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Quoting and paraphrasing

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 18 Jun 2018, 13:14

I have been marking quite a large number of TMAs for L185 (EAP Online) and LB170 (Communication Skills for Business and Management) and notice that many students only reference when they quote something from a source.  I suppose this is a common misconception that references are only needed when the exact words are used.  Perhaps this is compounded by the way that sometimes students are asked to write from a limited number of sources that they know I, as the marker, has read.  They also have to use a great deal of material from these sources and it can perhaps seem unclear where the reference would go - at the end of each sentence, at the end of a paragraph, at the end of several paragraphs?  Considering how to be more effective in raising awareness will be an important aspect of teaching on these courses next year.



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Podcast to support students doing an EMA

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 17 May 2018, 17:29

I recently went to London to make a podcast with two other tutors on E304.  The aim was to give advice for students on doing their EMA.  The edited version of the first part of the discussion can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OrD9XnZGDVw&feature=youtu.be - I think the second part will be available soon.

I think/hope that hearing tutors discuss what they are hoping for in an EMA can be useful for students when they are writing their own work.  I think it might help to demystify the project and make it seem manageable.  It might also help the students that tutors are consistent and clear about what kinds of aspects they are looking for.

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Russian as the language of space travel

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It is interesting to listen to Helen Sharman at about 58 minutes of this programme describing how the first few months of her training to go into space were devoted to learning Russian and physcal fitness.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09y1xkr

She seemed very matter of fact about the need to learn it.

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A new record for commitment

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I am impressed by the dedication and commitment of many students and I was struck by one particular example yesterday.  I had a tutorial yesterday evening and all the students who attended were very engaged and this is impressive in itself as they have busy lives and online tutorials are useful but not always easy ways for students to study as they require a great deal of concentration.  One student joined the tutorial from China and he said it was 3 am there and he had especially set his alarm to wake up for it.  He only used the textbox function rather than the microphone as his wife was sleeping in the next room (his choice seemed reasonable in the circumstances).  He made a very useful contribution despite having only just woken up.

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Screencasts

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I am experimenting with the use of screencasts to support students with study skills and content on analysing English grammar.  So far, I have made the following:

On aspects of theme https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cFehbwDXbm

Lexical cohesion https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cFnrb4o9kt

Passives https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cFVlbloloz

Using sources in assignments https://screencast-o-matic.com/watch/cFVX6oo6C5


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Pronunciation site - articulation

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 1 Mar 2018, 11:48

I have just come across this intriguing site.  It enables the viewer to not only hear the sounds but includes a video of how the sound is made.  It seems useful for learners but I wonder how easy or otherwise it is for the to transfer the video to their own production in practice.

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Adobe connect session

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 6 Apr 2018, 17:19

Last night's session for E304 (Exploring English Grammar) was interesting.  The students coped well with what are quite complex concepts, related to mode.

It was noticeable that many of the students did not have working microphones and this poses some challenges for the teacher.  It makes getting feedback particularly slow.  Students can write in text boxes and I can see that a student is in the process or writing, it is hard to predict when they are going to finish writing and what they are likely to say.

I quite enjoy online tutorials but they are often very intense for the tutor as they need to think about what they are going to say as well as monitoring chat boxes, remembering who can be called on to speak (as they do have working microphones) and manipulating slides and working the whiteboard at the same time.

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Language and identity

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 3 Jan 2018, 16:58

This article about an increasing interest in Luxembourgish is quite intriguing and relates to some of the issues discussed on some OU courses, especially L161, "Exploring Languages and Cultures"

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/dec/28/luxembourgish-grand-duchys-native-language-enjoys-renaissance

One key theme of the article is the ability to have a private language.  As one person says "it expands your view and your children cannot talk in a secret language that you do not understand.”

I have also been reading "Flight" by the Polish writer, Olga Tokarczuk and she writes pityingly of those who only speak English as follows:

"There are countries where people speak English .  But not like us - we have our own languages in our carry on luggage.... only ever using English when we travel, and then only in foreign countries.  It's hard to imagine but English is their real language.  They don't have anything to fall back on or turn to in moments of doubt.

"How lost they must feel in the world, where all instructions, all the lyrics of the stupidest possible songs, all the menus, all the excrutiating pamphlets and brochures - even the buttons in the lift - are in their private language. They may be understood by anyone at any moment....." (Tokarczuk 2007/2017: 183).


