Computer-Mediated Communication for Course Delivery and Teaching Materials Development: A Case Study

Computer-Mediated Communication for Course Delivery and Teaching Materials Development: A Case Study

Sumie Akutsu (Toyo University, Tokyo, Japan) and Tim Marchand (Gakushuin University, Tokyo, Japan)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2015070101
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This paper describes a university English course which uses computer-mediated communication (CMC) for the dual-purpose of providing lesson materials online and collecting student written output in the form of a news-based blog to develop a learner corpus. Comments on the blog from Japanese university students form the basis of a learner corpus, which is analysed with reference to native speaker norms, allowing needs to be identified and addressed in subsequent materials. The paper discusses CMC as a repository of teaching materials and as a resource to develop teaching materials.
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Context Of The Study

Undergraduate students in Japan are required to study English for one or two years (see Butler & Iino, 2005). Some of this compulsory language study takes place in well-established, unified English as a Foreign Language (EFL) programs that cater for the English requirements within a university department, or across different departments. In many universities, however, EFL teachers are expected to design and deliver appropriate English courses that they are requested to teach from year to year (Marchand, 2011). This has led to course and materials design becoming an ongoing concern for teachers in the Japanese higher education context. Equipped with little more than a course title and a general idea of student proficiency level, teachers are often called to make the majority of decisions about the content of the course, including materials selection and student assessment.

The teachers involved in creating the course under discussion in this paper were faced with exactly the same situation. Their solution was to collaborate in designing a curriculum with online content becoming a central feature of the EFL course. The virtual nature of the course delivery allowed the teachers to not only share the lesson materials between their classes, but also encouraged online interaction between students at the different universities where the teachers were employed. The course was run in compulsory English classes at three large private universities in the Tokyo area. Each class had between fifteen to thirty students, from computer science, commerce and law majors respectively. Initial information provided by the universities indicated that the average student level would be lower to upper intermediate, equivalent to A2-B2 Level on the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). It was therefore anticipated that most students would have enough language proficiency to handle some challenging materials in English. However, another concern was to what extent the learners would be motivated to study English. A widely reported problem in Japan is students’ reluctance to speak out in class and become fully engaged with the learning process (Anderson, 1993; Doyon, 2000; King, 2013; Marchand, 2012). With this in mind, the course was designed in such a way that would engage student interest and keep them motivated for the duration of the course.

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