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Unexpected student writing strategies during the Covid-19 pandemic
The sudden move online undertaken in response to the escalating Covid-19 pandemic brought dramatic changes to our lives. Just as teachers quickly relearnt how to run their courses and classrooms, students learnt new ways of getting things done, and described using electronic dictionaries and online concordances, proofreading their work with online grammar sites, and translating L1 sentences with Machine Translation (MT) before paraphrasing them or swapping out unfamiliar vocabulary. The research project described here explores student strategies to complete written assignments over a 15-week English for Academic Purposes university course. Students completed assignments asynchronously each week on the learning management system to replace regular classroom lessons and accompanying homework. A total of 40 students recorded reflective videos about their learning strategies to do so. They gave informed consent for their videos and other course work to be used for research purposes. Students reported making use of a wide range of tools to support their learning and spoke candidly about developing processes to not only streamline their work, but also to deepen their learning and make it more personally satisfying. A subset of learners also described using MT for whole document translation at the end of their writing process to check their work before submission. The more of these tools that learners reported using, the more significant improvements they reported in their confidence in L2 writing ability. Students revealed active use of a variety of technological strategies that can be incorporated in future writing courses.