Relying on authentic texts drawn from such sources as National Public Radio, CNN, and newspapers, this site offers a collection of readings and grammar exercises for Advanced ESL learners. It addresses grammar, vocabulary, reading and writing skills. Learning outcomes include increasing fluency and accuracy in writing and developing reading, critical thinking and Internet research skills. The site is divided into resources (texts), tools (a concordance, information on how to use browsers and search engines, and links to Grammar Safari and LinguaCenter), and help with ten widespread grammar problems. Using a detailed index, it presents texts in which a given structure--for example, articles--figures prominently and provides follow-up exercises or mini-quizzes for practicing the featured point. Immediate feedback is available for many exercises, while some links are available only to students at the University of Illinois.
Evaluation and Observation
The site's main purpose of improving grammar and writing is clear, and it offers plenty of contextualized language, reading and research resources, and exercises for practicing language skills relevant to college students. The organizing principle is also well thought out as a process that begins with the reading of authentic texts and ends with learners' focussing on how words, collocations, and difficult grammatical structures are manipulated by professional writers. Links to high-quality sources of information and reading for students of English for Academic Purposes offer variety and interest.
Rare typographical errors and bad links could be corrected.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The site is most useful as a tutorial for independent learners. Of the ten grammar points that it features, several are amenable to repeated practice of the type offered in this site, particularly verb tenses, passive voice, modals, conditionals, and verbal complements. The materials are well-organized in a linear fashion such that learners can quickly find and work on desired trouble spots.
More varied exercises might better sustain learners' interest.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
The site is easy to use and the exercises quick to load, requiring little memory.
The appropriate addition of sound and/or color would make the exercises more engaging, as might a different mechanism for the scoring of some of the exercises. Some of the color combinations making reading certain screens difficult.