Tokarczuk O (2007 translated 2017) Flight London: Fitzcarraldo.

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The reality of online tutorials

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I had a tutorial yesterday that I thought was interesting for partly positive and partly negative reasons.

There were two students.  One said she was a "stay at home mum" and had a one year old at home and no microphone and the other said he needed to disappear at times to do answer some questions about his work. 

There were times when one or the other disappeared (they told me when this was happening) and I sometimes had to check that at least one of them was there; otherwise, I would have been speaking to myself. 

However, despite the unexpected nature of the set up, it seemed like a successful tutorial - one student said he understood some key content of the course at last (in an email sent later) and the other student seemed happy with it.  Of course, this might just be politeness but she asked many questions so seemed very engaged.

I suppose this shows how flexible we often have to be when teaching distance students as there are many things they are trying to juggle in their lives.  However, the unpredictability does not preclude opportunities for learning.


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"Brexit" - a taboo word in OU management discussions?

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Wednesday, 22 Nov 2017, 17:10

There is a great deal of activity in the management of the Open University at the moment and there is a very complex array of "workstreams" working on "transforming" and "redesigning" the way the university works and as a tutor, I hear about them through messages and meetings such as the AL Assembly last weekend.  However, the issue of Brexit and its effects on the university does not seem to be mentioned often enough.

I would think Brexit will have a very significant effect on the Open University (and probably all other British universities as well).  A first effect will be on the many EU staff in the university and their morale and retention in a hostile environment.  A second will be on the recruitment of students.  A colleague commented on how she has fewer students than before from Eastern and Central Europe.  The atmosphere around Brexit and hostility towards EU citizens might have led to a less positive attitude towards the UK in general and UK universities in particular.  A third effect is the reduction in EU research funding.

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Speaking and listening skills for distance learners

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 26 Mar 2018, 21:04

My contribution to the BBC "Go the Distance" course is now available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zqfdrwx

An expanded (and probably more useful) version is available at Open Learn at

http://www.open.edu/openlearn/education-development/education/patrick-andrews-on-academic-talk

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BBC course to support Distance Learners

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 24 Oct 2017, 15:39

The BBC now has a course on being a distance learner and it provides perspectives from distance learners and tutors.  It can be found at

http://www.bbc.co.uk/learningenglish/english/gothedistance/about

I think I will be appearing in week 3.
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Dialect map for the UK

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 28 Sep 2017, 09:16

I have just come across the following website, which has useful information about dialects in the UK - MacKenzie, Laurel, George Bailey & Danielle Turton. 2016. Our Dialects: Mapping variation in English in the UK [Website]. http://tiny.cc/OurDialects. I found it at http://projects.alc.manchester.ac.uk/ukdialectmaps/

I was interested to see that "batch" is used for a bread roll not only in my birthplace of Coventry but also Liverpool.  It seems surprising that two cities that are quite separate should use the same word but I suppose there must have been some common origin.

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An interesting, sceptical article about EMI

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I have just come across the following article:

http://digital.elgazette.com/august-september-2017/emi-special-staff-get-really-worried-and-fear-being-mocked-by-their-students.html

This seems to resonate with my experience of working wth teachers from China.  As the article says, the lecturers are often brilliant in their fields but feel insecure about their English.  I think and hope the course helped the teachers build their confidence and realise that they can communicate in English but, of course, they still have room for development and they will still be anxious.

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Course on EMI

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As this is a relatively quiet part of the year with my OU teaching, I am working for the University of Reading with some university lecturers from China who are intending to teach through the medium of English from next year.  Their home institution specialises in architecture and most teach courses in related areas like engineering, urban planning and materials science.

The first day was spent finding out more about their needs and current levels of English.  Unsurprisingly, their levels of English (and confidence) vary quite markedly.  However, when I said I realised that many of them might feel they are stronger at reading and writing, their relief was palpable.  I also tried to reassure the group that many of them will feel much more confident at the end of the course.

I am looking forward to finding out more about the group and how we can help them to feel confident about what will be quite a daunting change to their practices.

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MOOC on EMI 2

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Sunday, 23 Jul 2017, 14:20

I have taken several MOOCs as a student as well as being a moderator on one.  The most recent has been the MOOC on EMI.  I quite enjoyed this but there were also some aspects that I feel less keen on.

The course was relatively small and it was possible to engage with other students and many of these were engaged and had different and interesting perspectives. We were able to make use of "collective intelligence".

