May 19, 2014, by michaelgroves

EAP in the MOOC age?

It sometimes seems that you can’t move without tripping over a MOOC, or another form of online learning. Rightly or wrongly, online learning is taking more and more space in the HE curriculum.

An EAP (English for Academic Purposes) syllabus will typically have features that reflect a traditional university experience- reading, listening, writing essays and the like. Even the most innovative syllabi, which bring in notions of learner autonomy, and an examination of the academic self tend to focus on face to face interaction on the physical campus- not the digital one.

However, as more and more Higher Education moves online the community of practice needs to ask itself if it is getting left behind. If we are preparing our students for a world where concepts are dispersed in a lecture hall and discussed in a seminar room- should we also be preparing them for a world where concepts are dispersed in an online video, and discussed on a bulletin board?

Clearly, in many ways, this helps students who are not studying in their first language- they are able to rewind and review videos, and take time to read and digest the content of the discussion before they reply. However, just as there are advantages, there are also questions to be answered.

The EAP community has been telling students for years not to dive for the dictionary when they are reading and encounter a word they do not understand. Should the same be true of a video? We have been telling students for years to follow the organizational conventions of an essay, but is a post in an online discussion the same? Does it have the same conventions of style and argumentation? It is very clear that the conventions of spoken discussion, like turn taking and holding the floor, do not apply, even though it is referred to as a discussion.

If the job of EAP is to prepare the neophyte for entry into the academic community, and the community is changing, is it not our job to change the way those preparations work?

Posted in CELECommunicationDiscussionsEnglishesLearning EnglishReadingSelf study