This article discusses the idea of creating a language learning platform to study Finnish online. As with any digital services and platforms, an online language learning platform should be created by keeping in mind the principles of user-friendly design. Designing such platforms should be based on rich, varied data.
Authors: Polina Moiseeva and Hamid Guedra
As the process of globalization requires people to adapt to new settings and adjust their language skills accordingly, the tools that help in acquiring such skills have to be up-to-date and user-friendly. Online learning platforms, being such tools, are expected to have a well-thought-out structure so that learners can understand the materials and go through the courses effectively and efficiently. Indeed, user experience plays a key role in creating successful online learning platforms (Harrati et al. 2016, 470).
Finland is quickly becoming a more and more multicultural society. While newly arrived immigrants can sometimes manage in English, learning and knowing Finnish is expected. Even if it is commonly thought that Finnish is somehow more difficult to learn than many other languages and can only be mastered through thorough face-to-face teaching, creating a user-friendly online learning platform to learn Finnish is still well justified. For example, such a platform could help in meeting the growing demand of Finnish for foreigners language teaching.
The Product Development Process
The product development process described by Schneider and Stickdorn (2011, 118) provides a good background for creating user-friendly artifacts. They list the following four stages:
The exploration stage relates to the project background and aims to get acquainted with the problem, identify it, and visualize findings. In the creation stage, focus is on collecting all the findings, generalizing on them, and processing them to produce a viable concept. The reflection stage covers prototype creation and collecting user feedback. Potential users are encouraged to test the created prototype in real-life conditions and to report any problems they detect. The usability test carried out at the stage allows researchers to identify possible mistakes in the interactive prototype and correct them at a considerably smaller expense than at a later stage. In the implementation stage, the final product is released and made public, which may bring about the need for further improvements and iterations.
Case Study and Its Key Findings
A study, Developing an online learning platform for studying Finnish, by Polina Moiseeva and Evgenii Sverchkov (2019) reports a research project that examined existing online language learning platforms from a user’s perspective. It also created a prototype of a Finnish language learning website and tested the prototype with potential users.
Figure 1. Neiro Lingua’s website to study Finnish (Moiseeva & Sverchkov 2019, 49)
Designing and creating a user-friendly online learning platform requires varied data. The data can be collected, for example, through user surveys, benchmarking, and usability testing. The key findings of the study were drawn from such rich data.
Regarding learners, full-time students generally seem to attend fewer online courses than those who are either at work or unemployed. (Moiseeva & Sverchkov 2019, 22.) Online courses therefore seem to meet the needs of those learners who are outside educational institutions.
There are five key points that should be considered when designing online language learning platforms: mentorship, course guidelines, study materials, practice, and content representation. In addition, learners generally want a lesson page to include a video lecture where the related grammar is explained; they want the material to be available as text so that it can be studied afterward; and they want resources to help with homework and also links to additional grammar and vocabulary practice. A language learning course page should also have detailed information about the course structure and instructions on how to work during the course as well as links to social media channels and group discussions. (Moiseeva & Sverchkov 2019, 22.)
A language learning platform should generally have a clear structure and a simple, clear interface. The color scheme should be uniform and consist of three to four colors. Finally, to be even more user friendly, a language learning website should provide instructions on how to go through a lesson and have an option to create a personal user account. (Moiseeva & Sverchkov 2019, 22.)
Further study could, for example, focus on the topic of scaling a software as a service (SaaS). It brings about the need to choose the best billing model for the new online language learning platform. The choice depends on the type of business and the overall business strategy. Per-user models, the pay-as-you-go billing model, the free-based model, tiered user pricing model are all widely used options. The most essential task is to choose the billing model which contributes to customer satisfaction and loyalty. (Lueck 2018.)
To sum up, the idea of creating an online language learning platform to study Finnish is well justified based on the current needs of the new generation of young foreigners seeking to establish themselves in Finland. The study conducted by Polina Moiseeva and Evgenii Sverchkov serves as a viable starting point for creating such a platform.
Harrati, N., Bouchrik, I., Tari, A. & Ladjailia, A. 2016. Exploring user satisfaction for e-learning systems via usage-based metrics and system usability scale analysis. Computers in Human Behavior. Vol.61, 463-471. [Cited 30 April 2019]. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.chb.2016.03.051
Lueck, C. 2018. What is Saas? Popular billing models you should know. FastSpring. [Cited 24 Sept 2019]. Available at: https://fastspring.com/blog/4-popular-saas-billing-models-you-should-know-about
Moiseeva. P. & Sverchkov, E. 2019. Developing an online learning platform for studying Finnish. Bachelor Thesis. Lahti University of Applied Sciences, Faculty of Business and Hospitality Management. Lahti. [Cited 24 Sept 2019]. Available at: http://urn.fi/URN:NBN:fi:amk-2019052611950
Stickdorn, M. & Schneider, J., 2011. This is Service Design Thinking. Amsterdam: BIS Publisher.
Polina Moiseeva is a Business Information Technology student at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Polina’s interests are in user experience design and edutech.
Hamid Guedra is a Senior Lecturer at Lahti University of Applied Sciences. Hamid’s interests are in teaching English for specific purposes and communication research.
Illustration: https://pxhere.com/fi/photo/868561 (CC0)
Reference to this publication
Moiseeva, M. & Guedra, H. 2019. Creating a User-Friendly Online Learning Platform to Learn Finnish. LAMK Pro. [Cited and date of citation]. Available at: http://www.lamkpub.fi/2019/12/10/creating-a-user-friendly-online-learning-platform-to-learn-finnish/