Embracing Opportunities for English Language Development in Higher Education Through Innovative Online Resources

Julia MILLER
University of Adelaide, Australia
julia.miller@adelaide.edu.au

Abstract

Movement within and between academic cultures in today's globalized world means that many students are studying in a second or foreign language while adapting to unfamiliar academic conventions. In Australia, the main language of university interaction is English, and this presents challenges for many international students. One way to meet these challenges is through innovative and engaging online self-study resources that address language issues with humour and yet are thoroughly research based and rigorously evaluated. This paper will report on resources currently being produced, with the help of an Australian Office for Learning and Teaching Grant, for an English grammar website (www.adelaide.edu.au/english-for-uni) available to anyone in the world. The website's existing materials use exercises and humorous videos to address three areas of prime difficulty: the English article system (a, an, the), the passive voice and oral presentation skills. Evaluation thus far, through pre- and post-tests and user feedback, indicates that the materials are effective. Additional website resources will address prepositions in academic English, conditional forms, essay writing and tenses in academic writing. New resources will be evaluated through focus groups in Australia and China using semi-structured interviews; an online evaluation survey; and pre- and post-tests using a control group taught without the online materials. Evaluation will centre on Biggs' SOLO taxonomy to assess how much the interactive exercises, use of humour and visual impact of the videos promote independent learning. The presentation will showcase how these innovative English language resources utilize technology to meet a major challenge for higher education.

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