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The Intercultural Assistant

Some thoughts on the customisable, modular web based environment for assessing intercultural competence

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Przemek Krakowian
26 November 2009

We (Antje, Jacek, Chris and myself) were talking on the existing annotation tool and how,  with as little effort as possible, it could be adapted to serve a new purpose and what functionalities it should include.

We had a couple of remarks that perhaps could be discusses further:

1. Given the austere and not really user friendly interface, re-vamping of some sort would be desirable.

2. If the existing, but re-vamped tool were to be placed at a different location, i.e. other server or http:// location, then this alone would already create the feel that we have a new system. The WebCEF would continue working independantly, the CEFcult would diverge to include the new dimension of the intercultural competence, while preserving the original content of WebCEF

3. Point 2 gives us an advantage in the fact that when we approach people to record them, we would already be able to use some of the existing samples to show what we want to do and what it would look like

4. For that we would need an additional functionality (we came up with a name for it: "Intercultural Assistant" :-) I am rather proud of that :-) and that could take the form of something that Lut has been using (Wizard, question based assessment scheme) It could either inclusde questions like "The speaker makes effective use of body language to emphasize points." or "The speaker attempts to negotiate meaning and clarify in situations of uncertainty and ambiguity." or it could altogether rely on can-do statements.

5. Group membership (an issue in WebCEF) would be dealt with by allowing the participant to select a working language (assessment scheme would be automatically set together with group membership without the person even realising he belongs to any group)

This is more or less what I remember, but maybe I'll add something later.

Contact details: przemek.krakowian@uni.lodz.pl

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Martin Koban
3:00pm 4 December 2009


Dear Przemek, dear All,

We (i.e. the members of the German National Community) also had several discussions on the issue of the assessment tool layout, design and usability. Other inputs to the discourse also came from participants of the dissemination workshop, participants of the Dresden 2009 WebCEF-Workshop and representatives of other project partners. We came to the same conclusions as Przemek and I will reiterate these merely for their importance:

1)      Content Layout and Design of the Assessment Tool has to be redone to improve Usability and warrant user-friendliness

2)      Certain long-desired functions finally have to be implemented. Those include, but are not limited to, the ability to delete samples, groups and assessments

To provide a preview of what the reworked assessment tool could look like I concocted a mock-up website that currently merely displays the main menu and the groups page. I would like to emphasize that I am by no means a professional web designer and therefore I can only emphatically suggest to have a real professional redo the design of the assessment tool. After all, the assessment tool is the figurehead of WebCEF/CEFCult and should not be treated as an orphan. Before a professional can be hired to redo the design, we should come to a conclusion as to what the final layout of the contents of the assessment tool should look like.

I have already prepared an overview of the functions of the mock-up assessment tool page that I created and the page itself is viewable here: http://wh12.tu-dresden.de/~mrdata/assessment_tool/ Please use Mozilla Firefox as Internet Explorer and others render the page not as intended.

Intermediate List of functions & Page Layout:

Index Page / Main Page:

-          Obviously serves as hub to reach all the functions

-          Graphical representation of the menu items

-          Merged all group-related functions under group

  • respective functions are no longer scattered over several pages but available on one page, like one would expect

-          Merged all sample-related functions under samples

Added Functionality:

-          Messaging service for the users to be able to send messages to each other and for the delivery of system messages (e.g. “Sample XY has finished transcoding.” Or “User XY has assessed your sample ZX”.)

-          Profile page available through link at the top right corner

-          Quick lists for being able to sort and organize contacts (e.g. making it easier to add people to your groups as the people on your priority quick lists will be suggested first, when typing the name of the person you want to add to the group)

Group Page:

-          Remember: the design is merely a quick suggestion made by a layman and is to be redone by someone with actual skills in the domain of design!

-          Now combines student  and mentor groups

-          Provides direct access to the functions of

  • Adding new student and mentor groups (by clicking on the “Add”-link on the left of the grey headings)
  • Entering the group (by clicking on the group name)
  • Viewing meta information (by clicking on the blue info icon)
  • Adding members to the group (by clicking on the green plus icon)
  • Editing meta information of the group (by clicking on the pen icon)
  • Deleting the group (by clicking on the red X)
    • The user should be asked what to do with the associated samples (suggestion: Options to either delete the samples or move them back to the “my samples” area of the uploader)
  • Other potential functions include: unpublish

Samples Page:

(not done on the preview)

-          Unpublish function (regardless of assessments, they can remain connected to the sample, but disappear as well, only to be deleted when the sample is deleted)

-          Delete function (deleting all the connected assessments along with the sample)

-          Protect function (for the privileged to protect certain samples against deletion, e.g. those used in the show case)

-          Move function (moving a sample from group A to group B)

-          Duplicate sample (by having a button that directly duplicates the sample and lets the user assign it to another group

Tasks Page:

(not done on the preview)

-          Duplicate Task Function (being able to duplicate ANY task, not just the ones I created), criticism of the current function:

  • Too hidden
  • Too restrictive (can only duplicate your own samples. If others don’t want their tasks to be duplicated then we should introduce the option to the have them set a private flag on the task, so that others cannot duplicate it)
  • To alleviate this the duplicate function should be directly accessible from the task list by a single click

-          Not listing the tasks in a separate scrollable box (which wastes vertical screen space on nearly every monitor)

Quick Lists:

(not done on the preview)

-          Provides the functionality of having lists of contacts which can be quickly accessed to

  • Send messages
  • Assign the people to groups

-          Similar to a “friend list” or “buddy list” but not named as such to avoid the obvious social platform connotations

 

Martin Koban
11:58am 10 December 2009


Dear Chris,

thank you for your answer.

