This reference manual describes the operation of the CAN-8 language
lab software implemented on a Local Area Network.
This manual is intended to be read by the system administrator and
by instructors involved in teaching with the lab. Chapter 4, on the
Student Screen, while it describes the student's interface to the
system is written more for instructors than students.
The manual is presented in a top down order. The context for a function
is explained before the function. However, to gain an understanding
of the capabilities of the system, it would be best to proceed to the
Student Screen and on before reading the earlier
Not all parts of the manual are required for all readers. The system
supervisor is the only one who can change the course menu structures
and so must be familiar with the chapter about the
However the instructors, who create, supervise and monitor student performance,
should be generally aware of the capabilities of the
Some instructors will monitor student progress through the lessons.
The chapter about the Tracker is required
for these readers.
Teachers who are creating language lab lessons must read the chapters
on the Planner and the Recorder screens.
The CAN-8 system can use a number of computers connected through a local
area network (or intranet), or it can use a wide area network
(such as the internet) to do the functions of a language lab.
The cost/performance ratio of modern computers has been dropping rapidly.
Applications that no one would have considered in the past because
of the cost are now feasible. For example, the cost of storage
for one hour of digitally recorded sound on a file server is now 1¢ and
falling. The file server can provide this hour of sound to
more than 1000 student workstations.Significantly less than that of
maintaining the cassette tape library previously required. As well, since the
students do not have to be in a lab with the tape recorders, they may
work from other areas on the network at any time they choose.
The computers in a classroom are connected as shown in Figure 1 by
a local area network. Each of the computers can send data over the
network cables to any other computer on the network.
One of the computers in the network plays a special role. It is the
file server, which is configured with a large amount of disk storage.
The function of the file server is to provide this data to computers
that require it. It also stores data created by the student's computers
when they record themselves.
The centralized file storage means that all the data can instantly
be accessed by the students and by the instructor. No duplication,
no setup, and no local storage on each workstation is required. The
file server can provide the digital sound or video to student workstations
The software is organized as a Client-Server implementation. This
means that some of the CAN-8 software runs in the workstations, and
other parts run in the server. By distributing the operations of the
system, the following aims are accomplished:
The storage of student voice recordings on the server enables the
instructor to listen, at random, to any recording by any student.
Student answers to multiple choice and fill-in questions are equally
- good network security since no other application other than
CAN-8 may access the files on the server;
- optimal performance since the server and client work together
in a seamless manner;
- lower network utilization as the server needs only to send
exactly what is required by the stations to operate.
While many systems, ranging from CD players on up, can play digital
sound, the ability to record is missing entirely as in compact disks,
or has been treated as an afterthought. In contrast, the audio data
processor that is installed in each student workstation is designed
for optimal recording. It can, of course, play back with equal fidelity.
The audio processor can also do the other tasks required, such as
simultaneous recording and playback.
Students gain comprehension by listening to recordings in the new
language. This system can store the sound from previously existing
cassettes on the file server for use in listening exercises.
However, students often lack confidence in speaking the new language.
Confidence comes from the assurance that the student can speak well.
The system allows students to listen to an instructor, speak, and
listen to themselves as many times as necessary.
When the student has created a good recording, the recording becomes
available to the instructor for review. The instructor, after listening,
can require the student to redo it if necessary.
Many of the features of this system are designed to reduce the workload
on the instructor. Aside from the fact that cassette tapes do not
have to be distributed and collected, many improvements have been
made due to the visual display of information.
The instructor can see at a glance how a class is progressing. If
a student is not spending enough time on the lesson items, a common
fault, the Tracker screen quickly reveals this.
The instructor does not have to waste time listening at random to
students. The recordings are the best, in the student's opinion, that
the student can do.
Recordings are displayed on a visual graph. A mouse click zeroes in
on the speech. No time need be wasted on listening to "dead" time.
- Lesson creation is online: as soon as an instructor has
recorded, the recording is available to the students in the lab. Alternatively,
the lesson can be prepared beforehand, or reused from an earlier class.
- As soon as a student has finished a recording, the instructor
can listen to it and provide feedback.
- visual display shows the progress of students through
the lesson. The instructor can select any item, any student, and listen
to recorded results for the item.
- Group discussions in real time are supported on the network.
Students can be assigned to groups automatically or by the instructor.
The instructor can monitor groups and participate as desired.
- Instructors can talk directly to all the students in the
lab or call one student for a conversation.
- Supervised tests can be conducted. Students' recorded answers
can be marked as part of the test. Scores and class rankings are tabulated
by the computer and are available for review by the student.
- Course material is organized in a menu system. The student
can access any lesson on listening or speaking by selecting from a
- Students are registered on the system by unique user Id
codes. Each student's work, progress reports, and assignments are
referenced by this Id code. Security of the students work is maintained
by the use of passwords.
- Sound is stored and transmitted in a digital format. There
are no tapes to wear out and each copy is as clear as the original.
- A dynamic range of 96 decibels means that the quietest sounds
are reproduced as well as the loudest.
- The sound processor has been specially designed (unlike
most sound cards for PCs) to produce quality recordings of student
- Auditory memory is not as good as visual memory. This is
why a recording can be played over and over, while a movie video can be
watched only a few times. During the seconds it takes a tape player
to rewind the student will have forgotten much of the sounds that
are being compared.
- The computer takes only milliseconds to replay. Switching
between the student's and instructor's voice is as fast as a mouse
button can be clicked.
- Almost all learners find that a foreign language is spoken
too fast. Students can learn to recognize sounds by repeatedly playing
them. However, the computer can also slow down the sound (with no
pitch change) to give the student time to identify the different sounds.
- The language lab software can be used by a class of students
at a scheduled time. An instructor can monitor student progress and
provide corrective feedback through the Tracker.
- Students can use the language lab as individuals, each accessing
the learning materials and resources independently. No special setup
is required to prepare the system. The students' work is still available
for review by an instructor at a later date.
- The system works over intranets and the Internet. Students may
work in a location that best suits their situation, at any time they
Not Just Sound
Next Chapter - The Menu System
- Lessons can include text, graphics and video on the screen as well
- Text can be linked to the sound, so that the text is highlighted
when sound is played. A mouse click on a word in the text will start
playing at that word.
- Multiple choice and "fill in the blanks" questions can be
used to test understanding of listening exercises and provide feedback.
- The menu and assignment system enables easy integration
of other programs outside the CAN-8 system into the course structure in the