From Whiteboards to Blackboard: FLT Ramps up Online Assessment Teacher Training

 

On 10 March 2020, we reported that E-Learning Unit Supervisor, Mohsin Khan, delivered a university-wide webinar, which also included a curated session to the English Language Center on 11 March 2020, titled 'Transformation to Full E-Learning'. In those webinars, Mr. Khan introduced faculty members to useful content and tool areas within Blackboard that are needed to be able to effectively conduct their classes online. It is worth noting that as a result of questions from students about the logistics of virtual learning, a special webinar was held on 14 March 2020 in which Mr. Khan led students through a practical session of how to use Blackboard Ultra and efficiently use different content areas within Blackboard from the student perspective.

 

Commenting on the recent events, Dean Abdullah Al-Melhi noted that some of our Bachelor of Arts in English program students who live in remote areas will feel the shift to online most intensely. "We have to ensure that we are flexible and take issues on a case-by-case basis. We need a variety of assessments with grades communicated to students on a frequent and timely basis," he said.

 

In response to Dean Abdullah Al-Melhi's call for a variety of assessments and timely grade notifications, English Department Chair, Dr. Munassir Alhamami, and Vice Dean for Academic Development & Quality, Dr. Abdulrahman Almosa, commissioned Mr. Khan to deliver a webinar titled "Using Blackboard for Online Assessment" on 21 March 2020. In that webinar, Mr. Khan led approximately 70 faculty members through the fundamentals of how to create and deploy over 15 types of assessment types, including assignments and the discussion board. Additional technical training was provided on how to export created tests and share within the same course across different sections and teachers.

 

An active question and answer session followed shortly after the conclusion of the training in which the topic of cheating was discussed. It was noted that no purely online assessment system can prevent all forms. However, some steps were provided, such as randomizing questions and answers. At the end of the session, Chairman Alhamami recognized that the level of anxiety due to the sudden switch to online learning is high, noting that in time and with more familiarity, it will get better.

 

Of noteworthy mention, Mr. Khan will lead an additional Blackboard assessment training webinar tailored to students on 22 March 2020.


