Title: Developing e-resources to support Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) student learning

Project Lead: Karl Nightingale (School of Immunity and Infection)


This project aims to exploit recent developments in Blended learning, an approach which combines face-to-face activities (i.e. lectures, small group teaching) and e-learning to create a coordinated learning environment (Kerres & De Witt, 2003). This has a number of educational advantages, as the e-learning component enables flexibility (i.e. in place, pace and extent of learning), and is particularly valuable for students from educationally disadvantaged groups (including Non-English Speaking Background (NESB) students), or non-traditional educational backgrounds.

Over the last five years the ability to generate audio-visual recorded materials (i.e. audio + Powerpoint slides), has encouraged the use of recorded ‘podcasts’ as e-resources in blended learning. These have been used in various formats and learning environments – straightforward lecture recordings are widely used as supplemental learning materials, and are an engaging, effective resource (Leadbeater et al., 2013), but a more sophisticated approach uses recordings in the context of Reusable Learning Objects’ (RLOs) - short presentations on a single topic (typically a threshold concept), combined with a quiz to allow students to assess the extent of their understanding (Lymn et al., 2008). These can be used as supplemental learning materials, but have also been used in the context of ‘lecture flipping’ (Crouch & Mazur, 2001), an approach that uses e-learning to introduce content or concepts, leaving lecture sessions available for more stimulating, interactive activities.

International studies (Pearce & Scutter, 2010), and our experience in MDS modules (Leadbeater et al., ’13) find NESB students are heavy users of recorded materials as they permit students to review content / concepts at the student’s pace, and acclimatise themselves to new terms and pronunciation. In the case of lecture recordings the ability to pause, take notes, and listen to sections several times seems to be important. Similarly, several studies have examined the use of RLOs in the UK HE context. A structured blended learning approach using maths-based RLOs in a Foundation level electronics module was found to be highly engaging (J. Mills, Southampton University), as was the use of supplemental RLOs in content–rich disciplines like anatomy (Green et al., 2006) and pharmacology (Lymn et al., 2008). Importantly, RLOs have also been found to be engaging for international students with diverse educational backgrounds (Evans et al., 2012), suggesting that they are an ideal means of addressing disparities within cohorts. This is a key advantage for their use in the Foundation Academy.

We propose to develop and evaluate e-learning support materials for the Birmingham Foundation Academy, a programme which prepares international students for entry to UoB UG courses. The project builds upon successful blended learning approaches to develop e-resources to support Non-English Speaking Background student learning. We will compare the effectiveness of different e-resource formats to establish best practice in the context of this programme. Outcomes will impact on future Foundation Academy policy, and will inform UG programmes in the area of NESB student learning support.