Monthly Archives: April 2015

What are Pre-sessional courses?

Pre-sessional PathwaysThis week’s guest blog post is by Linda Hurley, Assistant Director of Pre-sessional Programmes at the University of Southampton. In it, she addresses international students’ questions about university Pre-sessional courses:

Being an international student on a summer Pre-sessional course in EAP (English for Academic Purposes) is a positive introduction to the academic life and culture at a UK university, and many former Pre-sessional students say how valuable it has been when they move on to their future courses. Courses may vary in length – at the University of Southampton they range from 16 weeks to 6 weeks, depending on students’ entry point (usually reflected in their IELTS grade). There may even be a pre-arrival online component to a Pre-sessional course. Most of the students who participate in Pre-sessional courses are required to do so in order to improve their academic English skills; however, some participants, who have already met their university’s entrance requirements, may choose to do a Pre-sessional course to improve their readiness for their future studies. Each university will have a website outlining their Pre-sessional provision for their own international students.

Pre-sessional courses provide an opportunity for students to work intensively on all their linguistic skills within an academic framework and their university environment. While IELTS is generally the recognised exam taken by most students when applying for entrance to their chosen subject area, it does not prepare students for the demands of academic study. On a Pre-sessional course, students will practise researching, preparing and writing long essays, and using academic sources to support their arguments. They may be required to practise giving presentations based on aspects of their research too. Reading journal articles, attending lectures and participating in seminar discussions are also key components of most university courses so a Pre-sessional course is a very useful ‘dry run’ for the real thing! Students’ progress and achievements are made clear both during and at the end of a Pre-sessional course, and tutors will always want to ensure that students are moving on to their future courses with the skills they need to do well. This means that ‘yes, the learning curve is steep’ and a significant amount of student work is produced during the course, but by the end, students will feel that the rewards and sense of achievement are definitely worth it.

Pre-sessional courses are also a great way to meet and make new friends and are, hopefully, a time to experience some of the best British summer weather! It’s a busy time and an opportunity to really focus on getting ready for your future studies.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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Finding learning resources in your subject area in online repositories

Online repositoriesThis week’s blogpost is about locating learning resources that can help you learn more about the subject you are studying.

Previous blog posts have suggested where to find online learning resources that relate to developing your academic skills in reading, writing, listening and speaking, and those that can help you develop your vocabulary and grammar in English. The free learning resources in Prepare for Success are a good place to start for this.

For students who come to the UK to study a particular subject through the medium of English, there are also useful resources online to help them develop their subject knowledge. Some online resources also combine subject-specific content with English language development.

Teachers increasingly use online repositories (banks or storage places) to store and share many of their teaching and learning resources as ‘open content’. More and more of these are free to access and web-based. Students can also search and use them to find resources for independent learning. For students of languages and other disciplines in the Humanities, two repositories in the UK are LanguageBox and HumBox. Students can sign up for a free account and then browse and bookmark any resources that they wish to use. Each resource may have been made available (by the person who uploaded it) either to download for use or use directly from a web link (URL).

Another large UK repository containing many different subject-specific learning resources across the Sciences and Arts and for Further Education (FE) and Higher Education (HE) is Jorum. The resources in Jorum can be freely browsed but need to be downloaded for use.

In USA, there are also some large repositories of teaching and learning resources. MERLOT II is a well-known one. It contains multimedia educational resources in a range of subject areas, and students as well as teachers can sign up to use its resources for free. Wisconsin-online is another free-to-use digital repository of interactive ‘learning objects’. Users can learn directly from resources online or download them.

There are many other smaller repositories of teaching and learning resources that can help you to learn independently in your subject area. An internet search engine such as Google will help you find many more.

If you have a question related to academic life and study in the UK and you can’t find the answer in the Prepare for Success learning resources, write it on the Question Wall and we will try to answer it here in the blog next time.

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