It was just moderated by the two lead educators.  They were very responsive and I was surprised that they were able to reply to so many comments.  I assume that they must have been given time to do this.  There are other courses where the moderators are much less visible.

I do not really like the "mark as complete" button at the end of each activity.  This seems to imply the learning has finished but in fact, it is often important to go back to the activity (eg to respond to comments on what I had posted).

I also find the quiz items either trivial or the answers could be unreliable - I suppose this is inevitable with "objective testing" and this is the only way to cope with the size of the course.

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MOOC on EMI

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I have started studying a MOOC on English as a Medium of Instruction for Academics (https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/emi-academics/1/todo/8341)  The first week has been interesting in seeing the variety of concerns that practitioners have.

It is also good to see that the course makes heavy use of input from Kristina Hultgren, who works for the OU.  This shows how this university is doing important work in the field of Applied Linguistics.


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MOOC on English for Academic Purposes

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An OU MOOC on English for Academic Purposes will be offered next month:

https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/learning-english-academic-purposes-first-steps?utm_source=newsletter_broadcast&utm_medium=futurelearn_organic_email&utm_campaign=fl_june_2017&utm_term=05_06_2017_first_name_there_s_a_course_for_you_starting_today

There are also due to be some SPOC (Short Private Online Courses) to follow for more specific academic needs.

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A critical article on English in Dutch universties

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I am interested in the use of English as a medium of instruction and the following link is to an article criticising the widespread use of English in Dutch universities (estimated at 60%)

https://qz.com/992742/dutch-universities-are-accused-of-abandoning-their-own-language-to-attract-lucrative-foreign-students/

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Brexit effect on the role of English

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An interesting view of the implications of Brexit on the English language:

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/may/05/brexit-english-is-losing-its-importance-in-europe-says-juncker

I suspect he is overstating the effect it will have but clearly Brexit will have a negative effect on Britain's role in the world.

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Material writing and task design

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 28 Apr 2017, 14:06

I am currently writing some materials for a SPOC (Short Private Online Course) on English for Academic Purposes (EAP) on the theme of technology.  I have been very busy doing it for the last two days (this posting is an attempt to clear my head in the middle of doing it).

One thing I have noticed is that some days the kinds of tasks I write are very different from the ones of the day before.  For example, yesterday I was using a number of tasks where learners work things out for themselves (inductive) whereas today I have been explaining more and asking learners to then try exercises (deductive).

I wonder whether the mixture is confusing or helpfully varied.  This will be something to think about as I consider revising the materials when they are finished.


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Universities and Brexit

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The Open University management have been relatively quiet about the effects of Brexit on the university although a statement was released on March 30th - https://msds.open.ac.uk/tutorhome/news-messages-unified.aspx#ns1

It seems that the process is beginning to do immense damage to the British university sector (and, as far as I can tell, the whole economy).  The following story of job losses at universities in South Wales seems to reflect broader trends:

http://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/education/university-announces-139-job-losses-12820580

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Open University AL development days

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 13 Mar 2017, 06:41

I attended the AL development event in Bristol this weekend.

The first session looked at how the OU is shown in some online videos made by ex-students.  These were an interesting view of how students see the experience.  One was made by a young woman who was very positive and she expressed how hard she had to work and that although she had the chance to attend tutorials, she never had the time. 

The second session was led by David Knight and he was given quite a hard time by ALs who felt they were undervalued and that some changes are imposed too quickly.  He was brave to come in some ways and coped as well as could reasonably be expected considering the disquiet about OU management.

The smaller sesions were both good and I went to a session on academic practice/plagiarism and one on mental health.  I particularly felt that the session on mental health was thought provoking.  It was pointed out that most mental health conditions are a matter of reporting and that many might be undiagnosed.

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Student perspectives on Brexit

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I mentioned before that students on a Business Communication course are referring to Brexit in their own work.  These students are working in a variety of businesses.  It is striking that none of them see Brexit as being positive but are also assuming a "softer" Brexit than the government seems to be promising.  It makes me wonder whether businesses are being complacent about the likelihood of a "hard" Brexit or whether the government is presenting the worst possible case scenario seem likely so that voters will be "impressed" when it does not happen.

Assignments are certainly more interesting this year, which is perhaps the only positive of the referendum result.

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mindmapping app

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I have been writing some materials for an online course and have been experimenting with the online mindmapping tool  http://mindmapfree.com/

So far, I have found it easy to use and think it could be useful for many students.


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