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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/

Permalink 6 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Friday, 16 Jun 2017, 14:16)
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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.

Permalink 6 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 15 Jun 2017, 15:35)
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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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The topic of Brexit in assignments

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One of the courses I teach on is LB160 Professional communication for Business Studies and for their final assignment, students need to write about issues that are important to their businesses.  Perhaps unsurprisingly, Brexit is a topic that has been mentioned as a threat to the businesses they work in.  As mentioned in an earlier posting, it looks like Brexit will have profound effects on the Open University and it also looks like it will on many other businesses in the UK.

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Group tuition and attendance

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It seems that the Group Tuition Policy has led to quite a lot of students signing up to tutorials but the number that attend seems not to have changed.  For example, for a tutorial last night, I had more than 10 on my list of attendees but only 3 attended - a similar number to the same tutorial last year.

Permalink 5 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Tuesday, 10 Jan 2017, 09:33)
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Plagiarism checks

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 19 Dec 2016, 18:23

I have recently been asked to do some work as a plagiarism consultant for one course.  This involves checking the Turnitin and Copycatch results for the module.

Turnitin compares assignments with published work, websites and blogs etc.  There are quite a few assignments that came up with relatively high scores on the Turnitin site but when I looked at them, this was mainly due to including source texts in an appendix so these are not considered plagiarism.

Copycatch compares assignments with other assignments.  Again, there were some assignments highlighted but the matches were largely due to similar collocations and technical terms.  Of course, those that had source texts in the appendix also matched each other but this could be dismissed as a false positive.

So, my first impression is that the risk of plagiarism is taken seriously but the scale of it is quite small on my course.

Permalink 2 comments (latest comment by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 30 Mar 2017, 18:57)
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Word limits

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Few issues seem to cause more angst among some students than the issue of word counts.

Some modules have assignments that state "a maximum of X words" or "write no more than X words" but students still tend to ask if they can have 10% extra.  Some seem surprised when I say that the words "maximum" and "no more than..." mean what they say.

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Noun groups

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Following on from the last posting on a video on processes, I found there is also one on noun groups at:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yf2waNDHnEo


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Simple and clear explanation of process types

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 10 Oct 2016, 23:35

The following clip provides a good explanation of process types although, of course, there is not really enough context for the types and explanation of ambiguous types.  However, students on courses like E304 and E852 might find it useful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5sOJy4nOwKo&feature=youtu.be

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Courses in English at Belgian universities

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Here is a report about courses  taught in English in Belgium.

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/10/06/two-universities-belgium-join-forces-english-language-bachelors-program


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English in Dutch universities

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I came across this article in the THES on the use of English in Dutch universities.

https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/dutch-universities-defend-growth-english-courses

I was very struck by figure of 60 per cent of courses being taught in English.

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A useful link on paragraphing

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Thursday, 10 Nov 2016, 15:43

Paragraphing is very important in academic writing.  This is partly because it can affect how easily a reader can interpret a text.  Pragraphing also potentially allows a writer to express their own voice. 

The following link gives some useful advice for writers, especially at postgraduate level:

https://medium.com/advice-and-help-in-authoring-a-phd-or-non-fiction/how-to-write-paragraphs-80781e2f3054#.bci3sovue

Point 3 seems particularly important for many students at Masters levels.  The best writing deals with issues by concepts rather than arranged by authors.  Arranging an assignment (and particularly a project/dissertation) by key ideas rather than going through summaries of authors is what can distinguish the strongest work from the competent.

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Yet more on English as a medium of instruction course

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The final part of the course involved some micro teaching and a discussion/reflection on the experience.

The students did well and I learned a great deal about their subjects from this, which suggests their communication and teaching skills were effective.  However, one of the students told me how worried she was that some of her students would judge her English skills unfavourably compared to the English teachers in her university.  It seems that perhaps she is too perfectionist and her teaching of the content in an effective way should be the priority (but perhaps it is easier for me to say this than it is for her to feel this).

Thinking about these teachers, they are under a great deal of pressure.  Like most other lecturers, they are expected to be research active and publish, teach their content effectively and do this in a second language.  They will need great qualities and strengths but I think and hope they have those qualities.

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More on English as a medium of instruction

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 29 Aug 2016, 12:43

In the previous posting, I referred to teaching a group of teachers who are preparing to teach through English.  In today's class, there was an interesting incident that made me think about prioritisiation in terms of pronunciation and lexis.  One student used the word still but it sounded to me very similar to steel.  After some clarification, we established the meaning intended but we discussed whether it might often be best for him to avoid the word still and use synonyms like static or stationary.

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Summer work

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Edited by Patrick Andrews, Monday, 29 Aug 2016, 12:43

For the past couple of summers, I have been working at the University of Reading on courses for English for Academic Purposes lecturers from universities in China and I have taught one group of these teachers this year. 

However, there is a new course that is about to start its second week.  This is for teachers of other subjects at Chinese universities who are interested in teaching through English (English as a Medium of Instruction).  This is an interesting new angle on my work as the focus is on the methodology of teaching through language, which resonates with the ideas of writers like Halliday (2004[1980]).  So, there is a need to focus on meaning and intelligibility to an even greater extent than usual and there is perhaps less of a focus on accuracy,


Halliday, M.A.K. (2004 [1980]) ‘Three aspects of children’s language development: learning language, learning through language, learning about language’, in Halliday, M.A.K. (ed.) The Language of Early Childhood: Vol. 4 The Collected Works of M.A.K. Halliday, London, Continuum.

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