August 24, 2017

“You’re Welcome” – The New Flipped-approach Tool for Extra English Practice

This text was initially published by Profweb under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 International licence, before Eductive was launched.

The Modern Languages Department at Cégep Limoilou has developed a new interactive website called “You’re Welcome”, which provides complementary English activities for program specific English courses in general education. In addition to the website, in-person workshops are held twice a week. Three different programs were targeted for this project, all related to the service industries:

  • Hotel Management
  • Restaurant Management
  • Business Administration

The Modern Languages Department teamed up with the Direction of Studies and obtained an Entente Canada-Quebec grant with the objective of creating additional program specific resources for students to improve their English language skills.

The idea for the project came from feedback from the technical programs at the CEGEP and the targeted industries, stressing the need for 102 and 103 levels of English in the job market. English teachers do their best to prepare students for the real situations they will deal with in their careers, but more practice is required to elevate English language skills. The 15 online modules provide students with the opportunity to incorporate more practise focusing on grammar, reading, listening and reading comprehension skills. The in-person workshops provide oral and written practice that are also essential.

The homepage of You’re Welcome, where users can access the modules with no login or password requirement.

Creating You’re Welcome

The department coordinator, Johanne Morin, and teacher, Andy Van Drom, worked together with the administration in the development of the project. Once the grant was secured from Entente Canada-Quebec Andy worked on the creation of the material with help from several key people. Pedagogical counsellors were essential in helping Andy analyse the Generic Course Plans of the courses concerned to provide the correct information required to develop material for the modules. Since the modules are complementary to the program specific English courses, the material for the modules needed to be very carefully identified and selected so as to not be repetitive. Andy also recruited his colleagues to help create the audio files for the listening activities. And of course, IT technicians were invaluable in this project.

Each module is based on a theme (such as welcoming a guest, or giving directions) and has approximately 90 minutes of online material complemented with 90 minutes of in-person workshops per week, for a total of 3 hours worth of additional practice.

For each online module, there is a reading comprehension text for which Andy created original content. He was inspired by articles related to each theme, adapted to ensure an appropriate level of language for college students, as well as ensuring the use of required vocabulary words related to each theme. Comprehension questions follow each text and are answered online with immediate feedback. To help students master a theme, related grammar is also highlighted through videos with screen casts, and written information. Listening activities help students practice their “ear” and Andy recruited 15 teachers from the Modern Languages Department to lend their voices to these activities. As each module also has a related workshop, Andy developed writing and conversation activities for the students to complete with the Centre d’aide tutors during the workshops.

A sample of the modules available. By clicking on “View Course” the user accesses the resources regarding each theme.

Each module provides users with a host of interactive activities to help them improve their knowledge and skills.

Grammar topics are presented in two ways: text and an audio recording explaining the grammar topic.

Once the grammar lesson is completed, users can then complete a series of questions testing their ability to correctly implement what they have just learned.

Listening activities bring together an audio file, and a series of comprehension questions.

ICTs Used in Getting the Material Online

The website “You’re Welcome” was created using WordPress with an additional LMS plugin in order to make the site interactive. This allowed for the reading and listening comprehension activities to be completed directly on the site, providing students with immediate feedback. To make the grammar aspect more interesting, Andy used Camtasia to add oral explanations of the notes. The listening activities began with scripts of original material that Andy created and he then invited his colleagues into the recording booth at the CEGEP, with a technician, to create the audio files. Andy wanted the rhythm of speech like that of a regular conversation, not slowed down, as you find on other online resources.

Although Andy had a great deal of help from the college’s technicians for the technical side of the project, he did not have any help with the development and editing of the written material. Andy had already worked on text books and published materials, which was of great help to him with this aspect of the project.

You’re Welcome – Adopting a Flipped Approach

In the first week of classes, the teachers of the program specific English courses present You’re Welcome to the students. Students learn that each week they have 2 in-person workshops (which are built into their schedules, ensuring availability). Each workshop is approximately 45 minutes long and students are expected to have completed the online module related to the theme of the week before the workshop.

By using a flipped approach to the workshops, students will have studied the grammar, vocabulary, and heard the expressions online before practising the material themselves. The workshops are run by tutors from the Centre d’aide. The workshop materials are available to other cégeps under a Creative Commons license. Interested professionals are invited to request these by email, using their institutional email address.

It should also be noted that the website is public, requiring no login or password to access the material. This makes You’re Welcome available to all students, throughout the college network. In fact, the resources are available to anyone in the world who stumbles upon them and wants to improve their English language skills!

A pilot project ran during the winter 2017 semester. After officially launching the website with a presentation at the annual AQPC colloquium in June, the project will be implemented at a larger scale this fall and the Modern Languages Department is hoping for a strong participation by students. At the same time, Andy will work on phase 2 of this project, made possible thanks to additional funding, which involves expanding the concept to other programs with English specific courses, as well as enhancing the website with more content as well as a diagnostic test tool.

About the authors

Andy Van Drom

Andy Van Drom has been teaching English as a second language and linguistics since 2005, first at Université Laval and then, since 2012, at Cégep Limoilou. After completing doctoral studies in Linguistics (Université Laval), he obtained a second master’s degree, in Higher Education Pedagogy (Performa, Université de Sherbrooke). With the aim of supporting inclusive teaching practices and fostering student success, his focus is on the role of language mindset in learner motivation. Andy has published 4 ESL textbooks with Pearson ERPI as well as several open educational resources in digital format. His keen interest in pedagogy led him to work with Profweb (now Eductive) in 2017 and with the AQPC in 2021, 2 mandates that are still ongoing. His desire to innovate in pedagogy has earned him an AQPC Honourable Mention, a Forces Avenir Award and the EF Excellence Award in Language Teaching.

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