and the Teaching of Academic English
essay will discuss the EAP classroom activities that CALL can support
and the pedagogical benefits they might offer.
Since the 1980s the use of computers in education has been increasing
steadily. At various times they have been extolled as panaceas for
all the problems within education and many Western parents may feel
that children are disadvantaged without IT skills and access to a
PC. This general belief in the power of technology has led to the
incorporation of computer lab time into many ELICOS language courses.
Victorian language centers, which often focus on academic English,
may have from five to fifteen percent of their scheduled classes conducted
in computer labs while students often have daily access to the Internet
and language learning software in self- access centres. However, there
can often be a disparity between the provision of this resource and
the skills and theoretical knowledge that instructors require to utilize
it fully. In addition, institutional culture towards the use of CALL
can be vague, overly prescriptive or biased towards certain levels
at the expense of others.
of CALL are also difficult to define, especially on an EAP course
where students may be taught how to format an essay using a word processor.
A simple way of defining CALL would be to say that it is any computer
activity where the acquisition of language or mode of communication
takes precedence over the practical skills required to complete the
task. Storyboard is an example of pure CALL (with debatable value
depending on its use), while the use of Microsoft Word to format and
write an academic essay is not strictly CALL as there is little functional
difference between a type written essay and a word processed version.
However, the use of a web page editor to create an Internet home page
is CALL as it opens up whole new range of communicative and motivational
issues. Powerpoint as a presentation tool sits between these as it
does change the mode of communication to a certain extent. The use
of any application for collaborative project work is CALL as the computer
is subsidiary to the communication engendered.
information leads us to the question of why CALL is perceived as being
of sufficient importance to be an integral part of the language curriculum.
Jordan (1997) notes that one of the primary reasons for encouraging
a level of student autonomy in EAP is to cater for the fact that they
will have to continue the development of their academic communication
skills throughout the period of their university study. This leads
to an understanding of the primary strength of CALL, its ability to
deliver a wide variety of material which can cater for different learning
styles and be accessible at any time. However, Warschauer (1996) asserts
that CALL can only be effective if it is used appropriately, as the
power comes from the message rather than the medium. Board (2000)
suggests that students should be encouraged to be reflective about
their learning style and therefore choose appropriate study activities.
Students with this self-awareness and a reasonable level of IT competence
can decide if they want to concentrate on specific macro-skills or
content specific materials through the use of the web. This flexibility
of delivery combined with the multimedia content allows students to
take more control of their own pathways in language and academic disciplines.
The use of computer moderated communication (CMC) through e-mail,
discussion boards and guided chat allows all the members of language
classes to participate in forums, regardless of their oral ability
or confidence. A final benefit is the use of collaborative projects
which involve students in synthesizing both the knowledge of colleagues
and research sources to create a product which can contribute to the
global web community, if it is planned and promoted effectively.
through E-Learning material
Many International students arrive in Australia with several years
of English instruction behind them. Due to the style of teaching of
EFL by non-native speakers these students often have relatively well
developed reading skills combined with good meta-knowledge of grammar.
Zenhui (2001) gives a comprehensive review of literature on this subject,
finding that there is ample evidence to support the preconception
that East Asian language education uses a teacher directed grammar
translation format. For example, Storch (1997) discovered that most
students on their course who had previously studied English were taught
grammar in a very explicit and prescriptive manner. In addition to
their previous studies students may also go through several courses
of general English before their language is high enough for them to
embark on academic preparation, usually at the Upper Intermediate
level. Due to this expectation that students will already have the
requisite grammar, writing and general reading skills, and the fact
that EAP classes are extremely intensive in terms of study skills
and content, there is often little class time for students to work
on their linguistic skills.
