A Focus on Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking Skills
Eduardo de Gregorio-Godeo
Departamento de Filología Moderna, Universidad de Castilla-La Mancha, Avda. Camilo José Cela s/n
13071 Ciudad Real, Spain
Keywords: E-learning, EFL, Writing, Reading, Speaking, Listening.
Abstract: This paper reports an ongoing experience integrating the use of e-learning in English-as-a-Foreign-
Language (EFL) university tuition. Focusing on such skills for the language-learning process as speaking,
listening, reading and writing, we discuss the teaching-and-learning strategies activated throughout the
undergraduates’ use of the virtual laboratory set up to allow EFL learners access the online lexical and
grammatical resources designed to implement the programme.
More and more experiences are currently attempting
to integrate e-learning and blended learning
processes in Spain not only within English Philology
undergraduate studies, but also within English-
language subjects taught in university degrees other
than English Philology. Recent research on English-
as-a-Foreign-Language (henceforth EFL) teaching
and methodology is focusing on the use and benefits
of Internet tools (Gitsaki and Taylor, 2000; Teeler
and Gray, 2000; Warschauer and Kern, 2000;
Dudenay, 2001; Stephenson, 2001; Pile, 2004;
Lavid, 2005). This paper describes how the use of an
appropriate self-study methodology may contribute
to using Internet resources as an instrument for
improving the language competence of university
students of English. This paper has been produced
thanks to the postdoctoral scholarship of the JCCM
(Consejería de Educación y Ciencia), fellowship
number 05/25.
The case study in point presents an ongoing
experience developed with undergraduate EFL
students from the English Department, University of
Castilla-La Mancha (Spain). After discussing the
fundamental role of the multimedia language
laboratory in this process, a selection of resources
for the acquisition of listening, speaking, reading
and writing are introduced. A methodology for the
self-access use of such e-learning instruments is
presented next. The results obtained to date are
finally considered, focusing on possible
generalizations of the experience.
2.1 Multimedia Language
Laboratories and E.F.L.
Most English departments in Spanish universities
are provided with multimedia language laboratories
with access to the Internet. Although undergraduates
are often encouraged to draw upon such online
resources actively in order to improve their linguistic
competence, they often claim to feel overwhelmed
by the chaos and amount of available online
The English-Department multimedia language
laboratory at Castilla-La Mancha university includes
different types of materials for language learners, to
wit, traditional didactic materials; authentic
materials more or less didactically-biased; teacher-
created resources; reference works; assessment tests;
documentaries; films; etc. Such materials and
documents are in book-, video-, audio- or CD-
format. In addition to such documents, the language
laboratory has become a virtual laboratory and
includes a selection of websites and online tools
de Gregorio-Godeo E. (2006).
E-LEARNING TOOLS FOR E. F. L. TUITION AT UNIVERSITY - A Focus on Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking Skills.
In Proceedings of WEBIST 2006 - Second International Conference on Web Information Systems and Technologies - Society, e-Business and
e-Government / e-Learning, pages 375-378
DOI: 10.5220/0001242303750378
specifically designed for EFL learners. Such
websites have been placed on the screen of
individual booths in the form of links, but may also
be accessed from the laboratory web page anywhere
else. Resources are thus accessed by clicking on
their icons. Similarly, an online computerized
database provides a catalogue of the resources in the
language laboratory, considering – whenever it is
possible – descriptive parameters such as: title;
reference inside the language laboratory; format;
author; publishing firm; and type of document.
By and large, users are undergraduates of the
B.A. in English Studies, who need to achieve full
proficiency in EFL on completion of their studies.
2.2 Compiling Online Resources
In an attempt to implement a profitable self-access
process in the course of students’ e-learning sessions
in the laboratory, a range of online resources
specifically designed for EFL learners have been
selected. Online tools have been organised according
to relevant factors for language learning-and-
teaching processes. This classification is as follows:
grammar resources; lexical resources; reading
resources; listening resources; speaking resources;
writing resources; pronunciation resources, and
culture and civilization resources.
