Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Development and Usability Test of an E-Learning Tool for Engineering Graduates to Develop Academic Writing in English: A Case Study

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Development and Usability Test of an E-Learning Tool for Engineering Graduates to Develop Academic Writing in English: A Case Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

In the recent years, globalization has placed increasing attention on the issue of using English as a primary medium in academia (Barrett & Liu, 2016; Glasman-Deal, 2009). English has now become a major language for people around the world, and is also used across various disciplines in the academic industries as the dominant language used for indexed journal publication (Curry & Lillis, 2010; Huang, 2010; Lee & Lee, 2013; Liu, Lo, & Wang, 2013; Liu, Lin, Kou & Wang, 2016). For global competitiveness, international rankings, and deeper involvement in academic development, publishing journal articles has become an essential part and indispensable pursuit for all institutions in higher education, particularly for professors and young scholars such as doctoral students who are striving to publish their academic works in indexed journals all over the world. While all seem to agree that academic writing ability in English plays a vital role across disciplines in academic industry, problems and challenges have been raised as to how researchers, young scholars, or even graduate students can cope with this trend. For instance, Berman and Cheng (2010) compared the perceived difficulties of academic writing in English between native speakers (NS) and non-native speakers of English students (NNES).The results showed that although both groups perceived the ability of academic writing in English as necessary, NNES in English as Foreign Language (EFL) context appeared to be more challenging than their NS counterparts. An investigation on the difficulties reported by Taiwanese researchers conducted by Min (2014) illustrated that EFL Taiwanese academics faced both linguistic and non- linguistic challenges such as grammar, tense, cohesion and logic of the overall passages when submitting their academic articles written in English to the journals.

Recently, a number of applied linguists have called for a reflection on how to help EFL graduate and undergraduate students cultivate their English academic writing proficiency (Liu, Lo, & Wang, 2013; Liu, Lin, Kou & Wang, 2016). Genre-based writing instructions (GBWI) is a widely used teaching and learning approach to help learners develop their writing ability (Huang, 2010; Liu et al., 2016), in which learners are given explicit instructions on the moves and structures embodied in different types of writing to meet different rhetorical purposes, as well as for understanding the power relation of different move functions (Wingate, 2012).

However, there is a noticeable absence of research projects dealing with how learners can benefit from using elearning tools to cultivate EFL engineering graduate students' academic writing ability in English via GBWI. As for the teaching and learning of English academic writing, the integration of technology into teaching pedagogy has now become a popular and important issue (Chen, Shih & Liu, 2015; Lin, Kang, Liu & Lin, 2016; Liu, Wu, & Chen, 2013; Loncar, Barrett, & Liu, 2014; Spence & Liu, 2013; Stoddart, Chan & Liu, 2016). A review investigating the affordance of Learning Technology (LT) on science education conducted by Liu, Chiu, Lin and Barrett (2014) found that LT can help learners develop English academic writing ability more effectively and efficiently. Also, the use of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in the development of writing was also found significantly useful and helpful (Genlott & Gronlund, 2013). To this end, several e-learning systems have been designed to help users develop English writing proficiency, such as MyAccess (Lee, 2008), i Writing (see http://www.iwriting.com.tw/), and Criterion (Burstein, Chodorow & Leacock, 2004).

However, most writing systems are not specifically designed for the purpose of academic writing, and few elearning learning systems have been specifically developed for users whose native language is Mandarin Chinese. …

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