It is here that CALL, through a behaviourist or communicative methodology,
can provide an effective medium to allow students to pursue areas
of study that are impossible within the time constraints of the pure
face-to-face classes. The extensive nature of internet resources which
are freely available means that it is possible for teachers to access
material which will support both the students’ weaker macro-skills
and their content needs. If institutions have specialist CALL practitioners
and access to various exercise authoring tools they can also develop
material which is specific to teachers’ perceptions of the weaker
areas of students’ production. Combining freely available material
with the institution’s own allows for tailored solutions to
An example of an integrated approach to macro-skills across an EAP
course would be where students were introduced to the scope and variety
of language learning material on the web, and then to course specific
material which may, or may not, be made freely available on the Internet
for other institutions. The first stage can be achieved through the
guided searching of the web as a whole, or more productively, by accessing
professionally created portals. The second stage requires some access
to easily accessible software which can be used to create computer
based exercises. Although some CALL specialists suggest that there
is so much material available that this stage is unnecessary, it is
also possible to argue that web searching can be daunting. In this
case it may well be quicker and more appropriate for new material
to be made. Initially this poses an organizational problem, but as
more educational institutions look into online delivery it becomes
easier to find simple authoring software and it is even possible for
software to be developed to particular specifications. Hilary Nesi
from the University of Warwick (1998) gives an interesting account
of the development of their online resources for pre-sessional and
sessional courses from 1992 to 1998.
By sourcing high quality and reliable third party resources and then
linking them through a web-page, a CALL coordinator can give students
a level of guided autonomy, with the main benefit of reducing time
wasted on ineffective web searching. This use of third party materials
is strongly endorsed by Uschi Felix of Monash University (1998) as
the amount of high quality material available often makes materials
production a case of reinventing the wheel. From a relatively small
core of material producers it is possible to find listening and reading
texts that support many common topics and the associated vocabulary.
General and academic skills are also supported on many pages, from
traditional explicit grammar clozes to interactive academic writing
courses which allow students to choose a learning style, discovery,
or by accessing the related reference material.
Birch and Kemp (2000) make note of students becoming dependent on
their teachers and it is possible that this dependency can be transferred
onto the school as well. Providing a well stocked library and supportive
ILC will equip students with autonomy in that situation, but these
skills may not transfer so well to the real world. Nesi (1998) describes
why Warwick University chose networked and then online materials over
the provision of an ILC. If students are exposed to external sources
first it lessens their dependency on the materials that the institution
provides, and relates their study to the wider world. Once students
know that there is material they can access from any Internet connection
it is possible to utilize resources that the institution has created
or purchased for specific purposes.
Within this framework it is possible for face-to-face CALL classes
to start with the completion of a generic activity for all and then
move on to targeted activities for specific skills. For example, a
class could start with the text ordering of a survey report task,
then move on to either an interactive cloze or proof reading task
on the same text. This provides repetition to allow a greater recall
of the subject matter and related vocabulary. The class could then
create a chart in Microsoft Word from the text. All of these activities
so far can be performed alone, in pairs and in small groups to allow
for the discussion of discourse features and also sentence level grammatical
points. However, it can be useful to make these structures optional
rather than compulsory as some students may learn effectively on their
own and often have to work in groups during non-CALL classes. During
the remainder of the lesson it is possible for students to be given
a choice of activities. For students that require more scaffolding
it is possible to do a listening on survey data from the Virtual ILC,
read a news story with vocabulary and comprehension questions from
the Western Pacific Literacy Network or practice some survey specific
vocabulary from Flo-Joe or Professor Charles Darling’s English
grammar page. More self-directed or motivated students can access
authentic materials which do not have exercises related to them. Archived
news stories from the BBC, ABC, The Guardian newspaper are all searchable
in terms of topic and can provide relevant audio, textual and visual
material. In a more self-directed way than Thurstun and Candlin (1998)
it is possible for students to access the online Cobuild Concordancer
(which works from a database of general English) to find more examples
of survey specific vocabulary in authentic contexts.
By raising students’ awareness of resources available to them,
in any form, it is possible to provide them with the skills to maintain
their language skills regardless of their prevailing situation. In
the past there were accounts of motivated learners acquiring a command
of the English language through listening to the BBC World Service,
popular music or translating common books. By using the Internet,
modern learners can investigate specific skills, find different varieties
of language and also receive various types of feedback to enable the
maintenance of their English in a much less demanding manner.
and Unguided Web Searching
The Internet is a vast resource of ever changing and unregulated material.
