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Case Study 4.2: Business English

on Sat, 04/22/2017 - 16:17

 

Case Study 4.2: Business English

The students

In this particular course, there are three students aged 40 to 55, who are managers

in a ‘learning organisation’ which has its focus on ‘knowledge production and

management’ and which provides its services to international customers. The

company is working on transforming its work environment into a ‘powerful learning

environment.’ Given the organisation’s focus, the managers participating in the

course need to ‘generate new knowledge’ by ‘exchanging’ and ‘enriching’ existing

knowledge. This takes place primarily in English.

The learners, being busy managers, it is important for the teacher to develop

activities ‘that help them make the most of the time they can devote to English,

to enjoy the experience,’ and ‘to get positive outcomes.’ The learners’ motivation

is higher when the activities and the content are relevant to their lives. Being

familiar with the content additionally helps them to focus more on details.

The context

The course is a blend of a face-to-face component, which takes place at the

organisation, and an online component. It is not compulsory but employees are

encouraged to participate.

Materials and technology used

The majority of the audio and written texts are authentic materials from the

organisation itself. A mix of technologies such as an educational platform,

Skype, email, and virtual conferencing rooms are used. The internet is also

used to introduce the students to tools such as online dictionaries.

Types of activities the technologies (and materials) are used for and their

relevance for the learner

The activities and technology are based on the real-life needs of the learners and

are used to simulate situations in which they have to use English. For example, if the

managers need to give presentations in English, they prepare and give one in the

lesson, which is recorded in order to be watched together later to give feedback

on language use and other presentation skills.

Technology-integrated English for Specific Purposes lessons | 105

Conference call simulations are held using Skype, as this is the tool which is used

by the company for the same purpose. The procedure is similar to the one in

Case Study 4.1. Feedback is provided while listening to the recording.

To simulate webinars and online meetings, the same virtual room is used which the

students use for work. To practise email writing and do other types of activities, the

educational platform is used.

Students are also shown what kind of tools are available to them online (for example,

dictionaries) and how they can use them, in order to help them become more

autonomous learners.

Usability and constraints of the technology

Most of the tools, services and platforms that are used in this course ask for

an account creation at the beginning and signing in whenever they are used.

The online educational platform asks for a fee per student per month. Teachers

can either use ready-made material made available on the platform or create their

own. Most of the other tools do not charge any fees.

The managers participating in this course are relatively adept at using the

technologies in this course because they use technology at work and some

of the tools are the same as they use at work.

Firewalls can sometimes be an issue, which is why technologies which are used by

the organisation are chosen whenever possible. Permission from the IT department

had to be sought to install Skype and some other tools.

Attitudes of students and institution towards the technology

As the way the technology is used in class is very similar to how it is used by the

students at work, and as they, therefore, understand the purpose and see how it can

help them with their real-life tasks, they accept using it.

Having said that, these particular learners do ‘value human interaction’ and would

therefore not want a fully online course. The online component is used to ‘reinforce’

what was learned in class and to simulate work situations in which they have to

operate in English on the internet.

Most teachers at the language institution are ready to learn how to use technology

in class, and even the more hesitant ones have had some experience with using it for

teaching and learning purposes.

A collection of tools

Besides offering a wealth of authentic materials and being a place where

communication takes place, the internet also provides us with an ever growing range

of tools for such tasks as communication, sharing, networking, designing and creating

materials, and publishing, from the very simple to the most sophisticated. Some only

exist for a short time, while others become ‘staple tools’, widely known and used.

106 | Technology-integrated English for Specific Purposes lessons Examples of tools that have become established are publishing tools like

blogging platforms: WordPress and Blogger, for example, or podcasting services like

Podomatic; platforms that serve as repositories and sharing environments for videos,

slides, and images such as Flickr, YouTube, Vimeo, and Slideshare; collaborative

knowledge collection, writing, and publishing tools such as wikis; learning

management systems such as Moodle; social networking tools such as Twitter and

Facebook, or the alternative for educational use, Edmodo. There are many alternative

tools in the aforementioned categories and hundreds if not thousands for many other

purposes, which cannot all be listed here. Only a handful of these tools were created

specifically for educational purposes but educators around the world have been

creatively reappropriating many of these tools for their and their learners’ purposes.

Online games are gaining popularity among language teachers and learners (Godwin-

Jones, 2005, Thorne, 2008), and there are wikis, blogs (e.g. http://games2teach.

wordpress.com), and books (Mawer and Stanley, 2011; Sykes et al., 2012; Reinders,

2012) that explain how they can be used in a pedagogically sound way. Games have

always been used in language classes, however, recently the concept of gamification

or game-based learning has been used to justify using online games or game-like

tools and environments for learning (and other) purposes. It can be defined as

making use of gaming techniques and features, such as awarding points or creating

competition. The aim is to make learning more engaging, fun, and thus motivating

(Sørensen and Meyer, 2007; Mawer and Stanley, 2011).

Less widely used but slowly becoming established in certain ESP fields are 3D virtual

worlds such as Second Life, which though not originally designed with educators in

mind, are used by educators for simulating the real world to train people in various

professions such as nurses, border guards, midwives, etc. These same ‘places’ can

be used for role plays with ESP students (Godwin-Jones, 2005) and real interactions

with other people (Thorne, 2008). These worlds are also social places where learners

can meet people from other countries, make friends and actually do things together

almost like in real life. Based on such simulations in virtual environments and video

games, ‘serious games’ are developed for language learning and teaching (Godwin-

Jones, 2005: 20; Sørensen and Meyer, 2007).

In the third case study, we will see how Ayden Yeh, an English teacher at a private

college in southern Taiwan uses an elaborate combination of online and offline tools

in her English for Advertising course to help students achieve the multiple aims of

the course.