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LRA Proposals Part 2

Proposals for the LRA

The various suggestions for the further development of the LRA contained in this document are taking into account:

  • the changing needs of our learners
  • the evolution of technology and the wider access to online material
  • the financial restrictions experienced by the School at present
  • the current use of the facilities by both staff and students of the School

The proposals included in this document are based on the models of best practice discovered while visiting three Resource Centres in Ireland and the UK (namely Languaculture space – DCU, Multimedia Language Centre (Study area and computer suite) – Queen’s University, Belfast, Language Learning Centre, University of Hull, England.

Scenario 1: DCU Model

PRINCIPLES

The DCU model is based on the concept of speaking a second language while being engaged in an activity (board games, watching a film, doing origami…). The resources of the room are freely accessed by students in the morning (self-access time), while in the afternoon, the space is dedicated to activities. The material housed in the space cannot be borrowed out of the room (neither by staff nor students). The space doesn’t hold any other equipment used for teaching or learning purposes.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS MODEL IN THE LRA

In addition to providing learning and teaching resources, the Language Resource Area could provide a range of language activities in the afternoon (for French, German, Spanish and possibly in Japanese). These activities could be carried out by volunteering Erasmus students (or international students in the case of Japanese) recruited and trained at the start of each semester. The volunteers would also require on-going guidance during the semester. This could be the responsibility of the LRA administrator.

Impact on facilities

The implementation of this model in the LLH would require the splitting of the Open Learning Area into two parts, one dedicated to the borrowing and use of the LRA material and equipment and one side dedicated to language activities (discussion groups, film viewing…). Alternatively, a classroom (with agreement from SAA) or an office could be earmarked for this purpose.

Impact on workload

On top of the usual duties, the LRA administrator would have to recruit, train and guide the Erasmus students facilitating the events. The activities would also need to be advertised, monitored and evaluated.

Financial implications

This model could be run at a very low cost. If the OLA had to be modified, there would be a small financial cost (depending on the extent of the changes). This expense could be spared by using a separate room for the activities. A small amount of funding would also be necessary for the purchase of material for the activities (board games in foreign languages, up-to-date movies, …)

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Advantages

This model is inexpensive to run and doesn’t have a huge impact on the present services offered by the LRA. It offers a new range of innovative learning activities to language students.

Disadvantages

This model increases the work load of the LRA administrator without changing the present workload. If a LRA assistant is not found to help with the general running of the LLH, some of the LRA administrator time would have to be allocated to the organisation of these activities.

While this model tackles the changing needs of the students, it doesn’t address the changing learning style due to the access to the internet and doesn’t modify the present use of the LRA. The learning outcomes of the activities would also be difficult to assess and would vary according to the cohorts of Erasmus students recruited every semester.

Scenario 2: Queen’s Model

PRINCIPLES

The Resource Centre is intrinsically linked to the Language Centre.  Unlike ULLC, the Language Centre in Queen’s is a constituent unit of Information Services (under Teaching and Learning Support Services branch) and as such provides language learning opportunities, facilities and resources to all students of the university as well as providing services to the wider business community. The main objective of the Queen’s Language Centre is to encourage language learning on an institution-wide scale. This concept is entirely based on the commercial success of the Centre. The uptake for the courses is really high (1400 students taking some Language for Non-Specialist courses). It means that these courses can be offered at a very low cost for students and staff (£20 per semester with subsidies from the university). Some online learning courses are also offered. They are very cheap to run and bring extra revenue.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS MODEL IN THE LRA

It was indicated during the last meeting between FR, LM and CJ (on the 2nd of April), that this model could only be implemented in collaboration with ULLC. Yet, at a recent meeting between DT (ULLC director), LM and CJ (on the 8th of April), the ULLC director clearly expressed that offering (evening) language classes was not on the list of priorities for ULLC. Furthermore, she indicated that, unless a significant investment was carried out to further develop and modernise the LRA, she couldn’t envisage how ULLC could make any use of the LRA in the future (at the moment, ULLC mainly uses the LRA labs and a few students use the OLA). She suggested that the LRA could develop intercultural awareness workshops or training for the local business community (in partnership with ULLC).

Impact on facilities & workload, Financial implications

It is difficult to foresee any impact of this model without the direct involvement of ULLC. Without the collaboration of ULLC, this model could be implemented but would require some administrative support for the LLH administrator.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Advantages

This model would generate some source of income, which, in the long term, could be reinvested in the LRA facilities and services. Without an external source of funding, the LRA is entirely dependent on LLCC budget, which limits the potential for development and innovation.

