Using Blackboard as a tool to enhance students' EFL writing proficiency

Tracy Cheng Hsiao-fang
National United University

Various learner-centered activities have been introduced to promote learners' English proficiency. It is believed that learning must be active and experiential, which is especially true for teaching EFL writing. In a large class, it is difficult for a teacher to monitor students when they are practising paper-and-pencil writing. However, with the help of instructional technology, it becomes possible.

My experience of using Blackboard as a tool to teach EFL writing has been very stimulating and rewarding. In an English Reading and Writing class, students were asked to summarize an article in written form on Blackboard in a given period of time immediately after reading it. While they were writing on the computer, the teacher could walk around the class or sit in front of a computer to monitor the student's work. After students finished writing, the teacher could display one piece of student's writing as a model and correct it together with the whole class. From my own observation, such interactive activity encouraged active participation on the part of the students. Because it was a responsive, self-paced, and personalized practice, students had more confidence in taking risks while writing in English. Most important of all, it helped keep a record of individual progress.

This study is an initial exploration into the use of Blackboard as a tool to teach English writing in a large class of 56 students. The participants are senior students majoring in Finance. In the past three years, all of them finished three required English courses -- Freshman English, English Listening and Speaking, and Business English. Their English proficiency is rated at the intermediate level. Learners' questionnaires will be utilized to investigate and analyse their attitudes towards the application of the technology in English writing class. The survey results will be detailed after this study is done. At that time, some pedagogical implications will be suggested.