The English Campus comprises a universal toolbar, a study area, resources, courses, tests and exams and games. The material can be accessed at three levels: student, teacher and administrator.
1. Universal toolbar
Includes a Help section which provides an introduction to the program; a grammar reference section; a facility to e-mail an administrator (the “E-mail tutor” button). The student’s own word list is included in the Universal toolbar, so learners can access it at any time.
The inclusion of the Macmillan English Dictionary on-line (MEDO) is an excellent way of extending the resources available to learners. The MEDO is a superb resource, and offers campus users the chance to access meaning without leaving the English Campus. It also offers an alternative source of information which can supplement learner’s initial tendency to use a bi-lingual dictionary, and therefore supply additional help in understanding lexis (eg collocation, connotation etc).
2. The study area
The Study area is divided into five areas: my bookmarks; my word lists; headline news; my web links and grammar reference.
2.1 My bookmarks
This is a very good feature, allowing students to bookmark an exercise which they find particularly useful or motivating, in order to store it and revisit. This gives students an element of individual choice in the creation of the content.
2.2 My word lists
This feature allows students to store the vocabulary they wish to review. Students can add text (eg a definition or example), although there are space limitations. This is potentially a great system, although of course it is one of many ways to review vocabulary. Students can delete words if they feel they have learnt them. The “sort function” is great, allowing students to access recent words by clicking on sort by date. This could enable learners to achieve a sense of progress if they are learning systematically.
The fact that students need to consider the headings and categories of how they will store the vocabulary is positive part of learner training, as it is generally agreed that words are stored in “concept” groups in the brain.
2.3 Headline news
Texts are simplified to one of three levels: low, intermediate and high. New texts are added to the material regularly. Some subject areas are fairly controversial. Texts which would guarantee to provoke responses include one on the gun lobby and one on global warming. The questions which accompany the text are suitably short, pedagogically sound and generally highly appropriate. Many students naturally find the reading of texts on-screen an uncomfortable task, so the facility to print out is a valid option which should be encouraged.
2.4 My web links
Students can type in URLs of suitable language learning sites. This facility will save time having to search for useful sites, and could also encourage learners to use the site as a repository for frequently visited sites which are beneficial to learning, such as the BBC web site. Responsibility for choosing suitable learning sites resides with the students themselves.
2.5 Grammar reference
The grammar reference encourages learners to check their level of understanding of a range of aspects of grammar. The study of grammar is popular with language learners, many of whom request extra practice exercises. The number of major categories is limited to nine, which means it is quite accessible. The main advantage of the grammar reference is the fact that the students can gain clarification of terms from within the programme. The explanations are concise, and can be accessed conveniently by learners completing the questions.
In addition to the five areas outlined above is the “Personalisation” feature, which allows students to select the “look” they would like to display.
There are three ways to search the resources database: quick search, advanced search and by word and phrase search.
Students can see their complete course outline. They can do pre-class work, or follow-up work if they miss a class, by accessing their course programme.
4.1 Grammar exercises
A suitably varied range of exercise types is included in the material. The exercises devised – drag a word across to fill a gap; multiple choice; drop-down menu etc. are appropriate to a web environment. The task of deleting extra words in a text is very good.
4.2 Listening exercises
The listening tasks are pedagogically sound. The option to listen and read the transcript simultaneously is a very good use of multimedia, and is very popular with students.
5 Tests and exams
There are two parts to this section: language tests and exams.
Preparing for tests is an appropriate learner activity for students to do in an on-line environment, since many test items are well-practised with the click and choose nature of multimedia exercises. An impressive range of practice activities for examinations is included in the English Campus.
There are three types of games: word games, games gallery and adventure games. The games are divided into three levels of language difficulty: easy, average and difficult.
The games section is an outstanding feature of the English Campus. They are imaginative and appropriately humorous, with a suitable appeal to the younger user. The link between enjoyment and motivation is powerful; the fact that language is automatically recycled is beneficial. These games are an excellent example of the genre in EFL materials, with inspired animation.
7 Teacher and administrative functions
The teacher’s administrative tools seem relatively straightforward to use. This is very good for teachers somewhat under-confident in using technology. The chance to “embed” a chosen course into the syllabus of a course gives a great amount of flexibility to the teacher.
7.1 Methodology database (Teacher area)
The inclusion of a methodological database is a great idea in principle. Six books are included with Learning Teaching (Scrivener) being particularly apt.
7.2 Announcements (Teacher area)
This facility, to insert teacher announcements into the student material, proved quite easy to use.
The English Campus is an exciting learning environment. The material is largely pedagogically sound and varied. The English Campus is a significant step towards moving teachers forward to what has been described as the “normalisation of CALL”.