Welcome to AL 8460 on the Web

Hear the Lecture
Welcome to AL 8460 English Grammar for ESL/EFL Teachers—on the web.

The course is designed to increase your understanding of English grammar and of the teaching of English grammar to ESL and EFL students. Detailed information about the course is given in the syllabus. Please study that document carefully and email your questions to me as soon as possible. My email address is patbyrd@comcast.net

For most of you, taking a course on the web will be a new experience. Since I've been teaching this course on the web since the spring of 2000, I'm starting to feel a little bit like an "expert"! Based on the work that has occurred before, I know that we can work together this semester to take full advantage of this new environment. 

I have put the text as well as the spoken version of these lectures on the web as an aid to visual learners who might not benefit from just listening to the spoken version.  Also, I have been told that non-native speakers of English like having both the spoken and the written versions of the lectures given together on the website.

Advantages of the Web over the Conventional Classroom

For you and for me, I find the web offers many advantages over the conventional classroom setting.

  • You can study the materials at the time of day—or night—that fits your life and personality. Thus, you're in more personal control of your time for working with the materials and the tasks for the course.
  • You can approach the materials in many different ways. You control which parts of the materials you do in which order. You can do the reading first--and then the lectures and quizzes. You can do the quizzes first--and then the reading and the lectures. You decide how you want to arrange your encounters with course materials.
  • You can review the materials whenever you want to. For example, my lectures and lecture notes remain on the website all semester. You can go back to them whenever you need to--for example, when you are working on one of the papers.
  • The grading system allows me to give you grades as we go along. At every point in the course when we finish a required task, I put points into your grade section. You can have detailed information about how well you are doing in the course as we go along.
  • I can be more certain that I’m presenting the course materials in ways that meet the learning styles of different students.
  • I can provide some multimedia presentations, too. For example, the PowerPoint presentations involve some animation and some music. And, the lectures are provided in text and audio versions.
Potential Problems for a Class on the Web

The downside for some people will involve these aspects of working on the web: 

  • You need the self-discipline to get on the web, connect to the site, and do the work on a weekly basis. I’ve tried to help by providing a highly structured grading system the requires participation in an ongoing way to pass the course. You need to look carefully at the grading section of the syllabus. It’s not like anything you’ve experienced before! 
  • Technical problems are going to cause frustrations for us all. That’s just guaranteed. About 9 years ago when I first required graduate students to send me email messages, the experience was terrifically frustrating for some people. It’s true! Some students back then just couldn't see how email could ever be useful--and learning was just too hard! I expect to see a similar curve with the web-based course. Those of you who are pioneers are going to have problems and need to learn new skills very fast. In a couple of years, all of this technology and teaching environment will be “old hat” for most graduate students and faculty members. And the advantages of learning to learn in this environment will become clearer as time goes along and web-based learning becomes more common.
  • Lack of clarity about course requirements can be a problem on the web, too. I can’t easily make the kinds of adjustments that teachers make when the syllabus doesn’t quite work. So, I’ve planned out this course in more detail than usual—trying to anticipate problems. But, I’m sure that I’m going to learn quickly that things that are crystal clear to me are not so clear to some of you.
  • Another problem for all of us could be “feeling lonely” and “disconnected” from the rest of the people in the course. We’re going to work really hard this semester to find ways to give us all a sense of belonging to an academic community. I am deeply concerned about this aspect of the course and will need your help to find ways to get you involved and to keep you involved. An advantage we have is that we are all here in Atlanta and can meet face-to-face when we need to or just want to. This type of course is termed "distributed" rather than "distance" because the course work is distributed over time and space in ways different from the traditional class but the class members are not living at long distances from each other.

Organization of the Course

The course has these major features: 

1. The course involves study of English grammar—based on a reference grammar called the Longman Student Grammar of Spoken and Written English. This section of the course involves the lectures, PowerPoint overviews of the assigned reading, and activities that you can do to learn about teaching and learning grammar on the web. Quizzes are also included that you can do to check your comprehension of the material. While you get scores for the quizzes, the quiz scores that you see when you complete each quiz are not counted in the grade for the course: those quiz scores are just for you to check your understanding of the content and to have the experience of doing quizzes on the web.  However as a reward for doing the quizzes, you get 1 point for completing each set of quizzes for each chapter. For example, you get 1 point for completing Quiz Set 1...the set of quizzes for chapter 1 in the Longman Grammar. The quizzes are on the web outside of WebCT at http://www.gsu.edu/~eslhpb/quiz.

