Furturelearn – BC course – Week 5

Futurelearn – Week 5

I like that the course is open before the actual opening date – i.e Week 5 opens officially on 29 September, but I can access before then. I agree it is not perfect, as you have students completing different parts of the course at different times, but it is an online course, so perhaps we should look at it differently from a conventional one.

Week 5 is about the environment and saving the planet. (From the title, I would be stifling a yawn. We’ve done this topic a thousand times).

Video 1 (1:13) with Nicole with a short introduction – Eden project. She gives an overview of the week – Problems and solutions?

Discussion (skipped)

Eight questions about ‘how green are you?’

Some of the questions are tricky – mineral water, or polystyrene cup? I choose the cup, and was right!

Discussion – the environment and me (participated)

The Eden Project Part 1 – pre-listening – some text with more difficult words.

Discussion here as well.

Eden Project Part 2 – video (3:41)

Task – 5 sentences to complete (The Eden project started …)

Discussion – with answers being given!

Very professional looking, and interesting video.

5 questions about the video

Video – use of ‘so’. Nicole interspersed with short clips.

‘So’ written on screen, but I think more is needed.

Again cutting from presenter is a little distracting.

‘So’ as a marker – to get the listener’s attention – use ‘so’ to make your English sound more natural.

A lot of text below video.

And another discussion (not participated)

Six questions about ‘so’

Environmental vocabulary – pollution, climate change etc

And another discussion (not participated)

7 questions m/c (a little boring)

It’s the discussions that make this course.

Revision – comparatives and superlatives

Final discussion – link to your own country.

Week 4 – they had a Google hangout (with lots of technical problems), now on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MGX6eOBA3o4


I still think the course is good, and I’m sticking with it. The m/c questions can be a bit boring, and I think they could use the vocabulary a bit more. The videos are very well produced.

The discussions work quite well, and I said elsewhere that I think it is Furturelearn’s strong point. But, they still have the problem of organisation. I don’t have an answer, but at least we know that there is a problem!


HKUSTx: EBA101x English for Doing Business in Asia – Speaking

I missed the release of Week 1 materials. I did the pre-course questionnaire, but nothing else was open, and I’m not sure if I got an email telling me it was open. But, I got an email today reminding me to do the Week 1 Quiz. So, spent around 90 minutes going through the materials.

Week 1 promo video (2 min 53): http://youtu.be/UgoW_PucJCQ

(We have seen that one before)

(1) Week 1: Elements of Introducing Yourself (9 min 48 secs): http://youtu.be/LLg84W2frQU

This is fairly basic stuff. We see Delian and Sean doing an informal and formal greetings. It’s clear. Fairly straightforward business communication. But, very general stuff.  Some text appears on screen – perhaps more language is needed to reinforce content, although learners do have subtitles if they wish.

One sided introductions – in a business pitch or in a meeting.

I guess they are reading from an auto-cue. Fairly effective video.

Cut to an example – in a meeting with 5 participants. Some look a little uneasy – like Ricky from CILL has been drafted into to make up numbers!

Change of language formality mentioned. Some difficult vocabulary comes up.

Reading text covers some phrases from the video.

(2) Video: Welcoming Visitors (5 min 38) http://youtu.be/1vDQMmRZXM0

Same format as above. About first impressions. Beyond verbal language! Five m/c questions about the video.
Sample ‘welcome’ provided – HK Chinese / North American?

Shawn swipes the ‘sample away’ – nice cut?

(3) Soundcloud video tutorial (8 min 37): http://youtu.be/HpSY5fPmWGQ (Celt MOOC) – I think it is done specially for this course. At the moment there are screen shots of the edX course. The problem with these type of videos is that soundcloud will change its procedures. Perhaps better to use something made by soundcloud?

(4) 1.3 Challenging English sounds (3 min 09 secs) http://youtu.be/vAPKudWTCUk

Only Sean? They only cover certain sounds – limiting themselves. Chinese speakers may have difficulties pronouncing the ‘v’ sound, while Spanish speaker’s saying the ‘z’ sound. Cannot cover all L1 interferences. Try to introduce some universal sounds. Majority speakers of people taking the course – Chinese, Spanish and French?

(5) 1.3.1 Challenging English Sounds ɪ and i http://youtu.be/Ef3UnbJ4eiU
Someone else doing the model sounds. Saying how to say the sound. Diagram of the tongue.

(I think Sean reaching up and down to get the new video distracting)

(6) Challenging English Sounds æ and e (2 min 48) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJTtuIMYXPU

(7) Challenging English Sounds ð and θ (3 min 27) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pEY09jhYp7Q

(8) Pronunciation test – pairs of sounds. Some are quite challenging. There is also a time limit, and you can only hear once, although after 10 questions you can do it again.
Listen and type the word – same sounds as before.

