University of Sheffield – How to Succeed at: Writing Applications (Week 2)

Week 2 is much better than week 1. More meaty. Still very much focused on the UK.
This week there are several videos:

  • Welcome to Week 2
  • Improve your digital footprint
  • Market yourself on Linkedin
  • Some final thoughts on CVs and covering letters

Lots of information on Writing a CV and an application letter, providing bad examples, annotated examples, and discussion forums. But it’s all about downloading and doing it yourself.

I suppose the problem is security, and not uploading something that can identify yourself.


UQx: Write101x English Grammar and Style – Week 4 – Nouns and pronouns

Week 4 – Nouns and pronouns

This was an easier week!

Four videos.

Some of the content of the videos is quite dense. I wonder whether it is better as a written text? You can see the presenters are reading a text. Would it work better as a Q&A?

The quizzes were fairly straightforward.

Discussions – seem quite random. This course really needs to signpost the discussions more – for example after each video or activity.

English for Doing Business in Asia – Speaking (Week 4, Task 1)

Copied from the course: (apologies)

Task 1 Instructions: 30-second pitch 

STEP 1 Read the following mini-case

Susan is a sales manager for the popular North American clothing brand, Youth. She will be travelling from the United States to Singapore to meet with the owners of a large retailer company with stores located throughout Southeast Asia, including Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. The goal of the meeting is to convince the owners to allocate a large portion of their shelves for Youth’s new summer collection, including men’s and women’s clothing. However, the owners of the retailer company are concerned that the Youth clothing designs will not be well received by their customers, who tend have conservative and traditional preferences in clothing styles. This is Susan’s first time working in Asia and she is more familiar with the North American clothing market.

STEP 2 Prepare a 30-second pitch for an idea/solution to the problem presented in the mini-case

To help you decide what content to include in your speech, answer the following questions:

    • What is your idea?
    • Who is your audience?
    • What do you most want the audience to remember about your idea?
    • How will your idea solve the problem?
    • What are the unique benefits of adopting your idea?
    • What are the final goals of your idea?
    • What do you need from the audience? (i.e. What is your purpose in making this speech?

To help you organize the speech, consider the following outline for a 30-second persuasive pitch:

STEP 3 Practice your pitch alone, with a family member or a friend

Pay attention to your topic development, word choice, pronunciation, and stress and pausing. To get an idea of what we are expecting from you check out the rubric for this task.

STEP 4 Record your 30-second pitch and submit the link to your recording for peer feedback

We recommend that you use SoundCloud to record and upload your files. Click here to watch the tutorial on how to record and share audio files with SoundCloud. Remember to choose PRIVATE in the settings of your file. (If SoundCloud does not work in your country, please use alternative free services.)

Before sharing the link, it is your responsibility to  check that the link works. To do that you need to copy the link from the Share screen. Then log out from SoundCloud and paste the link into your browser and play the audio. Another option would be to send the link to a friend or family member who can try to play the audio (they don’t need an account with SoundCloud). If the link does not work, your peers will not be able to assess your work and you will receive zero as your score, without exception.

Once you feel happy with your recording and you are sure that the link works, submit the link to the file in the section Your Response below. The submission is anonymous. Do not paste a written response (script), just the link to your audio file.

STEP 5 Give feedback to five pitches submitted by your peers

You will be randomly assigned five 30-second persuasive pitches produced by your peers. Before you begin to assess your peers’ responses, you’ll learn how to complete peer assessments by reviewing a pitch that instructors have already assessed. Listen to the pitches and then complete the feedback form by assigning a score to each category, providing constructive feedback in the comment box to help your peers improve their work.  Use the grading rubric to assist you with assigning the scores.

My comments

I wasn’t sure if this would work, but I completed it, and quite enjoyed listening to the other participants.

1. I used vocaroo rather than soundcloud. I do have a soundcloud account, but vocaroo is so much easier in terms of just click and record. The ones I had to mark all used soundcloud, but vocaroo had been mentioned as an alternative on the site.

2. Vocaroo has ads, and as soon as you click on the link it plays. So, not perfect, but there is no sign up.

3. We had 30 secs to do everything, and it had to be under 40 secs. It’s a lot to cover in the task. Two comments I got was that I was “too fast”. I agree – but is that a fault of the task. Again, instructions were a little vague.

4. Did I need to cover any of the content to actually do the task? We had to listen to one example before we could proceed to marking, but I felt examples (perhaps a parallel task?) would have made it clearer.

