When I first starting teaching EFL back in 2003, I had no training whatsoever. Luckily, my employer in Japan provided a three-day crash training course, which was sufficient to get fresh teachers started. When I went to work for a university Intensive English Program two years later, I was surprised to find no such training program in place. How can teachers receive training for teaching housewives how to talk about movies, but be left to their own devices when it comes to preparing international students for entrance into university?
This question remains unanswered to this day—even at my most recent job teaching in an IEP, training on the basics of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) was not provided. In my own Masters course, I received a lot of information in the way of history, theory, research skills, and the variety of methods employed in the classroom, yet very little in the way of practical teaching advice. Most of the training I got in teaching EAP came from reading books on my own, and learning from the mistakes of myself and my colleagues. This seems unusual since it appears that the majority of MA TESOL majors begin working in a university at some point.
What can we do?
This lack of available training in EAP led me to create a short teacher training course online, titled The Basics of Teaching English for Academic Purposes. This course is free, and I would put in a plug here and ask that you take a look, or pass it on to anyone who may be interested. The course aims to provide teachers with a foundation on which they can build skills for teaching EAP. The course outline is as follows:
1. What is EAP?
2. The Importance of Vocabulary in the EAP Course
3. Teaching Discourse Markers
4. Teaching and Assessing Note-taking Skills
5. Teaching and Assessing Discussion
6. Planning and Teaching the EAP Course
The course does not address the areas of explicit reading and writing instruction, areas which would require their own course. The guiding questions as I designed the course were:
1. What do I wish I would have known before starting to teach EAP?
2. What would teachers new to EAP need to know to hit the ground running?
So once I knew the “what,” I needed to know how I would get this course out to the masses. This led me to research various platforms for hosting and delivering content online. These ranged from free to expensive, intuitive to nebulous, and obscure to ubiquitous.
How can we do it?
Asynchronous online learning is hot, and getting hotter all the time. The leader in this relatively new platform is udemy (lowercase “u”). The top-earning instructors on udemy earned over $5 million combined last year, granted the majority of courses offered on udemy are in the fields of tech and entrepreneurship. However, as teachers I do not think this is a tool we should ignore. The basis of udemy is that experts in their field can publish a course, charge whatever they want, and make it available to whomever they want. This means that we could develop our own teacher training courses and make them available to new hires or the world. Remember back in high school when we had to sit through an hour-long video before we were allowed to flip burgers at McDonalds? Now we can create courses suited to the needs of our programs and teachers.
Additionally, the very act of producing a training course is in itself a wonderful opportunity for professional development. While putting together my course on teaching EAP, I had to read up on the field to make sure that I wasn’t spreading misinformation. It also forced me to ask myself “What do I already know about this field?” and “What do I need to learn more about?” I can honestly say that I learned a great deal from the experience, and plan to publish more courses—some for teachers and some for ESL students.
Designing a course using the udemy platform is not rocket science, but there are some things to keep in mind. Udemy has very high standards in terms of video, lighting, and sound. In fact, there are 40 areas that udemy considers before allowing a course to be listed on its “Course Marketplace.” You can find the checklist in the links at the end of this article.
If you don’t have your own video studio, don’t worry. Even if your course does not meet the technical requirements laid out by udemy, you can still publish your course and allow students to access it via a hyperlink. You can also make courses password-protected in order to allow only a select few to take it. This is great for classes and internal training.
As for the administration, udemy is making some improvements, but it does not allow for the same control as other platforms, including backboard. You can assign a quiz—multiple choice, T/F, or fill-in-the-blank— to be completed after each lecture, but you cannot see the individual student scores. You can see a pie chart that will tell you how many got the question wrong or right.
As I mentioned, we can utilize this tool in a number of ways. We can design training courses for new hires—perhaps breathing life into our faculty handbook. We can have our own in-house experts design training courses for new teachers; for example, if a faculty member has decades of experience teaching writing, they can design an induction course for teachers new to academic writing. We can also design courses for our students, in essence flipping our classroom. One concern raised is that designing, filming, and editing a course is initially time-consuming. This is definitely true. However, once your course is up, it is there in perpetuity, for the benefit of all future teachers, students, and trainees.
“The Basics of Teaching English for Academic Purposes” course link: https://www.udemy.com/teach-eap/
udemy’s course checklist:
Joshua Durey’s LinkedIn Web page: www.linkedin.com/in/joshuadurey
udemy’s home page: www.udemy.com