Nonetheless, online materials are currently
undergoing thorough cataloguing, so that learners
may direct their self-access activity by selecting
materials in accordance with their personal needs.
Online resources are consequently being catalogued
on the basis of more detailed classification
parameters, namely:
Level: beginners; intermediate; advanced;
Field/speciality: English for general
purposes; English for specific purposes
(business English / English for tourism /
English for engineering / etc.); International
exam preparation in EFL (Cambridge First
Certificate / Cambridge Proficiency /
TOEFL / Pittman / Trinity / etc.).
Learning objectives and communicative
skills: oral comprehension; written
comprehension; spoken production; written
production; grammar; vocabulary;
pronunciation and intonation, culture and
Type of exercises and activities: level tests;
cloze tests; rephrasing; multiple-choice
exercises; repetition exercises and drills;
comprehension activities; dictations;
translations; guided activities; creative
Genres: films; documentaries; short stories;
newspaper articles; reviews; etc.
Further categories of practice: British and
American English.
Register (formal and informal English /
slang / spoken English / etc).
Internet collaborative tools: e-mail;
chatrooms; forums and newsgroups;
distribution lists; search engines; etc.
2.3 Reading, Listening,Writing and
Speaking Online Resources
The range of online resources available in the virtual
language laboratory comprises, among other
materials, the following ones:
2.3.1 Reading
Interactive reading-comprehension and use-of-
English exercises abound on the Internet, for
2.3.2 Listening
Listening-comprehension activities are designed on
the basis of recorded conversations and dialogues,
2.3.3 Writing
Writing-practice material takes advantage of the
possibilities of delayed talk online provided by the
Internet. There are sites where students may send
compositions by e-mail, which are either sent back
via e-mail of published on the notice board of a
newsgroup once corrected by a teacher (e.g.
<http://www.etutors.virtualave.net>). Moreover,
there are also websites (e.g.
<http://www.cyberjourneys.net/efl/efl.htm>) for the
self-student to contribute to collaborative-writing
projects involving other learners around the world.
Furthermore, there is a great amount of
pronunciation practice in sites such as
Figure 1: one of the listening websites used.
2.3.4 Speaking
Live talk online in the form of voiced chat-rooms
specifically for EFL learners allows them to practise
their speaking with other students in real time. That
is the case of <http://www.study.com> or
2.4 Self-Study Framework for the
Use of e-Learning Resources
Students’ use of e-learning tools in the multimedia
language laboratory is carried out by following a
self-study perspective. Therefore, learners draw
upon online materials within an autonomous-
learning process allowing them to face individual
learning needs in order to achieve overall linguistic
requirements within their degree studies.
Following the approach to self-access
developed at the University of Nancy-2 (France) by
various authors (Carette, 2000; Gremmo, 1995a,
1995b; 2000; Gremmo and Riley, 1995; Riley, 1995)
at the CRAPEL (Centre de Recherches et
d’Applications Pédagogiques en Langues [Centre for
Research and Pedagogic Applications in Modern
Languages]), undergraduates’ autonomous work is
based on a negotiation process between the self-
student and the counsellor which considers a number
of dimensions defining the learner’s self-study
programme. Such dimensions include: (1) individual
objectives and learning needs; (2) materials and
resources to use; (3) methodological approach to
follow, chiefly, activation of appropriate teaching-
and-learning strategies; (4) timing of personal work;
and (5) self-assessment of work undertaken.
Personal counselling interviews are often articulated
in the form of e-tutoring interactions via e-mail, and
help students as a guide for their autonomous
activity in the multimedia language laboratory,
ensuring that they employ online resources and
collaborative tools in a satisfactory and profitable
manner for their self-directed learning process.