5. I am now more confident of what we can do in a job applications MOOC – interview responses.

University of Sheffield – How to Succeed at: Writing Applications

Futurelearn MOOC
1. Video Welcome from Dr Hilary Jones (3:04).
Fluent speech; perhaps smiles too much?
Qualifier: UK market advice given, but asking for international experiences to be shared in the discussion.
2. How to use Furturelearn video (4:19) (standard one).
3. Meet the educators: five of them. short profile plus a link to their Furturelearn page.
4. Getting to know you discussion (2335 had joined). This message is at the top: “Please don’t post personal or sensitive information though, which could be used to identify you.”
5. Making a start – text – Basic advice, and links to two UK based websites offering careers advice.
6. What do we mean by skills? – text – “Transferable and knowledge-based skills”
7. Key skills
8. Understanding your skills: “What skills do you have? What examples might you use to demonstrate to recruiters that you have these skills? ” – a table with evidence of skills that you have.
9. Share your skills with others: “If you are happy to do so, share an example of one of your skills with other learners in the discussion below.”
10. Analysing job adverts – text – (similar to what we do in EIW type courses)
11. Analysing course descriptions – so this MOOC is also about applying for a course.
12. Have a go – Have a go at analysing a job advert or course description. A advert and a course description are provided, then in the discussion you need to analyse them
13. Research the organisation (video) 2:05.Is it just a voice over? Looks naff. Very UK based  – “UCAS”. Applying for study as well.
14. Researching universities or colleges (text)
15. Positive writing – make an impression (text) 5 tips.
16. Create a personal brand
17. Some final thoughts on preparation  (video) (1.18)

Good points:

  • On the Futurelearn platform which I find easy to use.
  • Videos are short (1-3 minutes)
  • Lots of information; available as downloads (pdf and word documents)
  • Futurelearn platform has a discussion for every ‘step’. As there are 17 ‘steps’ there are 17 different discussions (means discussions can be more focussed).
  • 3 week course; compact; link to next course (How to succeed at: interviews)
  • UK centred (which is good for their own students)

Areas that need work:

  • There are only three videos in Week 1 (four if you include the standard how to use Furturelearn)
  • The first video is fine – basic introduction to the course. Would be good to hear from the other instructors as well.
  • The second video is just a voiceover, with not very good graphics
  • The final video is a summary
  • Lots of pages of text.
  • There are no quizzes at all.
  • There was a activity where we had to analyse a job advert by posting our answers in a discussion. I was expecting the answer to be given in the next ‘step’, probably by a video. But, there was nothing.
  • I could skim through it in half an hour, ticking the complete boxes and downloading handouts. Does not require much, if any critical engagement.
  • I felt no impulse to join the discussions, except for one, and that was because someone near the top had asked a question so I answered it. I did not see much of a community developing.
  • Did not feel global enough – too much about the UK  – ‘UCAS for university applications’.
  • Can job and study applications be combined in one course?


I’m not very impressed.  Not enough use made of video. The discussions are not effectively used. There needs to be some testing of the knowledge that is being delivered.

FutureLearn: A beginners guide to writing in English for university study

University of Reading (there is a longer video on Furturelearn)

Steve Thomas, Anne Vicary, Seb Watkins
1. First video (see above) – tutors introduce the course and themselves
2. Second video – about the Furturelearn site.
3. Forum – the features of academic writing
4. Video: The key features of academic writing 1:33 – Steve Thomas
Content, organisation and language  – short and to the point. Quite nice graphics.
5. What ideas would you include in this essay?
Essay title: “Discuss the differences between the way of life in your country now and the way of life in the past”
Discussion forum – some interesting discussions. I wish we could search them!
6. Video: Developing essay ideas, 1:37  (short videos). Is it just a voice over? Very clear.
Did UK (her own ideas) and then those from a student in South Korea
7. Shown a ‘student’ essay – lots of errors, but basic structure there. Needs more content.
Discussion about essay.
8. What ideas has Xiao included in his essay? Video (31 secs)
9. The strengths and weaknesses of Xiao’s first attempt Video (1:46)
Lack of linking words. Some examples of errors corrected. Voice over only, but very clear. Slows down for the important points.
10. Student’s second attempt.
The student has developed the essay – the good and bad things of modern life.
One main focus in each paragraph.
11. Examining improvements in Xiao’s second essay – video (2:16)
Video explaining the improvements, as well as saying how it could be further improved.
12. Main ideas and supporting evidence exercise (text + questions).
Discussion where you are supposed to identify the main idea and supporting evidence in 5 sentences.
13. video: Main and supporting ideas review (1:59)
14. Quiz – fairly simple – talk about ‘paragraph hooks’.
15. Write your own paragraph. Comment on others.


The videos are very short, but quite well done.

This is a course that would fit well with PEUS, maybe even EUS?

The discussions – can be both good and bad. Good that there is a chance at every ‘step’ of the course, but that in itself leads to a lack of community developing.

Was I expecting more language to come out of the videos?

