IATEFL and BALEAP 2017 Part One… 2

It’s been a little while since my last post, I’ve been gearing up for conference season with presentations at both IATEFL and BALEAP as well as chairing a panel at the latter.

My IATEFL talk was on creating interactive material for EAP programmes and focussed on tools such as Office Mix, Edpuzzle, H5P and Storyline Articulate 2. The basic premise was that EAP course books – unlike their EFL counterparts – rarely provide online resources for students, possibly because it’s so difficult to represent the complexity of EAP content as self-study material. For that reason, a team of teachers at our centre had trialled and evaluated a series of tools to try to create interesting and motivating interactive content to support our programmes.

I won’t go into too much detail about the presentation itself as I’ve mentioned these tools in other blog posts, but the basic conclusion was that Office Mix and Articulate Storyline were the most effective as they offered the greatest flexibility and/or the ability to repurpose existing material we had lying around in the form of powerpoints.

If you want a copy of the slides, see some examples of content created or to access useful guides on some of the tools, click on the interactive content I created below.

At BALEAP I presented on using technology to support distance learners. Over the last few years we’ve developed a website specifically designed to give distance learners the same kind of English language support we provide for face to face students here on Sheffield. Created using the popular WordPress platform, the website offers an online writing advisory service for students needing specific help with their thesis or dissertation, as well as online self study materials and regular online seminars on a range of topics.

You can access a copy of the slides here if you are interested. It was fascinating at the end of the talk to get some feedback from the audience about the situation in their own context. I was genuinely curious to know how many universities provided language support for their distance students and it was clear from their comments that very few do. But we really should. These students have paid their fees like anyone else and so deserve exactly the same level and type of support as everyone else.

Distance learning still feels like a cottage industry in the UK. Certainly at my university there doesn’t seem to be any centralised admin for dealing with distance students and each department seems to pretty much do their own thing regarding their online programmes. Compare that with many of the US universities that have dedicated centres devoted to online learning.

In a following post I’ll report back on some of the tech related sessions I saw at the two conferences and discuss whether any themes or ideas emerged.

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About David Read

I work at the English Language Teaching Centre at the University of Sheffield as the Director of TEL (technology-enhanced learning). I've been an EFL/EAP teacher and teacher trainer for over 20 years and have worked in 14 different countries. Settling down is clearly an issue for me.

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