Stacey Hughes, a teacher trainer in the Professional Development team at Oxford University Press, offers some practical ideas for blended learning in EAP.
Although the idea of blended learning is not new, most people now associate it with including computer or tablet and internet use in the classroom. These tools can be used to expand the range of possibilities for communication between students and teachers. Here are some ideas to experiment with.
Train your students to use internet
It may seem odd to think about training students to use technology – after all, they are digital natives. However, many students have not yet developed a critical mind-set when it comes to assessing whether or not information gleaned from websites is reliable or valid. They also may not be very adept at using key words to search for academic articles and books – resulting in either too many or too few hits or information that is not relevant to their research.
1. Teach students to recognise which sites are reliable for their purposes. Show them Google Scholar as a starting point and teach them to recognise more generally reliable URL endings: .org; .ac; .gov; .edu. Teach them to think about who wrote the page and why.
2. Train students to use the university library search engine to look for information. They will need to understand how articles are kept in the databases and how to narrow or broaden their searches using key words and limiters: and, or, not, “…”, etc.
3. Teach students how to use online bibliography tools to create their lists of references. You could start by referring them to Education Technology and Mobile Learning which lists a number of bibliography tools. The university librarians may also have some ideas for good ones to use.
Using technology for collaboration
There are a multitude of resources that teachers and students can use for collaboration. They can help make teacher-student communication more efficient and can help students work together. If your university has a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) such as Moodle or Blackboard, the tools will already be available for you to use. If not, you can find resources on the internet which can be used for similar purposes.
1. Set up a discussion forum. Post a relevant question or topic and ask students to contribute to the discussion. Make sure they respond to each other rather than just posting their own views – this will make it much more valuable as a forum.
2. Create group or class wiki pages. Use the university platform or a wiki space such aswww.wikispaces.com to set up a virtual space for news, collaborative project work and assessment. Wiki spaces are also useful for uploading handouts for students who were absent from the lesson.
3. Give audio and video feedback on papers to save marking time, give fuller feedback and add listening practice. Visit the University of Edinburgh page to read some case studies.
4. Flip the classroom once in a while. Use screencasts to teach a point, then use the class time for a seminar discussion or debate.
5. Ask students to work in groups to create a video documentary about university culture and the changes new students will have to adjust to.
Using technology in the classroom
Many students will have tablets or laptops and may prefer to work from them in the classroom. A majority may also have smartphones that can be used for learning.
1. Encourage those students using laptops or tablets to look up information on the internet while engaging in the lesson. Post information on the class wiki that they can access while in class as part of the lesson.
2. Point students to useful apps that they can use for learning: the Oxford Learner’s Dictionary, Practical English Usage, Headway Phrase-a-day and English File Pronunciation are all excellent apps for independent study or they can be incorporated into the lesson. Find out more here.
3. Ask students to record decisions made in a group discussion using their smart phone. Then ask them to email it to another group to listen to as a way of comparing information between groups.
This article barely scratches the surface of how blended learning can be used in EAP settings. Remember to think first of the pedagogical aim, then look around to find the right technological tool that could help forward that aim. If you are interested in exploring blended learning further, these resources provide plenty of additional information:
And finally, for some tips on ways to use technology in the classroom, visit the digital resources pages on the Oxford University Press blog. In particular, you may find the following helpful:
This article first appeared in the April 2014 edition of the Teaching Adults Newsletter – a round-up of news, interviews and resources specifically for teachers of adults. If you teach adults,subscribe to the Teaching Adults Newsletter now.