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488Questions without answers

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  • Anthony Pym
    Nov 17, 2001
      The various 'position papers' now at
      http://www.fut.es/~apym/elearning/index.htm present a list of partial
      experiments with e-learning. They raise a series of questions that this
      symposium might ideally attempt to answer. For example:

      - What else has been done with e-learning in the field of translator
      training? I am aware only of the various projects at Heidelberg (see our
      links page) and an online course in French translation somewhere in
      Illinois. Surely there are many more examples to be found?

      - What do students think of e-learning arrangements? It should not escape
      us that the position papers have all been written from the perspective of
      teachers, which may account for the generally positive assessments. Yet the
      literature on e-learning contains studies of 'student distress', and has
      many warnings about rushing head-on into 100% e-learning mode. It would be
      nice to hear a few reactions from students.

      - To what degree can e-learning be introduced? Margarita Rodríguez devised
      a course based on 75% e-learning; Daniel Gouadec is using electronic
      communication as part of his face-to-face programme; Steve Dyson is using
      e-mail as a follow-up to a course taught in another country; only Debbie
      Folaron is really reporting on a 100% project. Is there some good rule of
      thumb that can tell us how much e-learning we require, and where?

      - What cannot be taught by e-learning? The general response to this
      question was that everything can be taught via electronic means. But surely
      there are translation problems with so many nuanced alternatives that they
      require the liveliness of face-to-face discussion, with more than one
      student? Surely there are students who remain inhibited or marginalized by
      the electronic media? Are we really so sure that everything can be done?

      - How much effort is required for e-learning? If indeed everything can be
      taught in this way, at what cost? How long does it take to mark a
      translation by e-mail? How long does it take to write up the courses? How
      long does it take to teach everyone the technology? And if we can add up
      those costs, are we really sure it is all worthwhile?

      - What content is required for e-learning? One of my own mistakes has been
      to write up lectures, post them to a website, and call the result an
      on-line class. Experience has shown that far greater interactivity is
      required, and perhaps far less content. On the other hand, I have been in
      distance-learning projects where there was virtually no content save the
      interaction, which was in many ways a recipe for frustration. Or are we
      simply talking about giving students translations to do, then letting them
      all look at each other's?

      - Who is the ideal audience for e-learning? I ask this question directly
      from my own experience. I would suppose that some kind of ideal audience
      would be mature-age, living in different countries, with complementary
      professional backgrounds, so that they can interact with each other and in
      fact teach each other in terms of both language skills and technical
      competence (see the link on tandem learning, and Giuliana Schiavi's
      projects). Fine, that's more or less what I have at the moment. But these
      are working people; they often don't find time to do their classes; some
      are up to speed, others are way behind, and it is very difficult to keep
      this group together as any kind of community. So my ideal audience is
      giving me a lot of cause for reflection. Or is it just me?

      So much for the questions without answers. If you can help us address any
      of them (especially the first ones, to start with), please reply to this list.


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