A learning object repository for computer assisted language learning in order to provide resources for language learners in schools in KwaZulu-Natal
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This study, carried out within a critical realist orientation, offers a digital approach to providing language learning resources to learners in KwaZulu-Natal by developing a language learning object repository (LLOR). The purpose of designing and setting up a LLOR prototype was to find a way to augment and supplement the resources provided by text books, the provision of which has hitherto been fraught with service delivery problems. Margaret Archer’s substantive theory of morphogenesis was used to provide a social science framework within Bhaskar’s critical realist meta-approach. The morphogenetic approach suggests that, for technological advances to be accepted as part of everyday educational practice, they must be included in the fabric of the existing social structures of teaching and learning. This had implications for the human computer interaction (HCI) aspects of the artefact, which was developed by both anticipating user needs at the outset and confirming these at intervals; it also looked at the development of digital resources over a period of time in terms of the artefact being part of a larger movement towards using digital resources. The iterative design of the LLOR followed a series of piloting different application stacks, including MediaWiki, TikiWiki CMS and Joomla. Moodle was chosen as the most suitable application as it facilitates the sharing of content using the Sharable Content Object Reference Model (SCORM) and can also easily be packaged in an offline self-contained pack for distribution to users who have limited Internet access. Three user groups, comprising experts (those who are proficient with web and computer technologies), teachers (a representative group of teachers who were second language teachers of English) and a representative from the Department of Basic Education (DOBE), were asked to test-drive the LLOR and respond to questions about its ease of use and potential. The LLOR was primarily intended for teachers although it supports students as well. The use of a user-contributed model in the design of the LLOR anticipates i the challenge of providing direct support (editorial), as in adding new resources by only the researcher and also accepting that consumers are more likely to support user-contributed models, if they are also contributors. The key to facilitating access to resources like the LLOR is to make them accessible through different devices especially mobile platforms such as (cell-phones and tablets); future development will prioritise a mobile ready version of the LLOR. The value of the research is thought to lie in furthering an innovative mode of teaching in a digital medium setting where educational communication achieves virtual mode in and out of the physical classroom.