Upgrading competencies of master's degree students through e-learning in business communications in a foreign language


Andrey Zahariev1*, Margarita Mihailova2, Viktor Monev3 and Ventsislav Dikov4

1Prof. Dr., D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, Svishtov, Bulgaria, andrey.zahariev.1971@gmail.com

2Sen. lect. Dr., D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, Svishtov, Bulgaria, m.mihaylova@uni-svishtov.bg

3Sen. lect. Dr., D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, Svishtov, Bulgaria, v.monev@uni-svishtov.bg

4Sen. lect., D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics, Svishtov, Bulgaria, v.dikov@uni-svishtov.bg

*Corresponding author



The role of foreign language proficiency in modern society, where phenomena such as the Internet remove traditional barriers to human communication, has become increasingly important, which places ever higher demands on the results from foreign language teaching. The process of globalization has increasingly imposed the need for communicative competence and understanding of the culture of nations that use a foreign language, requires the development of not only language skills in learners, but also of critical thinking, soft skills and social responsibility. In this light, the paper aims to present the experience of one of the schools that are benchmark institutions of the higher educational system of Republic of Bulgaria – D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics – Svishtov in further development of foreign language competencies through master degree e-learning courses in business communications. It covers the evolution of the master’s degree in social science with business communications training in a foreign language over the past 20 years reaching peak level of over 2,500 students on annual basis and covering 100% of the master degree students. The foundations of distance learning of foreign languages at the observed Academy were laid in the period 2001 – 2003 with two pilot courses: "Business Communications in English" and "Business Communications in German". These courses were included as optional elective courses for students from all master degree programs at D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics - Svishtov. In the next academic years, the courses were revised and upgraded and a number of opportunities for the customization of the instruction to tap the potential of the students were identified. In the 2008/2009 academic year the leading for Bulgaria in the field of distance learning higher school D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics - Svishtov included the Web-based courses in Business Communications as compulsory elective optional foreign language courses in the curriculum of its master degree programmes. The courses were developed in English, German, French and Russian (levels A2 and B1). The responsibility for their organization was shared by the Center for Postgraduate Training, the Center for Distance Learning and the Department of Foreign Languages. The courses were compulsory for all master degree students of D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics - Svishtov. They added to the competiveness of all graduates through training and self-assessment using a language-based portfolio of business communication competencies. The learning content of the Business Communications in Foreign Language courses was provided through the BCom learning platform (a customized Moodle platform) that ensured a higher level of interactivity for the specific objectives of the courses. The specific features of e-language learning provides ways to meet students’ needs, which in comparison with traditional learning, are consistent with the characteristics of modern e-society. This reformulates the status and the role of the instructor and the learner within an online community working towards common educational goals. The main content of the courses follows a syllabus that includes the following topics: Economic trend; Business communication; Corporate identity; HR management; E-Business; Finance; Banking; International marketing; Audit; and International negotiations and contracting. Although the authors put emphasis on vocabulary practice, reading and writing tasks, and listening activities, it is not a purely language course but a business communications one. Logically, at the peak load of the distance learning system for the first decade of the 21st century (in 2009) in D. A. Tsenov Academy of Economics – Svishtov, the e-learning traffic data reached 102 thousand unique logs from abroad (localized by IP addresses) - 41 countries on 6 continents. In the second decade, a peak was registered in 2013 with logs of master degree students from abroad, including 128 countries and 262 thousand unique logs by IP address. In both peak cases, the total number of master degree students was over 2,500 trainees on an annual basis. All this logically confirms that the internationalization of the portfolio of educational products in higher education is the basis for attracting students and ensuring the convergence of diplomas and knowledge. In 2013, the courses became optional and the number of students rapidly decreased due to the associated additional tuition costs. However, the established methodology and procedures were a solid base for development and introduction of a distance learning course at advanced level (C1) (Advanced Business English) for the Bachelor’s Degree programmes taught in English. Nowadays the course aims to revise and consolidate the knowledge that students already have (they are required to have at least a B1 level to enrol in these programmes) and to upgrade their general and professional communication skills to level C1 and beyond. Since such an upgrade requires many class hours, the course was subdivided into four modules taught within four consecutive semesters of 14 weeks each. The first two modules are more intensive (with 4 class period per week or a total of 56 classes per semester) because they are intended to develop further the language knowledge and skills acquired during secondary education. Modules 3 and 4 are more skills-oriented and therefore require less in-class interaction and considerably more self-study. The study load for these modules is 2 classes per week, or a total of 28 classes per semester. The main conclusion of the study is that BCom business communication courses are a key element in the education of students in social sciences, based on the classic three pillars for a successful career - digital competence, foreign language skills and high competence in the subject areas studied in the bachelor's and master's degree programmes.

Keywords: E-learning, Business Communications, Master's Degree in Social Science


DOI: https://doi.org/10.46529/socioint.202103

CITATION:Abstracts & Proceedings of SOCIOINT 2021- 8th International Conference on Education and Education of Social Sciences, 14-15 June 2021

ISBN: 978-605-06286-2-3