2. The second feature of the course is study and discussion in small groups about teaching English grammar—based on an assortment of additional readings provided through the GSU library's e-reserves system. That is, we won’t just be studying English grammar in the abstract—or just because it is a fascinating topic! We’ll be keeping our eye always on our ultimate goal of becoming better ESL/EFL teachers. 

What You Have to Do

Here are the things that you are required to do for this course:

  • Read assigned materials in the book--using the PowerPoint overviews to help you understand the materials in the Longman Grammar.
  • Attend each web-based "session."  I expect you to listen to and read my lectures—and to email questions and comments to me about the content of those lectures with a focus on the grammar that you find confusing. I also expect that you will try out the system of self-testing that is provided with quizzes for each section of the course. These quizzes help you check your knowledge and the quiz scores will not be included in the grade for the course.
  • Participate in discussions on assigned readings and topics with a small group of other ESL/EFL teachers.
  • Lead your small group to in a two-week discussion
  • Write two papers.
What You do NOT Have to Do
  • You do not take any tests as part of the course grade.
  • You do not have to be on your computer at any set time. All work is asynchronous with no scheduled meeting times. 

I have attended several conferences on web-based distance learning. All of the experienced teachers advised using a project-based approach to courses in this environment. As a result, the course is designed so that you will be evaluated on the basis of your participation in the discussions of your small group and the quality of the papers that you write. 

Time and AL 8460 On the Web

This course is designed to meet the 3-semester hour curriculum at Georgia State University. Generally, we expect that graduate students will do a minimum of 2 hours of work outside of class for each hour in class. The minimum then is 9 hours a week during a regular semester. Naturally and horribly, that number doubles for the summer term!

The assignments are given with required deadlines—as part of that system to encourage you to keep up with the course as we go along. Again, please study the grades and grading and the timeline very carefully! 

Organization of the WebCT Site for AL 8460

The opening page for the AL 8460 site on WebCT provides links to the major subsections of the site:

  • The syllabus along with calendar that outlines the reading in the Longman Grammar and the readings on e-reserves and discussion topics for the small group discussions
  • The sessions—links to the individual class sessions for the semester
  • Grades—where you can check your grade as the term goes along
  • Links—to resources for this class and for grammar teachers
  • Communication—links to the small group discussions. I do not provide a class list of telephone numbers or email addresses as a way to protect your privacy as required by GSU regulations. You can share that information if you like but you do not have to.

Each session includes the following resources:

  • A PowerPoint overview for the assigned reading in the Longman Grammar
  • Lectures on the grammar that expand from the content in the Longman Grammar
  • Quizzes—self-quizzes on the grammar that you do for your own information to check your understanding of the grammar
  • Discussions—working in your small group to talk about teaching English grammar 
Technical Information
To access all of the materials provided in our WebCT site for this course, you need a computer that is connected to the Web (by modem or otherwise) and that has a sound card and speakers. Most current computers come with multimedia capacity (sound cards and speakers). If you use the computers at GSU, you’ll need a headset to plug into the front of the computer to hear the lectures. Something cheap like the one on a WalkMan will do just fine. 
If you use a computer at home, you need to load some free software if you do not yet have it on your computer.
  • To access the course on GSU’s WebCT site, you need Netscape Navigator or Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. You'll see more of the special features of the course if you are using the latest version of Internet Explorer.
  • To hear the lectures, you need the latest version of the RealAudio Player. You can get the latest free version at http://www.real.com/ Be sure to look carefully and get the free version (unless you want to pay for the additional features in the full version).
  • To see the PowerPoint slides, you need the PowerPoint Viewer. Even if you have PowerPoint on your computer, having the Viewer makes seeing the slide shows for the class a lot easier. You can download the PowerPoint Viewer from the Microsoft website by following this link. Read the instructions carefully.

I encourage you to use the computers in the various GSU computer labs. These are up-to-date computers that will give you fast access to the course materials than most of you will have at home. You can also get staff help if you are having trouble with accessing the materials! However, moving the course on the web means--giving you the freedom to make these choices for yourself!

How to Get Technical Help

Your best resources for getting the software loaded properly on your own computer will be---friends and relatives who know your computer! I can consult but I don’t know your resources. 

You can also get help in understanding the WebCT system by going to the Student Lounge on the WebCT site. Also, GSU has very experienced and very helpful WebCT staff who can be emailed through the link on the Student Lounge.

You can also make an appointment to meet me in my office to learn more about the website. 

That’s enough for this segment of the first lecture. I want to try to keep these segments to less than 5 minutes. Please email your questions to me at patbyrd@comcast.net. Thanks! And I really look forward to working with you this semester to find out about teaching and learning English grammar and about teaching and learning on the web.