Date: 21 March 2020

Source: Faculty of Languages & Translation

  Prof. Najaat Busabaa, professor of linguistics at the faculty of languages and translation, delivered a webinar titled "Netspeak Linguistic Features Used by Youth" at an event organized by the scientific research committee on Tuesday, November 24, 2020.   Prof. Busabaa started her presentation by emphasizing the indisputable fact of the widespread use of internet among the youth. They use it because "it is quicker, cheaper, and more convenient than other communicative methods, "she illustrated. She added that the rapid development of this new technology and communicative method has become of great importance in modern people's lives. This development is parallel to the expansion of the internet culture mainly mediated through the English language, and consequently, it has a profound influence on languages, spoken or written.   Netspeak is "a type of language displaying features that are unique to the internet." Prof. Busabaa noted that this phenomenon in Arabic is prolific; however, it has been rarely investigated among the youth. When chatting, as was assumed by linguists, they have two alternative choices; either they will use English with Latin letters and compensate for the lack of some correspondence letters in English by using numbers that look like those letters or, they will Arabize those letters with English Netspeak abbreviations putting them in Arabic scripts.   She also referred to Arabizi as a norm used in Netspeak chatting rooms. According to many scholars, Arabizi is "a blended language composed of English and vernacular Arabic, written in Latin letters but using arithmographemes; numerals as letters."   Prof. Busabaa, moreover, identified the methods and procedures of the study. She stated that in order to investigate the frequency of linguistic features used by Yemeni students in Netspeak, a qualitative method was used, limiting these features then describing and explaining them linguistically. She also reviewed the literature and then reached the findings of the study. The study indicated that there is a common balance in the chatting roles; the participants are brief and focus on the direct content of their responses. Moreover, sentences that are used are short and simple, which gives an impression of brevity to listeners. In addition, communication topics mainly include news about school or university issues such as timetables, lectures, and exams. Also, jokes, parental relations, love poetry, wise sayings, remarks on death, or congratulations have been noticed. Furthermore, commenting on others' lexical mistakes is rare. They paid no attention to correct each other. The researcher has found only one comment as feedback to correct the mistake of the other chatter. The linguistics categories involve showing exaggeration by repeating some letters to draw attention, dictation marks: "spelling, glottal stop, al-taa, al marboodah, the use of punctuation marks, question marks, exclamations, colon, semi-colon, and al-Tashkeel."   Prof Busabaa explained that extracts from the Holy Quran require special attention from the users because these are sacred texts. She reached the conclusion that vernacular language replaces standard Arabic in chat rooms, which is entirely different from the findings of the other earlier works where English replaces other languages. Consequently, she proposed some recommendations to follow. These include initiating a number of organized campaigns, either electronic or in the fields among Yemeni youth of the importance of their language to establish and strengthen their identities. Also, teachers should be strict in correcting students' linguistic mistakes and establishing web pages that provide the youth with the principles of their language in attractive ways to draw their attention and involve them in defending their own language.   The webinar was very informative, and it witnessed significant interaction from both faculty members and MA students who showed their interest in the study and its findings. Date: 12/6/2020 Source: Amal Metwally – Scientific Research Committee Coordinator
  Dr. Sheila Simpkins, assistant professor at the faculty of languages and translation, delivered a webinar titled “Academic Writing”, at an event organized by the scientific research committee on Tuesday, November 10, 2020.   Dr. Simpkins started her presentation by explaining some basic assumptions about English writing that EFL students are unaware of.  Most EFL students will say that writing is about grammar. Dr. Simpkins says that academic writing is all about ideas.  Grammar is important in the sense that we need to write in a way that the reader can understand our ideas. She maintains that the goal of academic writing is to persuade. “You as a writer have an idea, and your goal is to persuade the reader that your idea is correct,” said Dr. Simpkins.   She further explained that there are certain patterns in English writing that ensure the writing will be unified, cohesive, coherent, and therefore will persuade the audience. One of the important patterns she referred to is within the body paragraph: T SEE SEE SEE C. The body paragraph has a topic sentence, supporting sentences, explain/example sentences, and a conclusion sentence. Each of these sentences has a specific job to do in the paragraph. She went on to explain the role of each of the sentences.   Dr. Simpkins understands that this may seem formulaic, however, the veracity of the pattern holds whether students are beginners just learning to write a standalone paragraph or are advanced and writing a longer piece of work. Knowing this basic pattern/rule is essential for EFL students to write strong academic papers.   The webinar was highly informative and comprehensive, with a well-structured presentation. It was attended by faculty members and MA students who took part in the discussion. Date: 12/6/2020 Source: Amal Metwally – Scientific Research Committee Coordinator
  On 30 November 2020, Mohsin Khan and Dr. Sayyed Rashid Ali Shah delivered an in-service teacher training webinar to 300 participants. The webinar, in cooperation with the Directorate of Education in Rijal Alma on "Online Teaching: Authentic Assessment Tools and Strategies" by Dr. Sayyed Rashid Ali Shah and "Online Pedagogical Practices" by Mohsin Khan, provided both male and female teachers with the strategies, tools, and knowledge needed to adjust to the educational changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Vice Dean for Academic Development & Quality, Dr. Abdulrahman Almosa, related that he planned this event after receiving a request from the Directorate of Education in Rijal Alma, noting that it was an excellent opportunity for the Faculty of Languages and Translation to provide a unique in-service teacher training opportunity that combines learning goals, learning outcomes, and community service in a way that enhances both teacher and student growth in the region.   After introductions by Vice Dean Almosa, Dr. Shah began the discussion to center on the pedagogical shift required for online teaching, noting that assessment plays a vital role. He began by encouraging educators to introduce innovative assessment tasks based on recent trends. Dr. Shah highlighted the different types of assessment tools in online teaching and learning, helping participants to develop an understanding of online assessment tools that can be utilized/adapted by English language teachers in the Saudi EFL context. "There are a number of practices you can use to evaluate students mindfully. The best method will vary based on learning needs and objectives," he said.   Khan then discussed the need for providing context in an online environment. He then explained that a teacher must find creative ways of using a given learning management system to enhance student learning. Drawing on his experience as a Master Reviewer for Quality Matters, Khan guided participants through a series of strategies they can use to evaluate and improve their online instruction. "The mere use of technology is not enough. The success of online education lies in proper incorporation of technology in order to attain the curriculum objectives and academic goals," he concluded.   The Bachelor of Arts in English program at the Faculty of Languages and Translation is committed to participating in community partnership activities as part of its role in the community partnership plan at King Khalid University. Date: 12/4/2020 Source: Faculty of Languages and Translation
