The globalization of the economy and communicationmarket in combination to the rapid development of technology have led to thecreation of new literacies which are affecting both fields of higher educationand workplace. Thereby, teaching English for Academic or Professional Purposesin our thriving Digital World has to be able to compensate for the students’ evolvingneeds, promoting critical thinking and autonomous learning while focusing onthe development of multi-literacies. The key to this world-wide socioeconomiccontext, that ESP students need to gain, is the label of multi-literate.Assisting ESP students to become multi-literate is the foundation of understanding,deconstructing and constructing the meaning of a large variety of new forms oftexts, especially electronic texts (Luzón, 2007).English for Specific Purposes (ESP) refers to Englishas a second or foreign language teaching and learning which are aimed to aparticular academic area of study or professional field.There is a generalconsensus in the literature that ESP should be perceived as an approach tolanguage learning which caters for the learners’ particular needs for communicationin their professional context (Hutchinson and Waters 1991, Paltridge andStarfield 2013, Muñoz-Luna and Taillefer 2018). Anintegral component of ESP courses design is needs analysis. A needs analysis encompassesidentifying the learners’ needs and expectations pertaining to the ESPcourse (Hyland 2006, Gálová 2007, Paltridge and Starfield 2013).
Both the content and the methodology of ESP coursesare designed with respect to the learners’ needs, while the learners’ previous linguistic knowledge mayalso be taken into consideration. It is in this way that ESP teaching istransformed into a learner-oriented approach.ESP pedagogy has also been impacted by the ongoingdevelopment of new technologies.
Over the last decades, there is a growinginterest in technology implementation in the ESP classroom.Since ESP pedagogyhas been developed as a learner-oriented pedagogical approach, ESP teaching canbenefit from the use of technological tools. Technology puts the learners atthe center of the learning process, transforming them into active agents. Technology-enhancedESP teaching suggests a constructivist approach to learning. The main principleof the constructivist approach is that learners construct their learning basedon their prior knowledge and experience (Piaget 1980). Learners gain access toample authentic materials which enable them to get acquainted with real-lifeconditions and at the same time practice and consolidate what they have learntin the classroom.The ultimate goal of an ESP course is the promotion oflearners? autonomy.
Technology-enhanced learning is conducive to fosteringlearner autonomy, since it offers many opportunities for individualizedinstruction and self-directed learning. The teacher acts as a facilitator ofthe learning process, providing learners with the required guidance. In theirturn, learners become active participants in their own learning. Cooperationand communication skills are also considered to be indispensable at theworkplace.
Apart from the apparent aims of ESP teaching, namely renderinglearners into effective communicators of the English language in particularsettings, another objective of ESP teaching is to instill in them skills whichwill be useful throughout their academic and professional life.In the contextof ESP, tools, like Wikis and blogs allow learners to interact with each otherand engage themselves in collaborative writing tasks (Bárcena et al 2014).The integration of educational technology in ESPteaching also presents some challenges to both teachers and learners in today’sdigital world which is characterized by a variety of communication technologiessuch as multimedia and the Internet, while the nature of embedded texts ismultimodal since they are usually the result of written, audio, visual,animation and graphic materials. The need to become multi-literate is crucialin order to search, construct and deconstruct different modes of informationwhich are necessary in order to succeed in the current economy market (Cope& Kalantzis, 2000). As a consequence, ESP courses have to be created withthe core goal of making students multi-literate.
Kasper (2000) considersstudents multi-literate when they are able to manipulate information derivingfrom different communication modes and thrive in worldwide learningcommunities. The label of literate has expanded in order to entail apart fromlinguistic competence electronic literacy as well. Electronic literacy has beendefined by Shetzer and Warschauer’s (2000) as the ability to handle electronictools in order to search, construct and communicate. ESP courses have to engagestudents in new thought processes and equip them to manage hypertexts andinteractive multiple media while learning how to publish their work online andtake part in online synchronous and asynchronous exchanges (Coiro,2003).
Another skill that ESP students have to master is to evaluate Internetinformation based on accuracy, usefulness on the given task and ideology whileclassifying it as fact or point of view (Slaouti, 2002).First of all, teachersshould determine specific criteria for the selection of language learningmaterials and digital resources. They should adopt a critical attitude towardsthe various technological tools in order to assess whether they live up to thelearners’ needs and expectations of the course (Chapelle 2007, Chapelle andSauro 2017).The present paper is concerned with the use ofWebquests in ESP contexts. The main objective of the study is to offer insightsinto the implementation of Webquests in the ESP classroom as well as into thebenefits resulting from their use. More specifically, the following issues willbe addressed and discussed. In the first part of the paper, we attempt toprovide a comprehensive overview of how Webquests can be used in different ESPcourses, whereas the second part is intended to investigate the effectivenessof the application of Webquests in English for Medical Purposes classrooms. 1.
