Development of COOLL

What is “COOLL”?

“COOLL” is an on-line system for English language education with ICT (Information and Communication Technology), examples of which are computers and web sites. The development of new communication tools such as email, chat, and on-line video-sharing services such as “You Tube” helps to ensure immediate access to English. COOLL is trying to organize a learning system that allows students to study English through the use of videos and texts according to their interests in their specialized courses. In COOLL, videos and texts that support English learning in specialized courses such as computer science, multicultural studies/international cooperation and language education are uploaded as source material. Some of the source materials are subtitled in both English and Japanese so that the students who are unfamiliar with English spoken at natural speed can have easy access to authentic learning materials. In addition to this, COOLL provides exercises for practice as well as vocabulary quizzes by utilizing free software to create English teaching materials such as Moodle and Hot Potatoes for further learning.

The Background of the Development of COOLL

What level and content of English is desirable for specialized courses at undergraduate level?

In order to acquire practical English, it is said that content-based English education, in which the language is learned within the context of a specific academic subject, is an important component to augment a skill-based curriculum which focuses on four language skills: reading, writing, speaking, and listening. For the content-based instruction, it is very important to select materials that are related to students’ academic or research interests. In recent years, on-line videos and texts that attract the interest of learners have become abundantly available. The COOLL project seeks to achieve positive educational results by making good use of these resources. COOLL can produce teaching materials for content-based English education suitable for learners in a variety of specialized academic fields.

Considering the Context of Tsuda College

Since Tsuda College is a small liberal arts college, we need English teaching/learning materials not only for English literature and English linguistics but also for further academic courses such as international and cultural studies, mathematics and computer science. We hope that the development of COOLL will enhance the content-based English education and will become an on-line English learning/teaching system that makes it possible to collectively hone the English skills needed for specialized academic courses at undergraduate level.

The Need for Collaboration

In content-based English education, instructional styles should be flexible in order to accommodate diverse levels of learners. Therefore, educational materials for the content-based English education should be closely related to the students’ academic subject matters as well as ensure such flexible instructional approaches.  In order to create such materials, we considered it necessary for faculties of specialized courses and of English education to collaborate. COOLL (Collaborative Open Language Learning) was developed based on this belief. The word “Collaborate” in COOLL means that specialists in various academic fields and experts of English education contribute to create COOLL. The word “Open “explains that COOLL utilizes open content such as online videos and open source software. As an example of collaboration, a faculty member of a specialized course suggests online videos related to a certain theme and an expert of English education selects a video from out of the suggestions that is suitable for English lessons. The videos that are not selected can be available as reference materials. We would like to simplify this collaborative process by using COOLL. Another feature of COOLL is that it allows students as well as other users/participants to upload educational materials freely, which are often prepared by teachers. The uploaded materials become available for all to use.

The Design Principles for COOLL

COOLL was designed by the following three principles.

  • a) To utilize open source software
  • b) To utilize open content
  • c) To invite a wide variety of users

To achieve a), we employ LAMP (Linux, Apache, MySQL, PHP), the standard open source environment, for the development of COOLL and Moodle to provide practice exercises as e-learning materials. In order to utilize open content mentioned in b), we try to take full advantage of online videos. It is difficult not only for individual faculties but also for a university to develop video materials and supplementary materials that accompany with them. With the use of open content, it will become possible to provide various and plentiful materials. Moreover, the materials can be improved in quality being selected and reviewed by a wide range of users. The third principle of COOLL is set to expect this effect.

Source Material and Annotated Material

In COOLL, arbitrary resources identified by URL such as online video data, audio data and Web pages are called “source material.” Source material, including original URLs and comments, is freely available for all users and it is equipped with a bookmark function. Source materials that are evaluated as appropriate English materials for specialized courses by users’ reviews and other metrics are referred to as “annotated material.” Annotated materials become open after being equipped with subtitles and/or practice exercises to support English learning. In COOLL, users can view video materials with English subtitle and replay a clip of the videos sentence by sentence. They can also watch videos with Japanese subtitles if available.

The reason to separate source material and annotated material is to manage intellectual property rights. All users can freely upload source material because it provides links to open content on the Web. Source material can become available to be reproduced as annotated material only with the permission of the copyright owner. Users who are allowed to reproduce annotated material are restricted. By separating source and annotated materials this way, it becomes easy to handle intellectual property.

The Use of COOLL

COOLL was originally implemented in the academic year of 2008 and went live within the Tsuda College campus in 2009.In 2010, COOLL resources have been used in many specialized courses and will become open to the public in fall. We expect the content of COOLL to be improved further by inviting users from the public.

For the Future Development of COOLL

There are still challenges for the development of English educational materials with COOLL. In order to address these challenges, language processing technology should be applied in a variety of ways. Among the challenges we identify are the following:

  • ・To estimate the difficulty of video materials
  • ・To implement a function to suggest source material and annotated material using collective intelligence
  • ・Automatic generation of practice exercises with the use of English subtitles and transcripts
  • COOLL has just started providing basic functions. We plan to work on researching and developing new functions that apply language processing technology, educational technology, and voice processing technology. Furthermore, we aim to offer commonly used services by standardizing the data format of subtitles and practice exercises and implementing a Web service API (Application Programming Interface).