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Crocodile English: Can virtual learning environments offer intercultural learning opportunities for English as an Additional Language learners?

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Edited by Jess Morrin, Wednesday, 22 Jan 2020, 15:45

OU H818 'The Networked Practitioner' Online Conference 2020

Crocodile head image hyperlinking to youtube poster 

Click Crocodile for poster.

Researcher: Jess Morrin H9675637

Title: Can virtual learning environments offer intercultural learning opportunities for English as an Additional Language learners?

Focus: Using multimedia tools within virtual learning environments to teach intercultural communication to (a target group of) EAL learners from Arabic language backgrounds in the Netherlands.

Project Abstract

Currently, an estimated 1.7 million refugees reside in Europe, predominantly from the Asian countries of Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan (UNHCR, 2019).  Using the Netherlands as a case study, approximately 250,000 individuals have arrived since 2011 and over half are working age, largely higher educated professionals engaged in industries such as medicine, law and communications (CBS, 2019).  The Dutch government provides a package of support for refugees arriving in the Netherlands, including a grant of up to 10,000 euros for inburgeringcursussen (civic integration courses).  With this grant, individuals must take Dutch language classes to CEFR Level B1, civic integration and employability classes and pay for all examinations (VluchtelingenWerk, 2018).  Needless to say, this seemingly large amount of money depreciates quickly and usually just covers the costs of the integration process.

Whilst it is of course essential that migrants integrate into their host country, in a society where English is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of academia and business, these individuals must also develop near native English skills to fully integrate into Western society (VluchtelingenWerk, 2018).  Once the integration grant is used up, there is no financial support to develop English language skills, meaning that many individuals often engage open access materials to bridge this gap. However, the nuances of idiomatic expression, body language, gesture and non-verbal communication are things that cannot be taught by book alone yet are crucial when considering the significance of the linguistic and cultural differences between Arabic, Persian and English.

English Academy for Newcomers is a charitable organisation which provides face to face English classes for refugees in the Netherlands (English Academy for Newcomers, 2019).  Research with this group has indicated that students require an accessible platform which evaluates and collates open access materials combined with some element of native interaction in order to provide context and meaning to language learning (Appendix I).  Moreover, it has led to the identification of a target group of pre-intermediate students aged between 18 and 35, all native of Syrian or Afghanistan, learning English in order to further their academic or professional careers.

This project will create a virtual learning environment where students will be presented with means to develop intercultural communication competency alongside their expressive and receptive skills, through a series of interactive learning scenarios. The students will navigate their characters through day to day interactions that involve a level of cultural awareness and  competence, as well as a technical knowledge of the English language.  


CBS, 2019. CBS.nl. [Online]
Available at: https://www.cbs.nl/en-gb/news/2019/07/more-asylum-seekers-in-2018
[Geopend 01 November 2019].

Immigratie- en Naturalisatiedienst: Ministerie van Justitie en Veiligheid, 2019. Nederlandschap. [Online]
Available at: https://ind.nl/Nederlanderschap
[Geopend 02 January 2020].

Miao, F, 2018. A Lifeline to Learning: Leveraging technology to support education for refugees, France: UNESCO.

VluchtelingenWerk, 2018. VluchtelingenWerk. [Online]
Available at: https://www.vluchtelingenwerk.nl/forrefugees/inburgeren?language=en
[Geopend 01 November 2019].

Poster Link:


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Conference Questions

Hi Jess

Here are the questions and comments from your conference presentation - please respond in whatever way you wish!

Best wishes

  • I wish we taught another language apart from English consistently from an early age in the UK
  • Are you specifically teaching 'British' culture alongside English language then? i guess even "dutch" english still carries western european cultural norms?
  • have you found that you need to adapt to the culture of The Netherlands  ?
  • I often find that non-British English speakers have a more 'American' base to their culutural use of English as American English is far more widely used as it is culturally dominant 
  • This is amazing Jess. Really impressive!
  • well done for demonstrating a screen cast soon after screencasts were featured in a presentation
  • Definitely, I need this resource smile
  • How have you developed you curriculum re: politness, apporpirateness etc?
  • does video of people/situations help address that barrier of not teaching face to face?
  • have youthought about using simulation based education where ? you could film and debrief ? 
  • Sorry if I missed this, but why Crocodile?
  • Great page. Excellent resource.
  • There's some interesting evidence (can't remember where!) that using animation enables educators to address more complex and distressing issues. Have you found a difference in the reception of cartoons vs videoed scenarios
  • Do you have opportunities for students to record their responses to the situations, rather than selecting options? If so, what kind of feedback could you give them?

H818 Presentation Star

Congratulations Jess!
Your presentation at the H818 Online Conference 2020 has been voted by audience members as one of the most effective presentations, and you are one of the winners of this year's Presentation Star awards!
You may download your award certificate from https://drive.google.com/open?id=1OQBSgfstK8tGsdxAlsA22q_M7iil7VDL

Well done and many Congratulations!

Simon Ball
H818 Conference Organiser

New comment

Ooer! Thanks Simon, most surprised!