(9) 1.4 vocabulary activities
Word list (product, supplier etc.)
Gap fill (I entered supplier, the answer was retailer – “The company is a leading _____ of equipment for customers who play football”. (Yes, the answer would be retailer).
Wrong again! Company XYZ is Apple’s authorized (not supplier) distributor for the South-East Asian region.
Fill in the gap with a synonym
Association map (drag and drop) (business action – answer is ‘merge’ – I was not sure at the time why that was the answer given the context of the other choices, but I chose it because it was a verb and an action in business)
Common phrase or not? Collocation – improve performance (sorting activity) ‘local performance’?
Related or not? Collocation – manager and director (sorting activity)

(10) Quiz 1  27/30 (I got these three questions wrong)
7. Which of the following words are similar in meaning to performance?
(Multiple answers possible.) direction, act, work, conduct ( I think I chose ‘work’ and ‘conduct’)
9. Which of the following words often appear before the word strategy?
(Multiple answers possible.) medical, business, marketing, development (I think I chose ‘marketing’ and ‘development’ – also ‘business’?)
19. The purpose of the kind of small talk exchanged when you are introduced to someone in a formal business setting is to _________.
(Multiple answers possible.) Get to know each other better, find out if the person you are talking to would be a useful future contact, share more specifics about your duties and responsibilities, network ( I chose ‘network’ and ‘duties and responsibilities’)


Quite a lot to cover in the first week.

Videos are well produced, and the activities link to the videos well.

A lot of video content produced.

Not much in the way of ‘discussions’, although maybe I have missed that.

All the videos can be found here.

UQx Write101x English Grammar and Style

Interview with Fred D’Agostino in the ‘Great Court’

Just under 15 minutes. Done outside, but basically a lecture.

Outside can be interesting, but watching people walk past is distracting, and the video is not one take, so there are cuts – and that means sometimes the background people change suddenly.

Fred D’Agostino is quite a good speaker, but can he hold an audience for 15 minutes? Sometimes he is reading a text, and I think at those times, we need text on the screen to help us listeners.

He mentions / references lots of speakers / writers/ I would like links to these on the same page as the video.

Three questions.

1. The length. If you have the content, is going on for 15 minutes OK?

2. What kind of support is needed for listeners?

3. The location. Taking the video outside the lecture theatre is fine, but to where?

Two more videos in week 1 of the course.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vPcZS0vbLHM (What is grammar and why does it matter? A little dry! 6 mins)


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y0uIzT26Tbg (this is more interesting; 9 min 30 secs)

So, 30 minutes of videos in Week 1.

The questions are all quite challenging!

The blog post is a little unclear (meaning the edX assessment rather than this one!! Although maybe mine are as well.)

Future learn – Week 4

Week 4: Exploring English by British Council

British literature – Shakespeare plus others mentioned.

1. The intro video (1:16) has lots of transitions – not so smooth.

2. Quiz about literature.

Which Shakespearean hero is the Prince of Denmark? (Answer ‘Hamlet’).

This is going to be difficult for many learners.

Questions do not automatically submit when you click on next.

No feedback besides correct / incorrect given. I think extra information could have been given as feedback – for example, “George Eliot was the pen name of Mary Ann Evans” (female English novelist question).

3. Short film about Shakespeare’s Globe

First some background and pre-listening questions.

‘Literature is great’ video (2:29) – the beginning cut is a bit sharp.

Another good video, with the same presenter, and then an interview with an expert (artistic director).

4. Quiz about the video

Five m/c questions – all pretty basic and no real need to watch the video to answer them.

5. Watch the video again

How could the sentences be completed

e.g The original Globe theatre …

The questions are again quite easy, but with some limited feedback.

6. Comparatives and superlatives – watch and read

This time we do cut into the original video to hear the phrase.

Need some more text on the screen, or on for longer.

Qualifying language – quite good.

7. Quiz

Eight m/c questions

Are we looking at grammar or content?

Q1. “Shakespeare is by far the most famous writer in the English language.”

Arguably yes, but it is still an opinion.

Q2.Australia is much biggest than New Zealand.

Incorrect – wrong grammar.

Q8 They were clearly the better team in the league and won all of their matches.

Incorrect – should be ‘best’, but what if the league only had two teams?

8. Dylan Thomas – reading

Four m/c questions about Dylan Thomas

Nice feedback given that explains the key vocabulary: “That’s right. If something is ‘meaningful’ it has a clear meaning which people can understand.”

9. Did you notice?

“In Week 2 we looked at relative pronouns and relative clauses.”

Revision of earlier weeks.

10. What do you think?


“For your final task this week, think about literature from your country. ”

I like this use of the discussions to get participants to interact with each other.


Still looking good. I wonder what the drop out rate is like?