These two factors make it slightly daunting both for inexperienced
web surfers and non-native speakers. However, the ease with which
material can be published on it is such that all organizations in
the developed world have professionally created web-sites, and most
academic institutions are rapidly creating online resources. These
authentic examples of the English language are often used in language
classes, both as digital and hard copies. In addition, as they are
in digital format they can be searched by a purpose made concordancer
or by Microsoft Word’s search features to find specific vocabulary
Many practitioners (Betadam, 1998, Gitsaki and Toyoda, 1999) note
that a certain level of guidance is essential when students initially
start using the Internet for research. They mention the problems that
teachers face in selecting pages and then developing tasks to suit
their students and suggest evaluation procedures to simplify the process.
The AMES Virtual ILC project is interesting to note as it is an Australian
product which is designed for a range of situations, the main one
obviously being self-access. It uses third party web pages as material
for authentic, and semi-authentic reading comprehension tasks. Although
it has an admirable aim it does not always take advantage of the Internet’s
obvious advantages, the ability to use multiple sources. Many VILC
tasks are related to a single page of a site, and then maybe have
some subsidiary activities, which is in contrast to the Webquest program.
This is an umbrella site which connects to third-party exercises where
successful completion of tasks requires a whole range of pages to
be accessed and the information to be synthesized. Tasks on Webquest
are often designed to take place over periods of longer than a single
lesson period and are therefore more closely related to real world
academic tasks. Levina, Firenze and Reves (2000) conducted a qualitative
and quantitative study on using the web to foster critical reading
skills. They suggested that the decision making process and the autonomy
involved enabled students to apply holistic knowledge and skills to
the reading process and develop an evaluative approach to comprehension.
This process where students are automatically exposed to a range of
sources by their use of hyperlinks makes them aware of contradictions
and differences of opinion. The balance of opposing viewpoints allows
students to start formulating their own opinions and introduces them
to one of the principles of critical thinking. Jacobson and Shapiro
(1995) found that there was a greater transfer of complex knowledge
through the use of linked hypertext when compared to standard text.
They suggested that the flexible nature of hypertext allowed for the
construction of internalized knowledge which was also easily accessed.
The same study showed a lower level of general recall with hypertext
but this type of learning is outside the domain of EAP.
Computer Mediated Communication
Another facet of CALL is the possibility for students to join online
forums, discussion boards and chat rooms. These technologies can be
used in many ways to facilitate EAP studies, in particular by empowering
less vocal or more thoughtful members of classes. Some proponents
(Toyoda, 2002) argue that the lack of non-linguistic cues such as
intonation and body language makes this type of communication important
in language acquisition through the concepts of negotiation of meaning
and comprehensible input . Regardless of whether or not you agree
with the need for negotiation of meaning in language acquisition there
can be little doubt that negotiation of meaning is an integral part
of all communication except for the most mechanical transactions (Nunan,
1995). Solange (2001) suggests that CMC puts students into a position
where they must negotiate, persuade, clarify and request. Essential
practice in skills needed for academic study.
Chat rooms are synchronous communication, they occur in real time
and participants receive instant responses to their messages. They
also need to be scheduled so that participants are online at the same
time. It is important here to make a distinction between how teachers
often conceive of chat and how it should be used. A teachers’
frequent view of chat is through students furtively typing messages
to friends when they should be engaged in productive work. Uschi Felix
(1999) argues that this type of activity is beneficial if it is conducted
with native speakers in authentic chat rooms; however, it is difficult
to find chat rooms which support standard English, an essential component
of academic communication. With this in mind, the effective use of
chat requires guided communicative activities with a teacher monitoring
and giving feedback, at least in the early stages. These can help
students who do not have enough confidence in their oral skills to
join discussions by adding a different dimension. It is also possible
to log chat sessions and use the results as needs analysis or simply
for giving students feedback on their performance. This is important
because the “chat” disappears as soon as the participants
log off, there is no copy kept on any computer afterwards.