  On 2 December 2020, a webinar was organized by the Language Research Center (LRC) of the Faculty of Languages and Translation dedicated to those students who are often overlooked by the teachers and are tagged as bad students entitled "Exploring the Infringing Behaviors of Students Inside an EFL Classroom: A Research Study From the Teacher’s Vantage Point." At the beginning of the webinar, Dr. Najmus Sarifa and Ms. Rakshinda Jabeen began by explaining their study's purpose, which is centered on the premise that there are neither bad students nor bad teachers, noting that only expertise, competence, and cooperation can do wonders in the class.   Sarifa and Jabeen introduced their topic by stating the fact that the infringing behavior of students is defined as a set of undesired and objectionable behavior that hampers the flow of teaching-learning activities in the classroom. Such behavior, they said, can result in a disturbance in class and eventually hinder the entire learning process. Not only is it annoying for the teachers, but it is irritating, exasperating, and tiresome for the learners as well, they added. They pinpointed some common misbehavior types such as disobedience, rudeness, non-attentiveness, daydreaming, unpunctuality, and most importantly, not completing classroom tasks.   Their research study investigated how university teachers perceive misbehavior and sheds light on the underlying causes of such undesired behavioral traits. It was based on a descriptive survey, the result of which showed the common inappropriate behaviors the teachers encounter and the reasons for such behaviors. The findings of the study, they said, would help to establish a well-managed classroom.   To achieve proper education goals, Sarifa and Jabeen explained that it is important to create an ideal learning environment that fosters a positive attitude among the students.   While explaining the potential reasons for misbehavior, they mentioned some scholars Başar (1998), Bull & Solity (1996), and Stephens & Crawley (1994). According to these scholars, they said, students with variegated characters may have problematic behaviors. Students' past experiences may result in misbehavior as well. The teacher's attitude towards students may also give rise to such undesired attitudes.   Sarifa and Jabeen emphasized that skillful classroom management will make a significant change and lessen the amount of undesirable behavior in class. The presenters further recommended that effective instruction and the smooth running of a lesson require interaction patterns, and teaching methodologies that create diverse communication contexts in an EFL classroom.   They concluded that students rarely misbehave without cause. The research study opens room for further analysis and discussion on outside factors as well as the inside factors responsible for disruptive behaviors. They recommended further exploration of the reasons for misconduct among students.   During the question-answer session, LRC Director, Dr. Ismail Alrefaai, emphasized that it is important to explain the rules, regulations, and expectations at the beginning of every course or class. He also placed emphasis on reducing teacher talk time in language classes and ensuring teaching and learning strategies are student-centered and encourage active learning.   The webinar was very interactive yielding insights into a better understanding of the appropriate methods to care for, motivate, and support underachieving students in the Bachelor of Arts in English program.   The Bachelor of Arts in English program at the Faculty of Languages and Translation is committed to ensuring that students are provided with effective academic, professional, psychological, social guidance, and counseling services through qualified and sufficient staff. Date: 12/3/2020 Source: Mohammad Adil Siddique
  On 25 November 2020, Hassan Costello delivered a webinar to 48 participants organized by the Alumni Unit of the Faculty of Languages and Translation that addressed the importance of having a highly optimized résumé entitled "Constructing a Resume That Will Get Noticed". The workshop, under the supervision of Vice Dean for Academic Development & Quality, Dr. Abdulrahman Almosa, and planning of Alumni Unit Coordinator, Mohsin Khan, was developed to provide Bachelor of Arts in English program students and alumni with additional activities for their professional development, consistent with the intended learning outcomes, and labor market developments. Prior to the webinar, research was conducted to gather input and experiences of alumni who successfully obtained employment using the strategies delivered in prior résumé training sessions.   After introductions by Vice Dean Almosa and Mohsin Khan, Costello began the webinar by discussing the need for English majors to educate potential employers about what they can do and how what they've learned is transferable to work situations. He pointed out that many employers will be eager to talk with someone who has skills in writing, editing, communication, critical analysis, research, problem-solving, collaboration, and managing information, just to name a few. Costello noted that the average employer will only spend 20 seconds in the initial review of the résumé, explaining that is the reason why it's critical to write an ATS-optimized resume. Costello then steered the discussion to center on the applicant tracking system (ATS), which is a system — used by recruiters — that uses algorithms to rank resumes based on how well they match the position. He then explained that in order to construct a resume that will get noticed, one must pay attention to keyword optimization, which is the most important element of an ATS-optimized resume. In order to do that, he mentioned that résumés should be tailored to the job description with any and all applicable titles, skills, and keywords found in the actual job description to ensure a high match rate. A lively discussion ensued in which several participants wanted to know how to convey their skills and abilities with no professional experience. Costello then said, "I gave the example of one of our more successful alumni, Hasan AlQahtany, who is now working at BAE Systems in Dhahran as an English teacher. He volunteered, was in the English Club, and served as a student leader in the Language Enhancement Program. Those are some of the things you can put on your resume, and when you do, make sure you use nouns. Those keywords should also match applicable keywords in the job description." He then highlighted that volunteer work or internships show that you have real-world experience and demonstrates abilities.   At the end of the webinar, all comments or questions raised during the event were answered. All participants — who maintained attendance throughout the webinar — were offered an opportunity to have their résumé reviewed by the presenter via email.   The Bachelor of Arts in English program at the Faculty of Languages and Translation is committed to communicating with its alumni and involving them in events and activities. Date: 11/27/2020 Source: Faculty of Languages and Translation