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The development of ICT and web-based technology has dramatically evolved the educational methods. In the knowledge economy, globalization and integration have substantially developed and quickly changed society. Thus, educational innovation has become more and more urgent. In common trend of development, the Vietnamese national higher education system including colleges, universities, and institutes should be reconstituted and readjusted. The combination of traditional and online training in which a transition from local networked computers to web-base flatforms has tacitly been a very fashionable and modern trend for these organizations. A 'blended' or 'hybrid' course system not only is accepted by almost every tertiary education in Vietnam, especially schools directly under national universities but also is developed in training centers and affiliated organizations. While Blackboard and WebCT, two licensed software packages have chiefly held Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) markets, Moodle, a free and open-source system, is becoming known and an extremely popular alternative to instructors who is not highly computer-literate.
Moodle has features different from authoring systems of web design such as Macromedia, Dreamweaver and FrontPage. Besides setting up a website with diverse forms and copious content, it also allows users to design, install, implement and develop a Database Management System (DMS). On such a frame, users have the full privilege of access to manipulate and manage that data. That is, users can add, delete, modify, copy, move value to the application as they work in it. With the installation of database software, Moodle can offer two-way exchanges and make plentifully interactive communication with its users.
1.1. BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
1.1.1 Situation of online writing teaching around the world
Online writing teaching has its prominent strengths that are to offer a flexibility unequalled in real-world programs if compared traditional writing teaching. All best credentials of practicers are evaluated by their competence to communicate effectively in writing. Generally, the only normal schedule is the requirement to provide lectures on a specific day. Otherwise, the teacher can select documents, prepare lectures, review homework, and discuss student questions on his own time just as students can choose website, take the course on their time. Since there is no strictly scheduled meeting time or place, students can come from around the country and from around the world (Allen,2004).
Moodle that was created by Martin Dougiamas, a WebCT administrator at Curtin University, Australia. It is a free and open-source e-learning software platform has a significant user base with 49,952 registered and verified sites, including 206 countries, serving 37 million users in 3.7 million courses (as of October 2010[update]). Advantages of Moodle can be assessed in several dimentions from the theoretical basis to practical application in online writing teaching ("Moodle Statistics",2010)
The stated philosophy of Moodle includes a behaviorist, cognitivist and constructivist and connectivist approach to education, emphasizing that learners (and not just teachers) can contribute to the educational experience. Moodle's design optionally allows students to comment on content (or to contribute content themselves), or to write collaboratively in some activities as Chat, Forum, Wiki, etc.
The teacher can design online writing courses with opportunities for rich interaction. He can create their own essay topics or select from the topic library. Students then write their essays online, and the Moodle tools automatically grade their writing and provide instant feedback they can use to revise and resubmit their essays. This saves time and helps the teacher enhance your classroom instruction and provide their English-language students to improve their writing skills with a faster and easier way. Furthermore, Moodle is an open source license and modular design mean that people can develop additional functionality through add-on Module.
Because of its popularity and excellent software package in a course management system, Moodle has become an online writing tool powerful and effective and is a virtual learning environment deployed most widespread in the world at present. In fact, almost every tertiary education in the world has by now adopted either Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) or Course Management System (CMS) as a teaching aid to its traditional course, which is often called a 'blended' or 'hybrid' course system (Robb,2004).
Technological difficulties and pedagogical challenges that teachers of English writing may meet if they would like to use Moodle in the writing classes are not ignored. Major obstacles that they have to overcome include technical issues, computer facilities, and treatment of error and implication of teaching methods.
1.1.2. Online writing teaching in Vietnamese schools
Online writing teaching in Vietnamese schools is currently not yet interested properly. It is claimed that the instruction in the second language classroom adheres to traditional product-oriented approach. Therefore, online writing teaching meets with difficulties starting from technological difficulties and pedagogical challenges. The former stems from insights about database, web, functions of a software package, etc. This knowledge is necessary for participants to explore on the internet. The latter results from overcoming the product-oriented approach in which writing is regarded as a measure applying and improving grammatical structure and lexical items and accuracy is given a prior degree to meaning of the text. So, it is currently necessary to apply the communicative approach and new trends.
As a result, to perform the writing teaching process effectively, on the one hand, the teacher employs the model of the process approach and genre approach. On the other hand, he had to master web-based technology, and transitions from technology to the content they intended to teach under pedagogical principles to exploit the strengths and overcome the limitations of computer-based teaching.
Next, due to the requirement of Vietnamese education at current stage as well as the regular credit training system in the universities, colleges and institutes, Moodle is a choice right and relevant to meet this training demand. In Vietnam, there are 201 sites total (4 are private and are not shown) ("Registered moodle sites", 2010).
1.1.3. Online writing teaching in Ho Chi Minh City Open University (HCMCOU)
Online writing teaching in HCMCOU is an urgent requirement in Foreign Languages Department. So, HCMCOU has established an e-learning network with the implemented software package, Moodle. This network is influentially operating in all related faculties. However, in the process of formation and development, web page of Foreign Language Department also meets the objective difficulties. Consequently, online foreign language teaching in general and online writing one, in particular have not yet satisfied the expectation of the new training trend.