Discussion boards are different in that they are asynchronous, you
may post a message and it becomes a semi-permanent addition to a web
page. Participants can reply the next day, the next week or even in
several months time. Depending on the design of the discussion board
it is also possible to start sub-topics and reply to other peoples
postings individually. This type of situation benefits more thoughtful
or more research-oriented students as there is no necessity for speed
in a response. They can consider the situation carefully and even
conduct some research before making their posting. The continuing
discussion can also provide evidence for the development of critical
thinking and also becomes a resource for students to use throughout
Both of these uses described are fairly structured in that they would
be used with a specific group of participants and with specific activities.
In the case of EAP they are probably best used for the development
of argumentative and discursive skills on topic based concerns. However,
there are many free services on the Internet which provide chat rooms
and discussion boards on the study of English. These can be used for
self-study and the development of larger learning networks.
Project work can be useful in EAP as the project can often be directly
related to students’ areas of interest and helps students to
understand the link between their language studies and their academic
courses. It also allows for the teaching of study skills to postgraduate
students who may feel patronized by teachers explicitly teaching study
skills (Blue, 1993, cited in Jordan, 1997). Cadman and Grey (2000)
conducted an ambitious project when students on an EAP course were
involved in the organization of a near authentic academic conference.
In this study the need for authentic communication and the perception
that they were an integral and influential part of the academic community
gave students high levels of satisfaction. The use of digital publication
tools allows students to participate in similarly authentic tasks
but in a far less onerous manner. It also allows for the project to
be included as part of a more traditional program.
Nunan (1995) discusses the use of the community as a resource in learner-centred
curriculums. The community is an area where students can relate their
classroom activities with authentic communication. A situation which
is often very difficult to achieve, especially outside of native speaker
countries. However, an Internet connection allows access to the global
community in a virtual manner, allowing a whole range of authentic
communication tasks, e-mailing experts, connecting to news groups
and joining subject specific discussions. Commonly available office
software allows for the production of high quality digital documents
for web publication. This extra level of perceived quality provides
motivation and the possibility of an authentic audience, which in
turn provides more motivation.
The Internet is an ideal forum for the publishing of surveys and reports
which do not have the backing of a university. There could be a strong
case made for the research of web-based material and the development
of projects and research which would add to the body of knowledge
already available. This also democratizes the process whereby knowledge
is constructed and disseminated throughout the world.
Warschauer (1996) gives an example of a completely integrated technical
writing course conducted online in this way. The study that he cites
was conducted by Bowers (1995) in La Paz, Mexico and went through
finding appropriate areas of study on the Internet, submitting them
by e-mail for preliminary comments from their coordinator, redrafting
them by accessing online references and then submitting them to scientific
news groups. This section is the most powerful as there were e-mail
forms on each report which allowed the global community to submit
feedback and then the students were able to incorporate this into
This essay has perhaps suggested a daunting array of technologies,
computer assisted methodologies and ways in which they are useful
in EAP. However, there is a clear progression in the level of technical
skill required to utilize these different resources and methodologies,
from the generic skill of web searching to the specialization of web
authoring. Furthermore, it can also be argued that the easiest resource
to access, third party EFL web activities, can also be the most useful
for students when they leave the comfort zone of the language centre
and enter their major courses.
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of the ELICOS Association 11th Annual Education Conference, Melbourne,
Board, D. (2000) Information and Communication Technology –
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Cadman, K. and Grey, M. (2000) The “Action Teaching” Model
of Curriculum Design: EAP students managing their own learning in
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Web-site URLS of sites mentioned.
Virtual ILC. www.virtualilc.com.au
Western Pacific Literacy Network. http://literacynet.org/cnnsf/archives.html
The Guardian Audio. http://www.guardian.co.uk/audio
The BBC. http://www.bbc.co.uk
Professor Charles Darling’s Grammar Page. http://ccc.commnet.edu/grammar
The COBUILD concordancer. http://titania.cobuild.collins.co.uk/form.html#democonc
The Concapp concordancer (Hong Kong). http://vlc.polyu.edu.hk/scripts/concordance/WWWConcapp.htm
The ABC. http://www.abc.com.au
Victoria University of Wellington. Academic Writing Module http://www.vuw.ac.nz/llc/academic-writing/index.html