Exploring the role of digital literacy in English for academic purposes university pathway programs

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Roche, T 2017, 'Exploring the role of digital literacy in English for academic purposes university pathway programs', paper presented to the Media Literacy in Foreign Language Education: Digital and Multimodal Perspectives Conference, Munich, Germany, 12 -15 March.


English language pathway programs play an important role in the higher education sector globally, preparing an increasing number of international English as Additional Language (EAL) students for English-medium university degree programs. These pathway programs vary in their conceptualisation of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) and the language-related skills they teach and assess. This paper reports a study aiming to develop a better understanding of the role of digital literacy skills in such EAP pathway programs, and how embedding explicit digital literacy tuition in these pathway programs impacts on students’ performance in- and perception of difficulties in subsequent undergraduate study. Undergraduate EAL students (N=125) at one Australian university participated in this study enabling the researchers to contrast the experience and performance of those who gained entry via an EAP pathway program with an explicit focus on digital literacy, with those who entered via an alternate pathway without explicit digital literacy tuition. The study finds that students who enter via a university EAP pathway with an explicit digital literacy focus, report a better understanding of academic integrity issues, course requirements and less difficulty accessing course content than peers who enter via a traditional language pathway. As a result of which, we argue for a reconceptualisation of EAP pathway programs to include an explicit digital literacy component.