The aim of this article is to present an e-learning course of librarian English (e-LKA). This course was created by students from the Information Science and Librarianship department at Masaryk University in Brno in the Czech Republic. It is a unique low-cost course that seeks to improve the level of English amongst librarians in the Czech Republic. This course was created within a compulsory subject called Application seminar, which tries to apply learning through involving students in real project development.
Nowadays, English is spoken worldwide as Latin used to be in the past. New information in all scientific fields is published primarily in English. If librarians want to keep in contact with the outside world, they should speak English. Unfortunately, the level of English amongst librarians in the Czech Republic is generally not sufficient. The majority of librarians used to learn Russian or German at school and therefore the most common level of English in Czech libraries is pre-intermediate.
The course preparation started in October 2009. Our team consisted of seven students, a guarantor of the project and a supervisor of the project. When we began preparing the course, we were given a budget of 20 000 Czech crowns (812 Euros) to cover all necessary costs. The deadline for evaluation of our project was September 2010. We had to meet all indicators by this date.
The project began with a survey investigating the level of interest in learning English amongst Czech librarians. The results were predictable– almost all librarians felt the necessity of using English both at work and in their daily lives – but they found there were neither any special courses nor resources made available for acquiring librarian English. Following the results of this survey, appropriate topics were carefully chosen for each lesson. Proposals from librarians were also taken into consideration. The topics were consulted with English teachers, e-learning specialists and university librarians. Preparation of the course material took about five months. The course was created using the learning management system called Moodle and divided into nine lessons. It was estimated that each lesson could be completed in a week.
Every lesson consists of several parts:
1. An interactive presentation: suitably arranged interactive material comprising new grammar, vocabulary and phrases including audio.
2. Self-study reference material: a document in PDF format to allow printing comprising exercises and explanations for the new topics. The emphasis is on user-friendly materials in colour with illustrations.
3. Exercises in Moodle: for automatic control and checking of on-line exercises.
4. Study video: a special educational video that covers the use of librarian English in common situations occurring in a real library environment.
Every lesson includes homework or a test that students, have to complete within a certain deadline. Students were guided during the course by “Elka” – illustrated librarian. Students can use an on-line discussion forum or log onto Skype. In order to graduate from the course successfully; students must pass an on-line test using the Moodle system covering all topics studied in the course.
The course was launched in April 2010. A total of 61 students enrolled in the course and nine weeks later, 42 students finished it successfully. The course received very good results from the students in the final evaluation. Almost all the students believed that the new skills acquired during the course will help them professionally in their job. The majority of the students would like to continue with the course.
Students realized that the time set aside for one lesson, just one week, was too short, so the organiser decided to extend the time devoted to each lesson to two weeks. Another problem affected the exercises in the Moodle system, because it was necessary to provide in advance all possible answers. Unfortunately, some valid answers in the translation exercises were not accepted by the system and these correct answers had to be added into the system following students’ remarks. Otherwise, the remainder of the comments commended the high quality of the course.
After its initial trial, the course was revised and improved.
The E-learning course of librarian English is unique not only in the Czech Republic but also in other European countries. We guess that majority of non-native English librarians need to speak or communicate in English. That’s why we hope that our course might inspire librarians in other countries to take over this concept and adapt it to their conditions and to create similar courses in their countries. The most distinctive advantage of our course is the amount of costs that makes it available for everyone and everywhere.
If librarians are enthusiastic enough, they can realize anything.
Presentation of the course - Bobcatsss conference 2010