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Submitted by Nanci Leiton
February 4, 2023
This review was originally written on May 11, 2022, to determine applicability of the curriculum in a specific context. It has been updated to reflect the reviewer’s opinion after adoption and implementation.
BurlingtonEnglish posits itself as a “standards-based, fully blended curriculum” serving as an “online digital solution for adult language learners.” Intended for use as a tool for in-person learning with digital components to support online learning and practice, BurlingtonEnglish (BE) offers extensive multimodal student learning activities and comprehensive instructor support.
With the inevitable integration of AI in the language learning process, this review supports BE as a useful resource for a range of ESOL courses. This review is my opinion after using the program to supplement an Integrated Education and Training (IET) course at Portland Community College.
The BE components that have supported my course outcomes are primarily the English Language and Career Readiness materials. Those most relevant to my initial review included:
General English - Burlington Core (6 levels, Basics - Advanced)Example: Scope & Sequence for High Beginner
Career Exploration and Soft Skills (3 levels, Beginners - Advanced)
Grammar (3 levels, Beginners - Advanced)
Digital Literacy (List of topics)
In my mixed-level course, I have used material ranging across 3 Burlington Core levels, and this has worked well with my students at PCC ESOL Levels 4-7, or English Language Proficiency levels (ELPS) 2-4. The ability to assign similar topics at different levels to meet each student where they were was also a plus. I’ve used the Burlington Core component extensively and augmented those modules with grammar and topical vocabulary.
Additional components that became part of the course and that demonstrate the extent of options available in BE span 2 sets of word lists in the English for Specific Careers modules and CASAS test prep:
Prepare for CASAS With an enormous database of test items, students can take dozens of practice tests without repeating questions. Using BE to prepare students for the exam environment, especially if they are unfamiliar with digital test-taking when they walk into the computer lab on Test Day, helps to lower performance barriers like test anxiety.
The Welders Wordlist and Factory/Plant Workers Wordlist, specifically the categories Safety (nouns and PPE) and Tasks (action verbs) became student favorites. I’ve included an example with the accompanying Vietnamese translation here.
BurlingtonEnglish offers further resources that this reviewer has not yet had the opportunity to use in class, but that look useful in a typical ESL pathway:
Readers (high beginner to high intermediate), ranging from Ghandi and Tutankhamen to Frankenstein and Last of the Mohicans. Note: Peers at other institutions who use BE readers have mentioned them as key resources in their classes.
English in America (Civics) Internet Safety, Housing, Diversity, Becoming a Citizen, Emergencies and Banking are just a sampling of the topics available in 3 levels.
Messaging This feature allows more direct communication between teacher and student, and student and material. Other instructors report using the messaging feature successfully, but I have been using my school’s LMS to post learning activities and link students directly to assigned BE lessons & practice.
BE offers both in-class lessons and assigned or self-directed student lessons.
In-Class lessons are project-able, interactive lessons intended to be led by an instructor. Teachers can easily toggle between in-class and student lessons to demonstrate homework or self-guided practice. Whole group review activities and games keep students engaged and prepare them for independent practice.
The topics are relevant to adult learners, with level-appropriate grammar points and engaging activities (see the In-Class lesson above about Small Talk at work). Note the range from overview to skills practice to review activity.
Support elements for instructors include a Course & Lesson Planner, In-Class Lessons, Worksheets and a Progress checker. This Progress checker informs both formative and summative assessments. This chart shows progress for one of my students in Module 4: Money Matters. It denotes time spent (total and in/out of class), best scores, and individual completion rate:
Multi-modal student lessons are presented as sequential modules that can be assigned by the instructor and repeated by students as desired. Tutorials are available for additional guidance. Among the support are Student Lessons, Vocabulary Practice, a Portfolio and Progress tracker (students see their own progress like the progress tracker Money Matters above). Much like the satisfaction achieved when closing rings on a fitness tracker, this progress has been enthusiastically pointed out when my students complete their “rings”.
This tool collects data from every speaking activity and “learns” a student’s pronunciation. With this information, the student can focus on improving their common errors through practice delivered by semi-customized instruction. Popular among students, this tool allows for self-correction in an otherwise labor-intensive area of feedback. See this example for the pronunciation of “h”:
Wordlists are designed for self-directed practice, but students often need guidance to get started. The wordlists can be sorted to focus on various aspects of the target content, which, in my Welding IET, concerned safety, equipment, scientific terms and measurements, techniques and process, weld features, and so on. For each word, students can listen, see model sentences and practice pronunciation. Wordlists can be personalized so that students can revisit key or problematic vocabulary (circled in red below).
Here is a sample of how students might engage with the vocabulary. Review activities include pronunciation, spelling, listening, speaking, matching, and more. At any point, students can click on the Pronunciation Course icon (circled in red) to practice specific sounds. (phone screen on L; desktop on R):
Accessibility options are easy to find and use on every page.
BE correlates with Oregon Adult College and Career Readiness Standards (OACCRS) and Oregon Adult English Language Proficiency Standards (OAELPS) ensuring WIOA success.
Instructions can be translated into student’s L1, established at registration, with a single key tap
Translations are available in 63 languages.
Graphics and lessons are mobile-friendly and technology and learning are integrated seamlessly.
Support and training for instructors is readily available and provided by friendly, helpful trainers.
Instructors/students can access the Pronunciation Course at any point in the program.
Tutorials are located on the app.
Site navigation is not intuitive; however, with instruction and prompting, it is easily learned for those with minimal tech skills (learners who are familiar with navigation on their own phones, for example).
The speaking exercises require a headset with a mic for best results with the pronunciation trainer. For my IET, these were supplied to the students. Another option might be to use BE in your school’s language lab.
Students who are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with technology will face greater challenges than those who are not. That said, each lesson offers a number of printable handouts, and each module ends with a downloadable assessment. I found that offering a paper worksheet yo accompany each in-class lesson eased tech anxiety for some students.
My students used BE on both their phones and assigned Chromebooks. Early in the course, we spent some class time downloading the BE app and practicing navigation on these devices. After that, students functioned mostly autonomously. Instructors at other levels and institutions report using a more hands-on approach, which has been equally successful.
During my initial review, I recommended using the BurlingtonEnglish curriculum with ESOL courses at my institution, and, after using BE for several months, I firmly support BE as a learning resource for ELL adults at multiple levels. Real-world topics and naturally integrated skills with a range of engaging and easy-to-use interactive activities make it popular among students as well. Learners were highly motivated to use the app on their phones; they reported working on assigned tasks during their lunch breaks and in waiting rooms as well as during planned study times both in and out of the classroom. The flexibility BE offers as a cell-friendly platform serves our students well as we move forward in the digital age.
I’d like to express appreciation to my ESOL and IET peers at Chemeketa Community College, Rogue Community College, and Blue Mountain Community College for their reflections and comments on using BE in their courses. Some of these instructors have already used BE for years, and their comments encouraged me to expand my use of the program in my own courses.
Funding for the BurlingtonEnglish curriculum at Portland Community College has been provided by the State of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) and Community College and Workforce Development.
In sum, the more I use BurlingtonEnglish, the more I like it. If you would like an expansion on any part of this review, feel free to contact me or respond on this platform. To request a demo account or learn more about BurlingtonEnglish, contact BE’s representative listed below or visit www.burlingtonenglish.com.
Nanci Leiton, MA TESOL
ESOL Instructor, Portland Community College
BurlingtonEnglish in Oregon
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Mailing Address: PO Box 12322, Portland, OR 97212