Disadvantages

This model does not have any direct impact on the current running of the LRA and on the services offered to language students.

Scenario 3: Hull’s Model

PRINCIPLES

The Language Learning Centre aims at providing the adequate space and services to support independent language learning, for both language specialists and non-specialists. The space has been recently re-designed to cater for a variety of learning needs (internet access, work groups, audio work, and studies with printed material) and to accommodate a wide range of services including language advising. The Centre hosts the expertise of trained language learning advisers whose role is to support students in their independent study. The availability of a team of language learning advisers is a feature which makes the Centre renowned nationally and internationally in the realm of language advising and independent learning. The former UL Language Support Unit (LSU) was based on the principles established at the Hull Language Learning Centre.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS MODEL IN THE LRA

A full implementation of this model would require a significant investment as a security system would be needed, more staff would need to be employed and the OLA would need to be significantly modified. Nevertheless a “slimmed-down” version could be envisaged while looking for funding solution for the rest of the implementation. This first phase could include the re-introduction of an individual advising service strongly linked to the LRA material and with online material.

Impact on facilities

The implementation of this model in the LRA would require the splitting of the Open Learning Area into two parts, one dedicated to the borrowing and use of the LRA material and equipment and one side dedicated to language advising sessions. Alternatively, a classroom (with agreement from SAA) or an office could be earmarked for this purpose.

Impact on workload

On top of the usual duties, the LRA administrator would have to train and guide a team of advisors. The activities would also need to be advertised, monitored and evaluated. The LRA administrator could deliver the advising sessions in French and English.

Financial implications

If the advising sessions could be integrated in some of the staff workload (as it is the case in Hull), this model could be run at a very low cost. If the OLA had to be modified, there would be a small financial cost (depending on the extent of the changes). This expense could be spared by using a separate room for the advising sessions.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Advantages

This model is potentially inexpensive to run and doesn’t have a huge impact on the present services offered by the LRA. It widens the range of learning services to language students.

Disadvantages

This model increases the work load of the LRA administrator without changing the present workload. If a LRA assistant is not found to help with the general running of the LRA, some of the LRA administrator time would have to be allocated to the running (and potentially the delivery) of the advising service. The LRA main desk would have to close during the delivery of the advising sessions provided by the LRA administrator and without a LRA assistant, it would have to close one afternoon a week for the coordination of the advising service.

While this model replies to the needs of the students, it doesn’t significantly modify the present use of the LRA.

Scenario 4: LRA Model

PRINCIPLES

The LRA facilities were upgraded only a few years ago and are still relevant to the current needs of our language students. The LRA is a vibrant, busy place (see Appendix one, two and three), and we should harness this potential by developing more activities engaging students in learning/studying languages outside their class times and making the most of the facilities. The LRA should continue to offer some of the services already provided and introduce or re-introduce others.

IMPLEMENTATION OF THIS MODEL IN THE LRA

  • Increasing the visibility of the LRA
    • Renaming of the LRA

The current name of the Language Resource Area does not fully represent the breadth of activities offered to both students and staff. It likens the LRA to a library, which is not a fair representation of the services provided. Renaming the LRA the ‘Language Hub’ or the ‘Language Learning Hub’ would not only better describe the activities taking place in the LRA, but also reinforce the central place played by the LRA in the Languages Building. It would also pave the way to new activities.

  • Introducing some cultural events

The LRA could play a key role in increasing the visibility of its services and of the School in general by introducing a series of cultural events: film screening, exhibition, talks… These could be organised for example to mark the European Day of Languages, the day of the Francophonie, the Spanish national day… Some of these could be run in collaboration with the International office. They would also involve the various sections as they could be linked to the content of some modules. Funding could be sought from the AHSS Teaching board to finance the running of these events.

  • Expanding the support activities
    • For students

Due to lack of funding, the Language Support activities had to be stopped at the end of the Academic Year 2010/11. This popular unit offered activities which developed students’ autonomy in learning languages and encouraged their use of the LRA. The LRA still offers the Language Exchanges meetings (pairing of Erasmus/International students with language students) and has received funding from the AHSS Teaching Board to run a pilot project on the setting-up of discussion groups facilitated by Erasmus students.

The following activities could be envisaged:

  • Discussion Groups facilitated by Erasmus students (after a training course ran by the LRA administrator)
  • General advisory sessions (study skills and how to make the most of the LRA material, a few sessions a week ran by the LRA administrator)
  • French-language assessment and evaluation sessions (ran by the LRA administrator) Further activities such as workshops or evaluation sessions in other languages could be offered subject to staffing.

