1993 International email project with 240 students


In 1993, Ruth Vilmi started her global writing courses on the Internet at Helsinki University of Technology (HUT) where she was a lecturer in English. She found partner classes through the teachers' mailing lists and put 80 HUT students into groups with participants from students from eight universities, in Canada, Japan and the US. Universities involved 1993 to 1996. For more details, see Vilmi's first paper.

The technology used in 1993 was simple email, in triads or groups of three classes, followed by mailing lists in 1994. Technology used from 1993 to 1996.

Evaluation of the project by researchers in Kong Kon (CUHK).



1994 was a very active year


The messages were put onto the Web by IWE students in Paris. The name of the writing course became the International Writing Exchange (IWE). The structure was firm yet flexible, suiting universities and time zones globally. The 5 main phases of each five-week IWE module or round were:

  • Introductory letter
  • Peer feedback
  • Article on a selected topics
  • Peer feedback and author's responses
  • Teacher feedback on articles and introductions
  • Self-study, e.g., with Help Pages and XE demo, and exercises created by class teacher and peers
  • Virtual conference in the Virtual Language Centre (VLC) from 1995 onwards
  • Evaluation and selection for IWE Journal

Vilmi created the International Robot and International Environment Activities with classes in Paris, Hong Kong and the USA:

Student evaluations on the Robot Activity from Finland, France and Hong Kong:

  • - very demanding, technical problems, cultural communication problems
  • + exciting and motivating to participate in a real project, useful to do research and write technical reports in English
  • a real robot was designed by one team

Student evaluations of the International Environmental Activity:

  • + positive experience, learning to write reports in English was useful
  • - too time-consuming for 3 credits
  • The US teacher concentrated on the process, whereas HUT students wanted to write a factual report on the topics



1995 Cooperation with the IT Department


The IT department cooperated with Ruth Vilmi to create software for language learning purposes; students made a MUD for synchronous chatting, the HUT Virtual Language Centre (VLC), using English at meetings and for the project documentation, and received credits from both the LC the IT Department. Some VLC logs from 1996 to 2000 can be read here.

The International Writing Exchange was put onto the Web by students in the Language Centre at HUT using the special 'newsgroups', before discussion forums software existed. Detailed technical drawing of special 'newsgroups', and drawings of the technology behind the IWE.

The International Environmental Activity was repeated between HUT and the US students. Culture Pages pages were started, together with classes from Sogang and Cairo. This project continued for several years.



1996 Language Adventures on the Web (LAW) and NetTed


Vilmi cooperated with the IT department at HUT, and worked on language learning software projects with student teams. Language Adventures on the Web (LAW demo here) was a simple adventure game made entirely in html.

In the same year we made a collaborative HTML Editor, called NetTed. There's a short manual. I could not get funding from HUT for developing these IT projects so I gave NetTed to Virginia University (US) to develop. It became known as ITeach.

The IWE continued in the 'newsgroups' and a Journal was made from the best entries. Student errors were hyperlinked to Help pages.



1997 The software project students made Xercise Engine


The IWE continued in our special newsgroup, with student errors linked to Help Pages.

The software project students made Xercise Engine. This was quite an advanced program and included a course manager as well as an authoring tool for creating online exercises in Java. No funding, so Vilmi founded a company in 1998 and developed the exercise applets. XE was used for online courses until 2004, when the courses were moved to the current e-learning environment, Moodle.



1998 EditIt software for online editing made


The IWE continued in the spring. An IWE Journal was made. Joint project with Finnish Tourist Board and Porvoo Schoolof Tourism planned. King's Road activities not realised - lack of funding. The Kings Road book was started.

EditIt, software for editing and commenting on students' work on line, was made with the software team. No funding for development.

The IWE was generously hosted by Doug Moesel, at Missouri University from Autumn 1998 to Spring 1999. No funding at HUT. Vilmi founded a limited company, Ruth Vilmi Online Education Ltd so that the IWE could continue. RVOE Ltd gave this free service to HUT until Vilmi retired.



1999 A new ICT course was started


A new ICT course was started, with both sixth form students from Finland and Namibia as customers, and HUT students as the customer service personnel. Details can be read in this DiscussIt ICT report written for the Net Days Conference by Ilpo Halonen, the sixth form teacher in Finland.

The International Writing Exchange (IWE) continued.



2000 Voice technology was tested


The courses continued, using discussion forum and chat software. Nebula stopped the chat service at the end of 2000. We also used free HearMe voice forums and Wimba Voice Boards for a short time, while they were available.



2001 The Technical Writing Exchange (TWE) course was created


Online registration was developed:

  1. DiscussIt Forums (for the discussion forums)
  2. Course reg form (for tracking)

A new DiscussIt course the Technical Writing Exchange (TWE) was created for discussing technical and ethical topics. Difficult to find regulat international partners for this course.

The International Writing Exchange (IWE) continued to be very popular, so forums were created at several levels (Advanced, Upper Intermediate and Lower Intermediate), using colours..

Language Help forums were started. These consist of Grammar, Listening, Vocabulary and Writing forums, the Grammar being the most popular. HUT students do tasks related to their online writing in the Grammar and Vocabulary Help forums- they mostly search for rules and summarise with examples. It's strongly recommended that they use online concordancers to help them. The HK Web Concordancer (English), Merriot Webster's dictionary and MOT are linked to their course handouts.



2002 Web page URLs sent to TechFree and SciTech forums


Students at HUT started sending the URLs of their Web pages and XE books on both general and technical topics to the appropriate forums, TechFree and SciTech to be evaluated and commented on by their peers.

The Blue IWE forum for Intermediate students also became popular.



2004 Courses moved to MOODLE


We decided to use Moodle as the DiscussIt learning environment. Moodle is an open source learning environment created by teachers for teachers.

HUT students did mini research reports based on the writing in the IWE forums. These are archived and can be read and commented on.



2005 Real-time sound activities and teacher training


Vilmi retires from HUT in the Spring of 2005. The courses continue through her company. Vilmi needs to charge a fee for the courses.

The quality of the technology for speaking via the Internet is has improved and is available for little or no cost, we have started to use sound in our real-time activities again, after a 5-year break. We are being assisted by friends at Ed Tech Talk.

Teacher-training courses and workshops are given, both locally and internationally, face-to-face and on line, the most recent being in South Africa, Finland and the Nordic countries.

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