2.5 Some Notes on Curriculum
The use of e-learning tools may be implemented in
an independent way in the multimedia language
laboratory with no relation whatsoever with further
face-to-face learning processes in institutions like
university. The multimedia language laboratory will
thus become a resource centre where a team of
counsellors will assist self-students in developing
their independent-study programmes by monitoring
their correct activation of learning strategies in this
However, this experience accounts for a
blended-learning programme integrating e-learning
and conventional face-to-face full-time learning, so
that English-Philology undergraduates may improve
and consolidate their lexical and grammatical
competence in a wider EFL-acquisition process.
Therefore, two thirds of the total tuition time will be
devoted to conventional face-to-face teaching, the
remaining third being devoted to the self-access
activity developed by students in the language
laboratory completing e-learning work. Considering
the global EFL learning objectives of the class as a
whole, students will draw upon online resources to
improve their knowledge of English according to
individual needs and personal deficiencies within
such general framework, whose basic learning goals
are to be achieved by all of the students of EFL at a
certain level. This autonomous work will have been
supervised by a counsellor after a negotiation
For two years now, this integration of self-access use
of online resources with face-to-face tuition in EFL
subjects has produced positive results. A virtual
language laboratory has been set up including an
online database facilitating students’ personal use of
Internet resources designed to develop their lexical
and grammatical competence. The multimedia
language laboratory has thus been conceived of as a
resource centre for the students’ autonomous
activity. Such independent work guarantees
E-LEARNING TOOLS FOR E. F. L. TUITION AT UNIVERSITY - A Focus on Writing, Reading, Listening and Speaking
individual coverage of personal deficiencies and
requirements within the broader group-work
framework of learning objectives in EFL subjects
within the B.A. curriculum in English Studies.
Listening, speaking, reading and writing
websites have been chosen as adequate for
individual self-access work. This incorporation of
self-access use of e-learning tools into the overall
face-to-face teaching practices has been
institutionalised in the degree curriculum in terms of
(i) tuition time in the language laboratory, (ii)
students’ attendance, (iii) personal-work reports, or
(iv) counselling sessions. Secretariat statistics about
students’ academic results reveal an improvement of
undergraduates’ results in EFL subjects over the past
two years. Thus, average course results were 6.2 in
2003; 6.7 in 2004; and 7.1 in 2005.
Moreover, as substantiated by a number of
opinion polls and surveys conducted among students
during academic year 2004-2005, this approach
evidences a remarkable satisfaction and motivation
on the part of learners. By way of example, at the
end of year 2004-2005, 71% of interviewed users
emphasized the opportunity which they are offered
to compensate for individual weaknesses within the
overall learning framework of EFL subjects. Also, at
the end of the seme period, 82% of interviewees
claimed to appreciate the guidance provided by
counsellors helping to define their e-learning activity
to fit in with overall group-work learning goals.
The experience described proposes mechanisms for
the creation of e-learning and blended-learning
programmes in foreign language tuition at university
by drawing upon Internet tools. Such online
resources are exploited by means of systematic
working methodologies under the broad supervision
of counsellors monitoring learners’ self-access
activity. This use of Internet to consolidate the
written and spoken comprehension and production
competence of EFL learners happens to be
particularly adequate for students who are unable to
commit themselves to traditional full-time face-to-
face tuition programmes. Focusing on grammar and
vocabulary within larger processes of EFL learning
at university, this experience has shed light on the
new roles that teachers and students may perform
when actively drawing upon e-learning tools for
learning EFL and other foreign languages.
This model may therefore be applied in further
areas of EFL teaching-and-learning processes, such
as grammar, vocabulary, civilization, etc. Similar e-
learning processes may be set up for modern
languages other than English as well, not only in
degree studies specialised in such languages, but
also in the foreign-language teaching offered as a
complement for other degree courses (e.g. medicine,
law, engineering, science, etc.). Such an institution
as university may also offer similar tuition projects
in programmes of continuing and adult education for
individuals whose main objective is not obtaining a
university degree but updating their knowledge of
foreign languages or starting learning new ones,
taking full advantage of e-learning or blended-
learning programmes developed by universities.
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