2 Webquests in ESP PedagogyWebquestsare defined as inquiry-based learning activities that involve learners inresearching and using web-based tools and retrieving information from theInternet with the aim to create their own projects (Dodge 1995). The model isbased on the premises of the constructivist approach. Learners are required toretrieve and process information they find on the Internet and use thisinformation for the creation of original projects.
According to March (2003), anotherkey feature of Webquests is that learners are involved in a scaffolded learningproject which they need to complete based on authentic content-based onlineresources. A Webquest consists of six parts: a) an Introduction, which sets themain objectives of the project, b) the Task, which informs students about whatis expected from them, c) the Process, which outlines the steps taken by thelearners, d) a list of resources provided by the teacher as guidance, e) evaluation,which determines the criteria learners can use as a basis for the assessment oftheir final product and f) the conclusion, whereby the main aims of the projectare summarized and learners are encouraged to continue their work (Dodge 1995).Although theywere not originally designed for use in foreign language learning, Webquestsare increasingly gaining ground in the foreign language learning field, andmore specifically in the area of ESP.ESP courses have embedded in their core the autonomous learner regimesince an active learner is a more effective learner and able to address his orher future needs, a regime that is shared by Webquests and can be realised byproviding the students the ability to choose from alternative paths and differentsub-tasks their way towards solving the task (Luzón & Gonzalez, 2006).What differentiates Webquests from other forms ofweb-based tasks implemented in educational settings is that Webquests asklearners to make a thorough analysis of the available resources and reconstructthe information. In the process of completing a Webquest task, learnerstransform the available information by making comparisons, combining them inorder to draw assumptions, solve problems and make decisions.
The teacheroffers clear instructions, monitors learners’ progress and supports them inevery step they take. Upon completion of the task, learners proceed to the evaluationof the final product and the steps followed throughout the task. It is especiallythis part of the task that enables learners to reflect on the whole process anddevelop their cognitive and metacognitive skills. Metacognition comprisesplanning, monitoring, evaluating, categorization, abstraction processes andreasoning (Peña-Ayala 2015). A useful tool of self-awareness which is highlyneeded in ESP courses and can be found in Webquests is the electronic journal,which can be used by students to increase their self-assessment by recordingall the gradual paths of thought they went through in order to complete thetask (Luzón, 2006).
Webquests can be used as an essential tool in the ESPcourse since through completion of their task students will be introducedto online glossaries, dictionaries, grammars and online maps that could beuseful in future tasks. Also, provided timelines and presentation samples orwriting templates will help students to learn how to organize their searchwhile incorporating multimedia elements and structures (Dodge, 2000).Genre-basedapproach that characterizes ESP can be incorporated in Webquests by focusing onthe form by including a large amount of different texts with highlightedspecific features through animation (Doughty & Long, 2003).Learners have the chance to use English in meaningfulcontexts and get involved with real-life situations. Webquests can be employedto create an authentic environment where students are exploring real issues bycollecting, processing and transforming information from the internet. Studentsown their learning by working collaboratively and taking individualaccountability of their work (Kundu & Bain, 2006). On the same context ofcollaboration, students could be asked to complete the final part of the task,discussion and information exchange, online for exercising their communicativeEnglish skills within the comfort of their group (Simina & Hamel, 2005).
Using online communication tools can also be used among the students and theinstructor to gain feedback on the task’s progress (McLoughlin & Luca,2006).According to Laborda (2009), Webquests can be embeddedin ESP courses for tourism where students will simulate a real life task ofgathering authentic material and conversing with potential future costumers ina travel agency by searching for the best packages of transportation andaccommodation fares.Webquests can be included in ESP business courses foradults by engaging with a variety of linguistic styles and developing businessskills in an environment that pushes adults to become a part of the newtechnology generation (Dede, 2005).
Another professional field in which Webquests arewidely used is Medicine. Webquests can be used to teach Medical English byassigning the students the role of the doctor who has to solve medicalmysteries by studying a disease’s symptoms and applying potential treatments inorder to reach to the correct diagnosis (Ghobain, 2016). Webquests arecharacterized by pedagogical approaches and cognitive activities that are alsofound in nursing education. By using Webquests nursing students come across astep-by-step approach that initiates them into the world of nursing bysearching sources on the Internet (Lahaie, 2007).1. MethodologyImplementationEvaluation Learningfrom online activities is more student friendly than learning from books orteacher’s notes while it promotes independent learning.
Students build new knowledgefrom already known information in theprocess of answering the differentactivities and employing critical thinking. By using Webquests, students getfamiliarizedwith searching information through the Internet synthesizing and takingdecisions about the use of that information.Teachers employ WebQuests in orderto integratedifferent ways ofreading as often as possible so as to lead thestudents to acquire their own critical knowledge upon the subject.Students willalso be able to experiment with the target language in acontent-based learning(Girón-García, C. 2016).