UCL News


PHONLINE completes first assessments

29 June 2006

PHONLINE, a new and unique international web-based course run by UCL Phonetics & Linguistics, this week delivered the first assessment results to students.

Screenshot from the PHONLINE course

PHONLINE is a pilot course designed by UCL Phonetics & Linguistics to allow students from around the world to participate in a complete online distance-learning course in phonetics. It has 25 students from as far afield as Morocco, Costa Rica, the USA, Brazil and Malaysia, as well as Japan, Korea and European countries. The initial response to the course was overwhelming, with 147 applications received before enrolment was curtailed because of the high demand.

The course is divided into eight units lasting a week each, and is due to finish in August, by which time students will have learned skills in phonetic transcription, developed knowledge and understanding of phonetic theory, and gained auditory discrimination skills. To mark the beginning of the course, UCL Phonetics & Linguistics hosted an online party, with participants around the world linked via the internet to a gathering of guests at UCL.

With the first unit complete, Michael Ashby, the course's organiser, said: "It's going extremely well. We had expected all sorts of technical difficulties, as our students are using both Macs and PCs, and a wide variety of browsers. Also, teaching phonetics online requires that we are able to send high-quality sound files and use the phonetic alphabet, which can cause problems. However, we haven't encountered anything so far that hadn't been anticipated, or couldn't be quickly fixed. It's very encouraging."

The course uses WebCT, the Virtual Learning Environment supported by UCL for its e-learning courses. The unique technical requirements of phonetics, and the emphasis on interactive practical training, push the limits of the system, and it was necessary to undertake extensive testing and development. UCL Learning Technology has supplied training and support at every stage.

With all the early indicators suggesting that PHONLINE is functional, effective, and attractive to students around the world, it is hoped to offer the course on a regular basis, with revenues re-invested into supporting research students in the department.

Image 1: A screenshot from the PHONLINE course
Image 2: UCL Phonetics' online party