Furthermore, the LRA could develop some online language learning material. At present, the LRA has a limited presence online. It has a Facebook page where relevant language information is regularly posted. Students can also access a bank of online resources (links) on Sulis. This material was developed with Quality Support Unit funding during the existence of the LSU and hasn’t been updated since then. This material should be updated and advertised amongst students or transferred to a more appropriate/popular platform.

Finally, a programme for 1st years for their first three weeks of college could be put in place. At present, students don’t have any tutorials for the first few weeks of college until their timetables are established. This programme could offer one or two hours a week of initiation to language learning and could present useful resources and encourage independent learning. It could also include note-taking. This programme could be developed with contributions from the various sessions concerned and could be run by the tutors who would normally be teaching first year modules. This programme wouldn’t be language-specific but give general advice for any future language student.

  • For staff

A good integration of the LRA in the School is dependent on a good use of the LRA by staff. The LRA could play a vital role in supporting staff in two ways:

1) advice on appropriate material adapted to specific modules: The LRA houses a vast collection of material which is relevant to the teaching needs of staff. Yet, they are not always aware of the resources they can access or recommend to their students. Working in a closer collaboration with each member of staff would facilitate the integration of the LRA in each module. There are precedents in the School. Some modules are making an extensive use of the LRA.

2) Staff training in ICT: the LRA administrator has experience of ICT and its integration in language teaching and learning. This expertise could be disseminated to the School faculty through workshops, training sessions or consultation sessions. These would further reinforce the integration of the LRA within the School.

Impact on facilities

To fully take advantage of the current use of the LRA, the OLA should be slightly re-arrange to split a quiet area from a group-work area. An easier access to plugs should be provided for students working with laptops. One side should also be dedicated to language advising sessions. Alternatively, a classroom (with agreement from SAA) or preferably an office (ideally LC1014) could be earmarked for this purpose. This could also be used for the discussion groups as they are usually small. If an office was freed for LRA support activities, it could also be made available to members of staff who share offices when they have meetings with students or during the orals.

Impact on workload

On top of the usual duties, the LRA administrator would have to organise and coordinate the various support and cultural activities (with the training and guidance of the staff and Erasmus students). The activities would also need to be advertised, monitored and evaluated. The LRA administrator could deliver the advising sessions in French (and English if necessary). This increase in the workload would be difficult to carry out without a LRA assistant. Alternatively, the OLA could remain open but the borrowing service could be reduced (start only at 11am, or stop earlier every day). Please note that without a LRA assistant, the borrowing desk will also be closed at break times.

Financial implications

The financial implications would be low if a series of conditions are met: 1) A LRA assistant can be secured from ECE placement, 2) The advising sessions in languages other than French can be integrated in some of the staff workload (as it is the case in Hull), 3) Funding can be secured from the AHSS teaching board (and the International office) for the running of cultural events, 4) the 1st year programme is developed over the summer months. 5) the training of staff in ICT is carried out outside term-time. Furthermore, if the OLA has to be modified, there will be a small financial cost (depending on the extent of the changes). This expense could be partially spared by using a separate room for the advising sessions and discussion groups.

ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES

Advantages

This model is potentially inexpensive to run and doesn’t radically change the present services offered by the LRA (even though it potentially reduces the opening hours). Nevertheless, it significantly widens the range of learning services to language students by providing more support services. It increases the involvement of LLCC staff with the LRA (cultural events, 1st year programme, ICT training) and should also improve the visibility of the LRA.

Disadvantages

This model increases the work load of the LRA administrator without changing the present workload. If a LRA assistant is not found to help with the general running of the LRA, some of the LRA administrator time will have to be allocated to the running (and potentially the delivery) of the various services and activities. It would thus reduce the opening hours for the borrowing service.

Furthermore, this model doesn’t include any ways of securing new sources of funding, the staffing of the LRA would thus always rely on ECE placements and would not assure any continuity in the quality of the services provided.

APPENDIX 1: Photos of the LRA – 23/04/2013 – 15

Image 1

Image 2

APPENDIX 2: Survey of staff use of the borrowing services of the LRA – October 2012  (carried out by Rafael Nunez on the 8th of October 2012)

MATERIAL BORROWED

Books: 72 Dvd: 17
Labtec microphone: 4  Magazine: 1
CD: 66  Cassette: 21
Headphone: 6  Video: 7
Tape recorder: 3  Dictaphone: 1
Total material borrow: 199    

 

 

 

 

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University of Limerick

tel: +353 61 234772

email: lra@ul.ie

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The LRA is closed on Bank holidays.