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Global English corner : using Elluminate to enhance international students' English language skills
journal contributionposted on 2013-01-01, 00:00 authored by C Woodley, Lisa Curran, E Szabo
Students at Victoria University (VU) in Melbourne, Australia, undertake their study in an English language context and they have a range of support options to assist with English language development. VU has partner universities in China (Sichuan University, Henan University and Liaoning University). VU’s programs in China often have fewer language support options than programs in Melbourne. The Australian Government’s Transnational Quality Strategy requires that educational programs on- and offshore provide students with a comparable learning experience. Given the relative lack of English speaking opportunities available to VU’s students in China, the university is exploring how technologies might achieve a greater comparability of the student experience. This paper reports on a pilot program that uses Elluminate to conduct English conversations between students in China and Australia. The perceived lack of English competence of international students has been an ongoing issue in Australian higher education while the ‘English corner’ is ‘a characteristically Chinese approach to informal practice’ (Jin & Cortazzi, 2002) that helps students learning English in a foreign context to develop their English language proficiency. How might the idea of ‘English corner’ be used with educational technologies to encourage international students to practise and develop their English? This paper discusses a pilot program at VU that combines the idea of the English Corner together with the online conferencing tool Elluminate and a blog developed in WordPress, to engage Chinese students offshore in English language conversations. Through Elluminate and the Global English Corner blog, a pair of student peers in Melbourne conducts semi-structured conversations with groups of students offshore. In Elluminate, students can both hear and see each other – and they can simultaneously txt chat, share documents, images and websites and use the collaborative whiteboard function of Elluminate – to have dynamic conversations in real time. Preliminary findings of this pilot that uses technology to emphasise the societal aspects of learning – including language learning – will be presented. The discussion will consider how a more widespread English Corner program could aid the transition of international students in Australia, encourage the interaction of local students and international students, increase opportunities for international students to practise English and achieve a greater comparability of language support options on- and offshore.