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Development of the portal and web-based user interfaces

The creation of the portal, along with the development of its general functions (administrator’s interface, user management, registration, signing in, news, announcements, forums, etc.), will necessitate outsourcing.

The instructors’ interfaces (upload of teaching material, correction of exercises, consultations, etc.) need to be developed as integral parts of the portal. Developers of teaching materials will also take part in the development of the functions supporting the creation and upload of teaching materials.

Students’ user interfaces will be developed in parallel with instructors’ interfaces, in order to ensure functional coherence.

The functions of students’ interfaces to be used on PCs and on mobile (smart) phone devices will have to be the same in order to avoid differences in the submission of solutions to exercises from PCs or from smart phones. This will help in comparing performances of students, without giving an advantage to those using one or another type of device.

The system must be able to handle the case when a student switches from PC to smart phone (or vice versa), even in the middle of solving the exercises of a lesson. The task list under completion must be downloadable to a smart phone, there it should be possible for the student to resume solving the exercises. The exercises (even if unsolved) must be apt for upload from the smart phone to the Centre, and the student should be able to continue with the tasks on a PC.

In the case of exercises requiring instructor’s assessment, the system should place students’ answers onto the instructors’ task list. A teacher querying the tasks to be undertaken should be allowed to select the oldest (unallocated) task from the list matching his or her competences (language, level, task type). The task with the student’s answer (a composition or audio track) will then appear on the instructor’s interface, where the instructor can type in (or create an audio record of) his or her assessment.

Students will be notified upon the arrival of an assessment. (By default, the note will appear among the system messages presented on the home page each time a user logs in. Students subscribing for an extra service of the system will receive the assessment by SMS or, in the case of audio tracks, as a voice message through their mobile phones.)

With the above method students can get hold of the assessment of their solutions in a short time (the assessments may come from different instructors for different exercises) and teachers will continuously be offered tasks to undertake while they are logged into the system.

If a student needs intensive consultation, he may choose to consult one of the instructors currently logged in (for this purpose, they need to set their sign as “available”). Then they can exchange messages in real time or even set up an audio connection. The number of messages and the duration of conversation is logged by the system. This information will serve as the basis for drawing the balances of user accounts (decreasing students’ balance, increasing teachers’ balance).

Students may communicate with each other as well (via messages and audio connection), this will be a basic service of the system.

The Virtual Classroom can be a more cost-effective solution. In this case the teacher is in visual or audio connection with several students at the same time. This provides all the advantages of a language laboratory, yet, without the need to travel – one can join in the class conveniently, from home. The lesson fee for the teacher (who too may deliver the lecture or training also from home) will be divided in these cases between students taking part in the session.

This kind of remote learning offers nearly all the advantages of conventional learning methods, yet it saves a lot of time and expenditure by being independent of physical locations. The time and cost effectiveness of language learning can be increased significantly in this way, which is greatly beneficial from the point of view of the national economy as well (raises the value of the labour force by the effective development of language knowledge).

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