SPEAK aims at providing an effective, interactive multimedia development and delivery platform for the rapid development of tutoring materials for industry training departments and language learning schools. The platform will incorporate authoring guides (templates) and learner feedback, supported by multimedia tools providing speech recognition, dictionary, text analysis and grammar modules. Applications will be initially for Italian, French, German and English, packaged in specialist language learning starter units which can be amended, extended and replaced as required. The applications will be piloted in the automotive industry, as a prototypical sector of large-scale, integrated European and global business, with practical multilingual communication needs in all areas from design and development to production and marketing. SPEAK will thereby demonstrate its flexibility in meeting varying training needs within one organisation. The results will help to address EU wide issues of competitiveness, job flexibility and mobility, and lifelong learning.
Design, development and production cycles are becoming increasingly shorter, so that information exchange must increase in speed and efficiency to keep pace. In our multi-lingual European society this means that language learning also needs to follow suit as products are increasingly developed through co- operative research, and traded across national boundaries. Shorter learning curves and reduced lead times for the production of suitable language learning material is required. Multimedia for language learning answers the former requirement, but current examples are highly expensive to produce, require a long lead time and are not readily adaptable from one context to another.
Up to now individual trainers and isolated publishers have had to deliver by themselves the training actions and materials that meet the needs of their clients. No supporting architecture exists in which to create and anchor multimedia presentations. However, the demand is underlined by the corporate and institutional training market, which expects to transfer a significant amount of training time and finance to technology based systems, even though they have little familiarity with multimedia and are uncertain of its potential. Two reasons are:
No appropriate material exists for trainers and their managers, who feel excluded from technological culture.
The ambient technological culture lacks multimedia exposure. An exception is the omnipresence of Minitel in France which has created a favourable climate for the development of on-line multimedia for learning.
The corporate training environment needs tools that put pedagogic power in the hands of trainers, allowing them to acquire a multimedia culture, use existing resources better, and produce personalised multimedia geared to the needs of the company. Publishers require tools that transfer, to a considerable extent, production costs to the author.
The purchase of multimedia equipment is increasing rapidly. 1995 saw an increase over 1994 of over 100% in the corporate training market. More significantly, language schools under pressure from their clients, began buying material in 1995 to prove that they are capable of managing and using multimedia systems. This is indicative of a trend for 1996 and onwards at least comparable to the rapid spread of language laboratories in the first half of the 1970's. Language training organisations are already being set up to provide on-line and multimedia services.
SPEAK is developing an integrated, multimedia language learning development and delivery system that encompasses authoring, tutoring and learning. It will enable commercial language schools and large corporate training departments to upgrade their language learning services by providing multimedia products to their customers. The author will build up exercises in an object oriented environment using basic templates to which he can add such items as 'score' and 'drag & drop' objects. The learner will benefit from customised courses addressing precisely the subject matter and level of difficulty he requires.
SPEAK will make true interactive multimedia language learning systems versatile and powerful both for development and delivery, so that they can be efficiently and cost effectively adapted to specific language learning requirements, ranging from engineering to specialist business transactions. It is supported by external modules, provides prototypes of its applications and offers easy access authoring and tutoring keys.
Three of the major partners are producers and publishers of multimedia learning materials who have extensive experience in highly visual, creative presentations for tutorial and educational products. They will include tutoring support and guidance systems which will serve as a basis for a tracking and assessment system. The other partners are pre-eminent in language learning multimedia and programming skills, and have broad experience with multimedia in business and commerce. A network of industrial user organisations is being set up to assist in the validation of the prototype and to introduce the system into the market.
The three sponsoring partners will provide business training materials for use in the demonstrator. Their main goal is to develop an integrated development and delivery system that encompasses authoring, tutoring and learning. SPEAK will supply the pedagogic framework in which this can happen and ensure easy, user friendly exploitation for all categories of users: trainers, authors, administrators and learners. It will make it possible to develop rich and flexible modular learning programmes, and facilitate the assembly of new training materials required to address particular learning aims, such as specialised professional language, traditionally neglected by publishers, as well as minor languages for which little elaborated pedagogic material has been published. Different types of external programs, including authentic audio-visual documents in digital form, databases and language processing tools, will be easily plugged into the system.
SPEAK will be implemented in both off-line and on-line system versions. They will be platform independent uniting a wide variety of technologies (hypermedia, voice recognition, synchronised audio and video, telecommunications) into a single environment with a specific pedagogic purpose. The system will make it possible to produce a first version of a language learning course for a particular sector, for example automotive lighting design and engineering, which can then be continuously updated by integrating new material and broadened to other areas.
The system will be installable on a stand alone multimedia PC, with an icon giving modem and ISDN access to a SPEAK website. This website will allow updates and optional resources to be downloaded, such as dictionaries for particular languages and professional domains, as well as audio-visual material (HTML formatted texts, graphics, photos, audio and video clips).
Three major exhibitions/language learning seminars of the demonstrator will be held in Germany, France and the UK in the final six months of the project.
Initial users will be from the automotive industry's R&D and marketing sectors in four countries, and later selected users from small businesses. Eventual users will include language learning schools, company in-house training departments and the general public for home study.
Users will benefit from more efficient customised language learning courses addressing precisely the needs, subject matter and level of difficulty required. This will lead to the student acquiring foreign language skills faster, and the reduction in language communication problems.
The system will be applicable to general education at all levels, as well as intermediate and advanced language learning in tertiary education. It will facilitate the move of traditional language learning publishers to hypermedia, giving them improved export opportunities as well as competing in hitherto closed markets through streamlined authoring and production lead times.
The co-ordinating partner will use the SPEAK technology to develop an off-the-shelf range of products to complement its current position as a bespoke service and production organisation. Another partner will enhance its present and future range of published language learning courses and broaden the scope of online services currently under development.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
B15 3DH Birmingham