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Posted by : Clamp School Monday, 9 July 2012


            A great deal of research has gone into teaching and learning theories over the years. It is now recognised that learners learn in different ways. By looking at different learning styles, practitioners can maximise the learning potential of their students by making simple arranges to their teaching style and lesson plans. The interaction of the learner with the materials is one of the most significant factors affecting how the learner progresses and is considered central to the design of English learning materials.
            A sound way to develop English learning materials is to follow some basic design principles. This is often referred to as 'Instructional Design'. It is also important to note that developing English learning materials is not just about online materials; it is quite literally the use of any technology that supports the learning process.
            Therefore, this guide is offered as a plain English approach and seeks only to plant some thoughts on how to go about introducing technology into your learning using some basic design principles. English learning materials can come in many different kinds and formats and there are numerous examples, styles and designs. Some of these include:
·         Complete start to finish linear web-based pages. This is where the learner starts at page 1, then moves to page 2, 3 etc and follow the material through to the end page. Materials are often text based, possibly with a few graphics and hyperlinks to other resources. However, the question the designer should ask is: "Is this material stimulating, engaging and interactive - does it add value, or is it a web-based 'chalk/broad maker and talk' approach"?
·         Complete start to finish non-linear web-based pages, which are similar to those above, but the navigational structure allows the learner to move around the materials in whatever order they wish to. Essentially, this gives the learner more control over their learning as they can decide in which order to view, return to, or skip pages.
·         Learning objects. These are often `parts´ of specific learning content that are slotted, or dropped into a course or workshop, to provide extra stimulus, or to achieve a specific purpose. Learning objects might include audio, video or Macromedia Flash elements. Equally they could be Microsoft PowerPoint presentations, spreadsheets or other documents.
·         Web-based pages. These enable learners or tutors, depending on the type of page, to input information into the page. On `submission´ the inputted information is then returned to the learner or tutor in another predefined format. There are many different examples and types of web based page. It is also important to note that web based pages could be an element within a visual add. Pages could include:
o   an interactive game or exercise to re-enforce learning or to suit a particular learning style,
o   a simple quiz to provide a check back on learning, identify learning needs, or accredit prior learning. Quizzes can come in many different formats and kinds,
o   a form on any subject requiring the input of answers or other information.

·         Visual Add. Visual Add are often linear or non-linear and which offer advice, instruction or content on how to do something. Other types of Visual Add can be produced using English book style. Again, it should be noted at this stage that there are a great many different and varied interpretations of what constitutes a Visual Add.

            In the examples above, it is important to understand that the technology should support the pedagogy (the theory in which tutors are responsible for making decisions about what will be learned and where and how it will be learned), and not the other way around.
            It is equally important to think about how to empower the learner through the English learning material to take control of their own learning so that their learning becomes self directed.
            We have learnt many lessons in the past few years to suggest that sometimes the excitement of the technology can override its purpose to support a blended learning approach (an approach combining both technology and face to face teaching styles), which is both a stimulating and engaging learning experience for the learner. Therefore, the implications for designing English learning materials suggest that:
1.      Learners should know why they are learning something and what they can expect to achieve once they have completed the learning experience - the aims and objectives.
2.      The materials should be appropriate to the type of learner.
3.      The materials should be motivating, engaging and interactive - exciting the learner into wanting to learn.
4.      The assessment or learning evaluation should directly involve the learner.
         Creating English Learning Content
            Tutors may wish to create their own 'part' of English learning. When creating a part of English learning, the designer should encompass a few basic pointers. These should include:
1.      Learning objectives should be clearly stated for the benefit of tutors and learners.
2.      Content should take the learner from the known to the new learning in appropriately sized stages.
3.      Content and navigation should follow a clear strategy, but not be linear in design, allowing the learner to reflect on, review and digest new learning, and not just regurgitate facts.
4.      Content should demonstrate how new knowledge and skills can be applied to real problems.
5.      Content should be accurate, valid, up-to-date and without errors.
6.      Materials should stimulate and motivate the learner.
7.      Materials should include activities for the learner, keeping the learner involved and engaged.
8.      The design should stimulate responses from the learner.
9.      The materials should be appropriate for the target audience.
10.  The language should be appropriate for the target audience.
11.  Materials should provide useful and supportive feedback based on the learners' responses.
12.  The use of media (video clips, sound files, and animations) should be appropriate to the learning objectives and should not be used gratuitously.
13.  Appropriate help facilities should be provided for the learner.

In developing materials, content designers should draw on:
1.      Knowledge of the subject matter.
2.      Knowledge and understanding of the target audience.
3.      Knowledge of how the subject is taught.
4.      Subject experts to write content at a level appropriate to the target audience.
5.      Knowledge of students? Problems learning the subject.
6.      Ability to identify suitable topics and tasks for multimedia based online learning.
7.      Feedback from potential users (both tutors and students).
8.      Knowledge and understanding of issues relating to learning online.


Anthony, L. (1997). ESP: What does it mean? ON CUE. http://interserver.miyazaki-med.ac.jp/~cue/pc/anthony.htm Retreived April 6, 2000, from the World Wide Web.

Carver, D. (1983). Some Propositions about ESP. The ESP Journal, 2, 131-137.

D., Nunan, (1987). The teacher as curriculum developer: An investigation of curriculum processes within the Adult Migrant Education Program. South Australia: National Curriculum Resource Centre.

D., Nunan, (1988). The learner centered curriculum. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

G., Perren, (1974). Forward in Teaching languages to adults for special purposes. CILT Reports and Papers, 11, London: CILT.

P., Strevens, (1988). ESP after twenty years: A re-appraisal. In M. Tickoo (Ed.), ESP: State of the Art (pp. 1-13). Singapore: SEAMEO Regional Centre.

R., Mackay & Mountford, J. A. (1978). English for specific purposes : A case study approach. UK, Longman.

T., Dudley-Evans, & St John, M. (1998). Developments in ESP: A multi-disciplinary approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

T., Hutchinson, & Waters, A. (1987). English for Specific Purposes: A learning-centered approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

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