For Topic 4, I am going to apply a number of course design techniques to reflect on the set-up of learning activities in the Collaborative robot-assisted language learning project. In this blog post, I start with the Course features view, promoted by Conole, G. (2015).

selection-12-most-importantThe course features view is a method to get an overview of how different features are prioritised in the course during design. It can be used together with a pack of cards to help course designers visualise their choices. The cards are colour coded into the following categories: Guidance and SupportContent and ExperienceCommunication and Collaboration and Reflection and Demonstration.

The first activity consists of choosing a maximum of 12 (out of 47) cards defining the key features of the learning activity. My selection was: 


  1. Collaborative – the collaboration between the two learners and with the robot tutor is a key concept of the set-up. It is also a well-established methodology for language learning (Nunan, 1992; Cekaite & Aronsson, 2005).
  2. Conversational – the core focus of the curriculum is to practice spoken conversation and allow learners practise and align conversational style (Åhlund & Aronsson, 2015).
  3. One-to-one/few tutorial – From a societal point of view, a benefit of the set-up will be to increase time on task with learner and a (computer-animated or robot) tutor compared to the standard large classroom setting.
  4. Peer-support – Peer feedback on linguistic issues and conversational strategies is essential, both from a pedagogical and a technical perspective (we cannot rely on the automatic assessment being entirely correct and robust).
  5. Guided learning pathway – The set-up, described in the post for topic 3, relies on guiding the learner before the collaborative session by learning vocabulary and required skills, and after the session with remedial excercises preparing for the next stage along the learning path.
  6. Scaffolded learning – The intention is to base the interaction on well-established collaboration scripts (Kollar et al., 2006) and learner models.
  7. Practice-based – The pedagogical methodology follows the task-based learning (TBL) approach (Nunan, 2004), in which real-life tasks and scenarios are practiced through role-play settings using authentic language (Nunan, 2004). 
  8. Authentic learning – The focus is in TBL on communicative skills and task completion and the underlying didactic principle is that the learners’ intrinsic motivation, as well as curriculum retention and its transfer to real-life settings will be improved by focusing on relevant tasks with a clear goal. 
  9. Innovative for the team – Even if the learning activity is intended to be beneficial for the participating learners, it is foremost a research project, and the didactic and technological innovations are therefore of the largest importance for the team.
  10. Computer marked assessment – The computerised assessment, through automatic speech recognition, of the learners’ linguistic problems and the “nativeness” of the pronunciation is a necessity for the set-up to work (Lopes et al., 2001).
  11. Tutor assessment – Feedback from the tutor is a core part of the training and will be based on the model for feedback and self-regulation created by Butler & Winne (1995) that focuses on providing effective cueing within the tasks to support task-driven learning by engaging the learners’ cognitive representation of the goals, strategies and outcome. 
  12. Feed-forward assessment – Evaluation of the learner’s progress and remaining linguistic problems is exclusively targeting the idea of providing feedback and support to enable the learner to progress. For the individual preparatory and feedback sessions, the necessary vocabulary and linked learning and remedial exercises need to be defined and designed based on the Ten Steps to Complex Learning (van Merriënboer & Kirschner 2007) to ensure growing complexity. 

The course designer should now look at the distribution of colours (in fact, 3 of each!) to see if the course is unbalanced, which may affect the learners experience. The selection turned out to be very well balanced.

We therefore turn to the second course feature activity, the decision diamond, in which 16 cards should be prioritised in a diamond (most important on top, least important – but included, 31 are excluded) – at the bottom.

diamondMy diamond ended up as: Collaborative, Conversional, Peer-support, Tutor-assessment, Social, Guided learning pathway, Authentic learning, Practice-based, Innovative for the team, Theory-based, Computer marked assessment, Self-assessment, One-to-few tutorial, Problem-based, Feed-forward assessment.

Hence prioritising communication and collaboration and then guidance and support, which does make sense from the point of view of the stated aim of the project.

The next step after building the diamond is to write down the design decisions made. Some of them have however been covered above in the 1–12 list, and others will follow in upcoming posts, when other design models are tested


  • Butler, D.L., & Winne, P.H. (1995). Feedback and self-regulated learning: a theoretical synthesis. Review of Educational Research, 65(3), 254-281.
  • Cekaite, A. & Aronsson, K. (2005). Language play: a collaborative resource in children’s L2 learning. Applied Linguistics, 26, 169-191.
  • Conole, G. (2015). The 7Cs of Learning Design
  • Kollar, I., Fischer, F. & Hesse, F. (2006). Collaboration Scripts – A Conceptual Analysis. Educ Psychol Rev, 18, 159–185.
  • Lopes J., Abad, A. & Trancoso, I. (2001). A Nativeness classifier for TED Talks. In Proc ICASSP.
  • Nunan, D. (1992). Collaborative Language Learning and Teaching. Cambridge University Press.
  • Nunan, D. (2004). Task-based language teaching. Cambridge University Press.
  • Van Merriënboer, J.J.G., & Kirschner, P.A. (2007). Ten steps to complex learning: A systematic approach to four-component instructional design. London: Lawrence Erlbaum
  • Åhlund, A., & Aronsson, K. (2015). Stylizations and alignments in a L2 classroom: Multiparty work in forming a community of practice. Language & Communication, 43, 11-26.


Would you like to help us get started?

As a second language learner (in particular if you are or have been learning Swedish), what authentic tasks do you feel would be (or would have been, if you are thinking about your own past experiences) relevant to practise the second language on?

Please fill in the one-question form on

The tasks should be suitable for beginner to intermediate level of learning Swedish, but feel free to suggest whatever comes to mind.