CityU adopts new initiatives to help students master English
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City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has implemented a number of initiatives to help students master their English language skills. The latest development of the Language Companion Course (LCC), one of several such initiatives, was discussed at a university staff seminar on 10 October. It was organised by the Offices of the Dean of Student Learning and Chief Information Officer.
Professor Richard Ho Yan-ki, Acting President, stressed at the seminar the importance of our students having a solid command of English. He believed that in order to produce quality graduates of an international standard, there had to be a focus on two main areas: nurturing students’ language skills and developing their global mindset.
“Language, especially English, is crucial to developing a global mindset,” said Professor Ho. “With the added efforts of our colleagues, I believe students will embrace a culture of learning English during their community activities and also as members of the Internet age.”
LCC provides online English tutors who comment on students’ course work before they submit it to their teachers. The pre-pilot conducted in semester B 2006-07 showed encouraging results.
“Since online tutors did not correct the students’ mistakes but only gave advice on how the writing could be improved, students were more likely to learn from their mistakes,” said Professor Lilian Vrijmoed Kwan Lee-ping, Dean of Student Learning. “Students had shown marked improvement in their writing when they submitted the second assignment.”
While improvements were observed, the most important aspect of LCC was that it created an environment that motivated students to improve their English, Professor Vrijmoed added.
LCC makes use of state-of-the-art Web 2.0 technology, which emphasises social networking on a global scale to enhance learning.
Dr Jerry Yu Jer-tsang, Chief Information Officer, explained technical support and management issues for the LCC. He revealed how the University made use of the “wiki” and “blog” technologies to create a communication platform between the online tutors and students.
“There are two types of ‘wiki’ and ‘blog’: public and private. What we are using is a private blog which is only accessible by a group of tutors and 15 or 20 students whom the tutor is looking after. Within the blog, they can make comments to each other and work together on writing essays,” said Dr Yu.
The subject teacher could also be included in the group to allow them to keep an eye on the progress of the students’ work, added Dr Yu.
LCC will have pilot status next semester and full-scale operation is expected in 2008-09. The University plans to include 10 to 15 courses in the pilot scheme and is now inviting subject teachers to join LCC.
The University has also taken other initiatives to enhance students’ English skills. The English Language Clinic, which was started by the Department of English and Communication in 2004, allows students to consult with student tutors on the English language aspects of their written assignments. Now all faculties and the student residence have established their own clinics and there are plans to promote this peer-learning practice in the schools.
Exchange programmes that immerse students in English speaking countries were also found to be quite successful in motivating students to learn and practice English. The Faculty of Business implemented the Summer Study and Work Abroad programme over the past two summers. Students studied in an overseas university and provided voluntary service within the community. Other faculties and schools were encouraged to organise similar programmes to boost students’ motivation to learn.