The goal of the RIA project is to create tools that are informed by language acquisition research, and engage language learners in active learning.
RIAs are Tools:
The RIA programs should be used as tools. There is no content in them, there is only functionality. The tools therefore can be used to support any materials. The same tool can be used by an advanced Spanish teacher, an introductory Japanese teacher, and a remedial ESL teacher. This is because the programs provide function, not content. Because all of these teachers might want to use the same function, the same tool can be used by any language teacher.
In the same vein, the same tool can be used to support a variety of language teaching methodologies. One teacher might want to use the interactive exercise creator SMILE to build grammar-translation quizzes. Another might want to have students work together in teams to create games, for the whole class to play together later. The tool simply provides the interactivity. How it is used is up to the teacher.
RIAs are Research-Informed:
The advantage of multimedia in language learning is the high level of interactivity that is possible. Materials can encapsulate models of second langauge acquisition theory such as the Interactionist Hypothesis. In one web page, learners can be presented with a mixture of audio and video input, explicit instruction, and opportunities to produce language output. Chapelle's (1998) article on multimedia computer-assisted language learning (http://llt.msu.edu/vol2num1/article1/index.html) shows how web-based materials such as those that can be created with RIA can be encourage language learning in a way that is informed by research.
RIAs Engage Learners and Encourage Active Learning:
Too often, web-based language materials are either static text, or programs that drill and test, but do not encourage learning. RIA tools are intended to be learning objects. By interacting with the materials created with RIA tools, learners should produce output and monitor their output for self-correction, and test their internal hypotheses as a part of developing interlanguage grammars. In other words, using RIA should enable language learners to improve their language skills and increase their language competence.
RIAs are Web Based:
The web browser as a distribution platform for software has the advantages of easy access to materials, and ease of use. The browser is the medium for both creating and using materials. The programs also store all data on a central server, so nothing needs to be uploaded or downloaded.
RIAs are Free:
Supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, RIAs can be used without charge.