery, HTML5, CSS3)
-Java
-C#
Chosen solution and why

2.1.6 Existing Systems

Evaluation of existing e-learning systems
-madinah arabic
-rosetta stone
-babel arabic

3 Design

User requirements
Use case diagrams
Story boards
Heuristics

3.1 Pilot Study

• Experimental design
• Aims of pilot study
• Structure of pilot study
• Screen shots of pilot study
• How pilot study was conducted
• Results from pilot and comparison to aims
• Conclusions from results of pilot
• How does that change the development of the system, need to re-scope?

4 Testing and Results
4.1 Test Plan
4.2 Results
4.3 Findings
5 Conclusion
6 Appendices
7 References

[BBC News, 2002]
“One billion computers sold bbc news”. At: <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/sci/tech/2077986.stm>

[BCS News 1] “E-learning market to grow in 2010 January”. At: <http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.34184 >

[BCS News 2] “Study shows value of e-learning”. At: < http://www.bcs.org/server.php?show=conWebDoc.33364 > [Chapman, 2000]

Chapman N and Chapman J. (2000) “Digital Multimedia”. Chichester:John Wiley & Sons. pp. 12 [Coulouris et al, 2001]

Coulouris G, Dollimore and Kindberg T. (2001) “Distributed Systems Concepts and Design”. Pearson Education Limited. Pp 3-4 [Honey, P. & Mumford, A. 1982]

Honey, P. & Mumford, A. (1982). “Manual of Learning Styles”. London: P Honey [Meyers, Jeremy] "A Short History of the Computer". At: < http://www.softlord.com/comp/ >

[O'Reilly, 2005] O'Reilly (2005) “What is web 2.0”. online at: http://oreilly.com/pub/a/web2/archive/what-is-web-20.html?page=1 [Poulin R] “Distance Learning in Higher Education - Related Terms and

Concepts, Goals of Distance Learning, Technologies Used in Distance Learning”. At: < http://education.stateuniversity.com/pages/1917/Distance-Learning-in-Higher-Education.html>

[Robinsonova N, 2008] Robinsonova N. (2008). “Learning a language the web 2.0 way”. At: http://eu.techcrunch.com/2008/08/25/learning-a-language-the-web-20-way/

[Stevens V, 1989] Stevens V. (ed.) (1989) "A direction for CALL: from behavioristic to humanistic courseware". In Pennington M. (ed.), Teaching languages with computers: the state of the art, La Jolla, CA: Athelstan: 31-43.

[Warschauer M, 1996] Warschauer M. (1996) "Computer Assisted Language Learning: an Introduction". In Fotos S. (ed.) Multimedia language teaching, Tokyo: Logos International: 3-20. Dominic Jones 10

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