At the moment, you can delete samples, but only if no assessments have been done on them. You can also delete individual assessments. Deleting a group would have serious implications. Technically there's no reason why it can't be done - its just such a serious measure since you could loose a lot of work.


Yes, I am aware of these implications. The delete-function would basically only be needed if one wants to delete groups, samples, assessments created for testing or learning purposes. For example we now have numerous testgroups that were created by the participants during the WebCEF-course in Dresden.  Granted, not all of the participants would want their test groups removed, but these groups/assessments/samples are now merely clutter that make it more difficult to work with the tool / are a nuisance.

Originally I had pictured the delete-function in way that it offers the user the choice as to what should happen with the connected content. For example if the user wants to delete a group, the system asks whether it the samples should also be deleted or merely moved back to the "My Samples" page. Now the assessments would still be gone, but at least the samples would be retained.

Just now I had the idea to have an "archive"-function instead of a "delete"-function. Hence the respective content would be moved into a secluded area (the archive) and there the user could have groups, assessments, samples, tasks and whatever else. This way no content would be lost. Of course this implies that the user should be able to "unarchive" something again later.

Be this as it may, I still think it would be helpful if one could delete content. The more the userbase increases, the higher the chance to have people who abuse the system one way or the other. Be this advertisements or mobbing of classmates. And you can't always bother the root-user with these "trifles", not to mention that the response time would be a lot shorter if the group-owner was able to do the job in the first place.


Note that the CEFcult assessment tool has been installed at http://cefcult.open.ac.uk/ as a direct copy of the one built for webCEF. I intend to leave webCEF as it is (primarily because of the very large number of external references to it) and do all development and design work on the new tool.


Oh, I didn't know that. I think it's a good idea, but it needs to be communicated to the users of WebCEF and there are several questions that arise. If both tools use the same database it's a non-issue, but if they work on different DBs the question of migration is there: How will content be transferred from the old one to the new one (particularly considering that the old tool is still being used and thus new content is being added).

My suggestion would be to finish work on the new assessment tool first (i.e. have a development phase, a beta phase and then go public) and implement new functions / a new design (if anyone else cares for this, that is ... by the silence of the others it now appears as if I'm the only one concerned about that).


I'm impressed. As I said at the Leuven kickoff meeting, I am not a web designer by any means - I just make things work. You're already done an impressive job.


Thank you, but as I said, I'm not a web designer either. I'm rather good at manipulating things that are already there but I'm at a total loss when facing a blank page. That being said, there's also the option to skim through the designs that are available for purchase on the respective sites (these pages are like the ones that offer stock photos, but with designs for websites) and then change it to suit our needs. That would probably be cheaper than the webdesigner, quicker and would also yield an acceptable result.


I actually changed from 'page x of y' to scrolling boxes to tidy up the design. The disadvantage is that my scroll boxes are fixed height.


Hm, I have to say that I think there's way too much content in them now. Why not have one long page instead of scrolling boxes or several shorter pages? If it's too much content a filtering mechanism could be implemented or a collapsable hierarchy, but I don't think that's even necessary (just point the users to the [CTRL]+[F] shortcut).


Why avoid it? "Social networking" is part of the CEFcult project bid, so I don't think that's a bad thing. However, I think we should explore this aspect via the Facebook CEFcult application first.


I am concerned, however, that such a system could be abused - some users of the system (language experts for example) could be inundated by messages from people they don't really know. Clear reasons for these communications would need to be established before we should implement them.


It's a difficult question. My first thought was to avoid too obvious similarities with social networking sites, because for me, the social networking sites are still largely connotated with "leisure" and "friends" in contrast to what I would like CEFcult to be connotated with ("colleagues", "education" and not primarily "fun").

I didn't know about the facebook-app, but if that app is done and working it will be a great way for dissemination. Of course there are the implications of having your teachers know your facebook account and I'm sure that a certain percentile of the pupils/students would feel bothered by that (just like having your parents try to friend you on facebook ... it's strange enough to have my boss in my friendlist now ^^)

That is it from my side for now.  It's a pity that this topic wasn't dealt with in the kick off meeting, espcially considering that Chris was there. I think it would be beneficial if this was discussed during one of the oncoming flashmeetings.

