One huge problem faced by Professor Reima Al-Jarf and her colleagues at the King Saudi University is that freshman students on translations course have very limited access to English outside the classroom. This naturally impacts on the students’ ability to understand spoken English and one solution has been to direct them to the many online videos and language teaching lessons which are easily available.
Reima outlined the many advantages of these resources, for example, they are free and available on many different topics and at a range of difficulty levels, they contain a multitude of speakers with different accents and they are easily downloaded and can be viewed anywhere and as many times as needed.
Reima gave us an impressive list of available sites, such as http://englishmedialab.com and PodEnglish on YouTube. She stressed that, for students to get the most out of these resources, teachers needed to be selective and employ multiple criteria to assess relevance with particular individuals or groups in mind. They also need to do more than simply direct students to the sites – otherwise the chances are that they either wouldn’t bother, or wouldn’t get the most out of the resources. Teacher preparation involves designing activities in 3 phases: before, while and after watching task. The first phase includes motivating students and the all important setting of goals, as well as explaining to students what they are to do and focus on. After viewing activities involve class pair or group work.
Reima has used student questionnaires and researched the extent to which the use of on-line videos has impacted on learning. She has found that those students who have used the resources have attained higher test scores and made greater progress than those who didn’t. Her research areas and website can be found by going to http://ksu.edu.sa and typing AlJarf in the search box.
Written by Mark Hancock and Annie McDonald