iELF Project Needs Assessment
Background at UIUC
Enrollment of international student population at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign (UIUC) has been steadily increasing in the past couple decades. In the Fall 2013 semester, 9,421 international students comprised about 22% of the student population. In addition, UIUC hosted 1,906 international scholars in the 2012-2013 school year.
In the past five years, enrollment in ESL courses at UIUC has more than doubled. The Writers Workshop, a free tutoring service in the Center for Writing Studies, offers assistance to over 4,500 international students (comprising 78% of total visits) in the 2011-2012 school year. Both units have limited capacities, and students are seeking more assistance with their language needs.
Resources on the Internet
Advanced-level resources on academic English are very limited and surprisingly difficult to find on the Internet. Websites are often narrow in focus making it difficult for learners to seek out good quality materials in one location. Most websites are difficult to navigate and not designed with learner interaction in mind; most importantly, materials are out-of-date and do not reflect current research on language learning.
Student Needs Assessment
Many undergraduate students and almost all graduate students believe that good academic English skills are important to succeeding in their fields of study.
Some skills that students think are important include communicating in teams, presentation skills, digesting large amounts of reading, communicating research, and writing articles, grants and dissertations.
In a survey of about 200 undergraduate and graduate students at UIUC:
- 87% of responders believe that iELF would be useful for international students on the UIUC campus;
- 91% of responders would be likely to use iELF if it had lessons designed specifically for English used in their fields of study;
- and 83% of responders would be likely to use iELF if it had general English lessons on grammar, reading, writing, listening, and speaking skills.
"As a future engineer, [I] have to [learn to] communicate with clients, deal with legal documents, and deliver complex ideas and solutions through English."
"English is the language I will be bound to in order to research, publish, and converse with other people from my field."
Faculty Needs Assessment
Faculty describe challenges with spending more time giving written feedback, ensuring depth of student understanding, dialoguing in classroom discussions, and curbing academic dishonesty.
Some faculty also think that students need to increase their academic English skills in order to fully succeed in their studies or their field.
In a survey of faculty from a variety of disciplines at UIUC:
- 92% of responders believe that a iELF would be useful for international students on the UIUC campus;
- 94% of responders believe that iELF would be useful for international students in their department;
- and 84% of responders recommend iELF to their students if it had lessons on grammar, writing, reading, speaking, and listening skills.
"Faculty feel that many of their...students don’t understand English well enough to succeed in classes, even though math skills are fine."
"It is difficult...to teach...when there are many students who have difficulty [dialoguing] about their design ideas."