Best Regards,

Martin Koban

On 08.12.2009 13:18, Chris Valentine wrote:

<!-- body{margin-left:10px;margin-right:10px;margin-top:10px;margin-bottom:10px;} -->
Martin Koban <> writes:
We (i.e. the members of the German National Community) also had several discussions on the issue of the assessment tool layout, design and usability. Other inputs to the discourse also came from participants of the dissemination workshop, participants of the Dresden 2009 WebCEF-Workshop and representatives of other project partners. We came to the same conclusions as Przemek and I will reiterate these merely for their importance:

1)      Content Layout and Design of the Assessment Tool has to be redone to improve Usability and warrant user-friendliness

2)      Certain long-desired functions finally have to be implemented. Those include, but are not limited to, the ability to delete samples, groups and assessments

At the moment, you can delete samples, but only if no assessments have been done on them. You can also delete individual assessments. Deleting a group would have serious implications. Technically there's no reason why it can't be done - its just such a serious measure since you could loose a lot of work.

To provide a preview of what the reworked assessment tool could look like I concocted a mock-up website that currently merely displays the main menu and the groups page. I would like to emphasize that I am by no means a professional web designer and therefore I can only emphatically suggest to have a real professional redo the design of the assessment tool. After all, the assessment tool is the figurehead of WebCEF/CEFCult and should not be treated as an orphan.

Note that the CEFcult assessment tool has been installed at http://cefcult.open.ac.uk/ as a direct copy of the one built for webCEF. I intend to leave webCEF as it is (primarily because of the very large number of external references to it) and do all development and design work on the new tool.

Before a professional can be hired to redo the design, we should come to a conclusion as to what the final layout of the contents of the assessment tool should look like.I have already prepared an overview of the functions of the mock-up assessment tool page that I created and the page itself is viewable here: http://wh12.tu-dresden.de/~mrdata/assessment_tool/ Please use Mozilla Firefox as Internet Explorer and others render the page not as intended.

I'm impressed. As I said at the Leuven kickoff meeting, I am not a web designer by any means - I just make things work. You're already done an impressive job.

Intermediate List of functions & Page Layout:

Index Page / Main Page:

-       Obviously serves as hub to reach all the functions
-       Graphical representation of the menu items
-       Merged all group-related functions under group
        o       respective functions are no longer scattered over several pages but available on one page, like one would expect
-       Merged all sample-related functions under samples

Added Functionality:

-       Messaging service for the users to be able to send messages to each other and for the delivery of system messages (e.g. “Sample XY has finished transcoding.” Or “User XY has assessed your sample ZX”.)

Actually there is already some hidden messaging going on in the system. Myself and Ben (who runs the transcoding server) each get emails when new samples are upload, when they are processed and if they fail.

-       Profile page available through link at the top right corner
-       Quick lists for being able to sort and organize contacts (e.g. making it easier to add people to your groups as the people on your priority quick lists will be suggested first, when typing the name of the person you want to add to the group)

Group Page:
-       Remember: the design is merely a quick suggestion made by a layman and is to be redone by someone with actual skills in the domain of design!
-       Now combines student and mentor groups
-       Provides direct access to the functions of
o       Adding new student and mentor groups (by clicking on the “Add”-link on the left of the grey headings)
o       Entering the group (by clicking on the group name)
o       Viewing meta information (by clicking on the blue info icon)
o       Adding members to the group (by clicking on the green plus icon)
o       Editing meta information of the group (by clicking on the pen icon)
o       Deleting the group (by clicking on the red X)
     The user should be asked what to do with the associated samples (suggestion: Options to either delete the samples or move them back to the “my samples” area of the uploader)
o       Other potential functions include: unpublish


Samples Page:
(not done on the preview)
-       Unpublish function (regardless of assessments, they can remain connected to the sample, but disappear as well, only to be deleted when the sample is deleted)
-       Delete function (deleting all the connected assessments along with the sample)
-       Protect function (for the privileged to protect certain samples against deletion, e.g. those used in the show case)
-       Move function (moving a sample from group A to group B)
-       Duplicate sample (by having a button that directly duplicates the sample and lets the user assign it to another group


Tasks Page:
(not done on the preview)
-       Duplicate Task Function (being able to duplicate ANY task, not just the ones I created), criticism of the current function:
o       Too hidden
o       Too restrictive (can only duplicate your own samples. If others don’t want their tasks to be duplicated then we should introduce the option to the have them set a private flag on the task, so that others cannot duplicate it)
o       To alleviate this the duplicate function should be directly accessible from the task list by a single click
-       Not listing the tasks in a separate scrollable box (which wastes vertical screen space on nearly every monitor)

I actually changed from 'page x of y' to scrolling boxes to tidy up the design. The disadvantage is that my scroll boxes are fixed height.

Quick Lists:
(not done on the preview)
-       Provides the functionality of having lists of contacts which can be quickly accessed to
o       Send messages
o       Assign the people to groups
o       …-       Similar to a “friend list” or “buddy list” but not named as such to avoid the obvious social platform connotations

Why avoid it? "Social networking" is part of the CEFcult project bid, so I don't think that's a bad thing. However, I think we should explore this aspect via the Facebook CEFcult application first.


I am concerned, however, that such a system could be abused - some users of the system (language experts for example) could be inundated by messages from people they don't really know. Clear reasons for these communications would need to be established before we should implement them.

Chris.

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