I’ve had my first reply from one of the ‘educators’  – about Scottish independence

There will be a Google hangout in Week 4.

In Week 4 we’re going to have a LIVE Google Hangout. The Hangout will take place on Thursday 25 September from 1330 – 1430 (UK time; find your own time zone here: http://bit.ly/1uZSW4j). The hangout is a chance for you to put to me any questions you have about the language we’ve looked at in the course.

Other thoughts:

  • Make the questions challenging.
  • Get students thinking.
  • Grammar questions can be problematic (not a reason to avoid them, but you need to think through the question carefully)
  • Don’t mix grammar and content – make it clear what you are testing.
  • Give feedback – not just correct / incorrect. Give extra information.
  • From the EDC course – Focus on higher order thinking – synthesis and evaluation, rather than knowledge and comprehension (especially in course description). See Bloom’s taxonomy verbs (from here)

Exploring English – BC – podcast

Chris Cavey in English Agenda Podcast


1. Videos already made – from Britain is Great campaign. Explains their tourist feel.

2. This allowed for ‘great, unscripted interviews’.

3. MOOC does not fit a conventional syllabus – instead there is a noticing aspect – ‘Did you notice the use of the passive in that interview?’

4. Community aspect is very important. Large number of comments generated – ‘teachers’ have to focus on the language discussions to make sure that questions are answered. In other discussions, learners have been answering each other.

5. Mass email to all learners at the end of each week.  Shows that comments are being read, if not answered, and it can point to extra learning resources.

6. Value to the learner of the MOOC: mainly through the community aspect, and that the learners are having to use English to communicate in real situations. If it was just language, this could be found anywhere online, so it has to be more than that.

7. Geographical spread – ideas can come from many countries; exchange of ideas; ‘everyone brings something to the table’.

8. Topicality – changes can be made as the course progresses – an extra step added!

9. Difference between the MOOC and other language learning websites? Structure? Sense of Community? Time is committed for 6 weeks.

10. Future of this kind of course? They should not be surprised that it was so popular considering that it was advertised as a free English course, and that there is a great demand for that.

Exploring English MOOC – British Council

Week 3 of the Future Learn MOOC.
It’s about “Countryside: a green and pleasant land”

Videos are well produced as normal, although in the first one when the topic is introduced by Nicole, I thought we would hear Fernando from Brazil, and Anne-Lisa from Denmark, rather than Nicole just reading out what they said.

First part is vocabulary – and it’s pretty basic stuff – valley, mountain, hill and so on.
We see a video from the Lake District, and the first exercises is whether the words are spoken in the video or not. I don’t think it works – it’s like an elementary English exercises, but people doing this are way above that level.

Then we watch again, and make notes about ‘tourism, industry and climate’. Again there is a forum, so your notes can appear in the forum.

But next part – write a short summary of what you have heard. Repeat from previous forum?

Then we see a video of Snowdonia, fishing villages in Wales, Cairngorms National Park (via funicular), with lots of facts, and the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Island.

Quiz on “The countries of the United Kingdom”! Will this still be valid in a week? Basic comprehension questions.
Then reading text on the UK. The referendum is actually mentioned. Topical. Another forum about national identity.

Gradable (hot, cold) and upgradable (married, freezing) adjectives – video with Nicole. The exercise is quite challenging (at least compared to before), and also brings up the problem of teaching grammar – “Completely awful’ sounds a little strange to my ear. “Absolutely awful’ would sound better”.

Then revision of relative pronouns (Week 2)

Then summary and another forum!


This is a very popular MOOC – 100,000 people registered?

The videos are well produced, and the language input is by and large sound.

It does have a bit of a feel of a commercial for ‘visit Britain’ in parts.

Grammar can be problematic, especially when you get into more complex areas.

Duolingual – language app

I found out about Duolingual from a British Council online teaching English course about MOOCs.


Luis von Ahn, founder of duolingo, talks about the development of the free language teaching MOOC and technological developments in general.

So, I have joined, and I have been trying to re-learn French (I studied it in high school for 5 years, and ended up with a qualification, and while my reading is perhaps at elementary level, speaking and listening are pretty poor).

I have been doing the exercises  on my mobile phone. This is a major positive feature – although you would need a headphone in order to use in public areas.

I like how it remembers what I have done, how I have a certain number of ‘hearts’ or lives, and if I get too many questions wrong, I need to go back to the beginning of the exercise. There are a variety of exercises, from very simple matching, to translating into English, translating into French, listening and translating, and writing. If you just get one letter wrong, it might let you off, and accents and symbols particular to French are not needed (garçon and garcon both accepted). You get email remainders, or on your mobile you get a reminder on your screen. Some ‘social’ pressure to keep going.

Anything bad? I guess the social element is missing – you are not learning with others.

I wish it had a Chinese version.