As known, HCMCOU is a model of the Vietnamese university operating under semi-public regulations and open training methods, diversified types of training: distance learning, local training, and the satellite points making training programs with flexible mechanisms in accordance with the conditions of learners, its training program has content rich, and multi-level in accordance with social needs ("Introduction to HCMCOU", 2010).
To raise the quality of online writing teaching in HCMCOU, the first university in Vietnam operating under open training methods, as well as to be aware of the importance of a currently hot topic, I am determined to go into the domain of this research for designing, developing and completing distant training courses. There are 17 forums, 209 faculties, offices, and centers using Moodle.
1.2. STATEMENT OF PURPOSE/ RATIONALE OF THE STUDY
The purpose of the study is first to investigate online writing teaching in HCMCOU, and some Universities/Colleges in a current situation. Then, it is essential to design and develop them on Moodle (Modular Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environment).
Nowadays, students' learning needs become more and more diverse in technological evolution and the new knowledge economy. To find out the solution for education and training, it is necessary to focus on training the human resources. These are to develop online training for teachers and retain high quality learning opportunities for students. Two core factors to construct learning management environment are web-based technology and the educational theories.
To support validity and reliability of the research, a data collection is drawn from the questionnaires for (1) Students (undergraduates) of ITPC of STU and (2) Teachers (postgraduates) from the universities, colleges, high schools, etc. nationwide.
1.3. RESEARCH QUESTIONS
1.3.1.What are attitudes of participants towards Moodle's features?
1.3.2 How are approaches to online writing based on Moodle's modules implemented?
1.3.3 To what degree is the website designed for online writing teaching assessed?
1.4. SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
The importance of the research is to help the teacher and students be able to understand, develop, and apply E-learning training based on technological development of ITC (Information Technology and Communication) to constantly adapt and innovate Vietnamese education and training in new era.
Next, the effect of research creates sources of great motivation in educational activities because reference resources are abundant and diverse with multimedia (text picture, and sound) plus face-to-face interaction live and vivid with objects sensitive and perceptive. Furthermore, social course activities as student-to-student interaction, peer interaction is one of the most powerful learning tools that Moodle offers. It not only encourages learning, but also enhances exploration. It makes courses more interesting, which increases student participation and satisfaction.
Besides, the research can show the way that the designer coordinates and allots creative and innovative functions of technology and linguistic and pedagogical competence. Consequently, these may make courses interesting, attractive and effective.
1.5. OVERVIEW OF PROPOSAL CHAPTERS
This thesis consists of five chapters:
1.5.1. Chapter 1: Introduction
With the rapid development of ICT, E-learning, new education and training method, is considered as an teaching evolution in the 21st century. Compared with the traditional methods, E-learning makes an open learning environment and reuses the learning objects. This model permits learners to choose necessary course activities and to study anytime and anywhere. The courseware recommended to popularly use is Moodle. That is an open free software package installed in many settings as education, training, development and business. It is recognized as Learning Management System (LMS) or Virtual Learning Environment (VLE). Moodle's framework is supported with courses activities and resources. So, in the thesis, three research questions are raised to answer the key problems of Moodle as features, online writing teaching through the models and its effect on teaching and learning writing.
1.5.2. Chapter 2: Literature Review
An evolution in Information technology and development of Moodle has placed the problems for learning theories and approaches to writing skill in the new situation, the ICT era. Based on varied emerging technologies, course materials and activities are designed and developed in a virtual learning environment. Outcomes have resulted in much greater achievements than traditional ones, especially in Vietnamese education system in the stage of integration and development. From that, the research hypotheses are generated.
1.5.3. Chapter 3: Methodology
To answer your research questions, constituents are mentioned in pertinent relations. The study was carried out from April to June, 2010 in postgraduate and Dip classes of HCMCOU and the courses of IPTC of STU. Through questionnaires, interviews, and practices based on frameworks about the learning theories and approaches to writing (the process-based approach and genre based approach), a data collection is processed with statistical techniques. Finally, findings of the survey are deduced from these outcomes.
1.5.4. Chapter 4: Data Analysis and Findings
Traditional and virtual class observation are conducted to recognize the context of related factors. Questionnaires for students and teachers are the resources for data analysis. Descriptive statistics are used with the arithmetic mean, median, mode and inferential statistics are performed with the t-tests, correlation and regression analysis, chi-square tests. From data description and test procedures, we show Moodle's features, characteristics of writing approaches and predict the association between variables.
1.5.5. Chapter 5: Implications, Limitations, and Recommendations
Moodle is a courseware popularly implemented in educational institutions to design and develop online courses to the accompaniment of traditional ones. Moodle's course features are prominent due to organizing, managing and interacting the online activities easily. Interface is attractive and flexible to easily research and access options. Course content or resources are copious and diverse charming learners thanks to a series of information such as plain text, links, images, audio, video, etc Course Management is controlled by assigning access privileges and changes to course activities can be saved in real time. A wide range of assessment and testing strategies is set up. Online learning courses is designed to allow for cooperation and interaction between participants. Thesis made use of these features to constitute course activities mainly based on a process approach and genre approach that are core techniques to develop online writing skill. In addition, the research offers implications about literature review on e-learning and online education, and online writing. Having many prominent advantages, E-learning also exists many limitations from its intrinsic nature.