UQx: Write101x English Grammar and Style Week 3 – Verbs

Week 3 verbs
1. One minute intro video to Week 3.
2. Eight minute video  – finite and non-finite verbs, and then further sub-divisions.
Some text on screen, but could be done much better. The editing could be done better.
3. Finite and non-finite – is wikipedia easier to understand? Or this page at least gives examples before the exercise.
Drag and drop – too many answers, too many variables; too difficult.
transitive or intransitive exercise  – taken from Not very helpful as to why one is right or wrong.
4. Video: Verb tenses, verb moods, and voice of verbs  (5:56)
Two questions for discussion under video: How do you feel about the fact that many people believe that the days of the subjunctive mood are numbered? What do you think about the expression some people use about it—that it’s ‘circling the drain’. He talks about the subjunctive, and then goes into the passive. Does not mention the discussion. And what does ‘circling the drain’ mean?
Not many in the discussion.
Active / passive exercise.
5. Second writing assignment:
In the last writing assignment, some students were unsure of what they were meant to write about for their blog post. If you are still unsure, here are your prompts for the second writing assignment:
• Write about any of the lecture content covered in Weeks 1–3
• Write about any of the discussion board prompts from Weeks 1–3
• Write about a concept related to writing or grammar that hasn’t been covered in the course
Remember: don’t try to cover too many topics at once. Make sure your blog post has a single core idea or argument. Good luck!

Here is my Second writing assignment.

6. Week 3 quiz
(4.0625/5 points)

The October 8, 2014 Announcement is interesting. (Contrast to the language used in an this Furturelearn BC Exploring English Week 6 email)

Some points paraphrased from the announcement – “we can’t cover everything; this MOOC is a starting point. Here are links to extra resources” – I guess this has to be made very clear at the start. What the MOOC aims to do, and what it cannot do.

Terminology – “What is a ‘verb phrase, phrasal verb and verbal phrase’ definitions”. The problems they are having are a good reason not to do a MOOC about grammar.

“44000 participants, one of the instructors providing lots of answers, but community must help each other.” I think this is partly a problem with the edX design and how it is not conducive for building a community. The answer seems to be to go outside of edX to build that community – Facebook, Google Hangouts, mobile apps like wechat, or face to face meetings. Perhaps this needs to be considered form the start.

“edX technical difficulties” – a little worrying; but reminiscent of IndiWork and deadlines, and making sure everyone is aware of them. I think this course is being used for credits at UQ, so that is why they are quite strict with deadlines.

“Grammar isn’t a doddle; nor is it black and white”. It certainly isn’t.


It is hard to teach grammar via videos and gap fill exercises. Is this course for those studying grammar (high level of English, even if not a native speaker), or for those trying to learn grammar. I’d guess that non-native speakers with a high level of English, who have studied grammar in the past, would get quite a lot form the course. Native speakers would find it challenging, if like me, grammar was only taught in foreign language context. Second language speakers with a low or intermediate level of English would be struggling.

Doing Business in Asia: Week 3

HKUSTx: EBA101x English for Doing Business in Asia – Speaking

3.1 Strategies for critical reading (video) 9:51
28 seconds of introduction before we see the presenter.
Critical reading is important, but is it that important for doing business in Asia?
SQ3R – survey, question, read, recite and review
Some anotations on the screen, but not that compelling to watch.
Some editing in the video could be better.
How to draw a mind map??
Reading ‘business cases’ case studies? – opening, middle and end.
Opening – sets the scene; background; main problems and characters
Middle – Findings and Discussion?
End – summary, recommendations?

3.2 Strategies for Critical Reading (covers the video?)
Some vocabulary
Granthill Winery Case Study –  reading

3.3 First some vocabulary, with an error (let’s see if I get a reply)
Analyzing business data (video) 6:35
The five ‘Whys’
Reading based on video

3.4 Comparing and contrasting in English (video, 7:31)

3.5 Challenging English Sounds:  /θ/ and /s/ (Video 5 min)
Challenging English Sounds:  /ŋk/ and /ŋ/ (Video 6 min)

A few of the questions seems to have errors.
But, overall easier this time.

Most stuff in this week is Due November 11?


My thoughts on Week 3 of the course:

Where is this course going? We started with “Greetings” in Week 1, then in Week 2 some quite tough material about “cross-cultural understanding” and “cultural dimensions”, and in Week 3 we have “How to read critically”, a “business case study”, and “comparing and contrasting data”. In all weeks we have vocabulary and pronunciation exercises, but this seems a bit random to me.

To tell the truth, I don’t think the vocabulary and pronunciation fit with the rest of the material. You can either have a language course, or a business communication course which focuses quite a bit on the theory, but mixing them together does not seem to work for me. I think the British Council Furturelearn MOOC did better as all the language was taken from the videos. Pronunciation is more problematic skill to teach online, and the BC one avoided that (perhaps wisely).  The BC also steered clear of theory, instead focusing on culture and language.

Using soundcloud to record discussions? That was one of the plans of the HKUST MOOC. The problem is that given a choice, I would prefer to type (and can go back to edit), and I prefer to read (I can skim and scan).