URV is leading a European project to improve English reading skills of university students

URV was awarded by the European Comission an Erasmus + KA2 Strategic Partnership project aimed at developing a StrategiesApp (StratApp) in order to improve English academic reading skills of university students

Female student reading books in library.

The URV associate professor, Mar Gutierrez-Colon Plana, is leading the group of researchers and IT professionals in charge of developing the game-based app. URV in collaboration with 5 other European institutions, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona (UAB), Wyższa Szkoła Lingwistyczna in Częstochowa (WSL) from Poland, Consorci de Serveis Universitaris de Catalunya (CSUC), Amistad IT company from Poland and Universite de Pau et des Pays de L’Adour (UPPA) from France, are currently developing a mobile and web application that combines the educational purpose of boosting students’ academic reading skills with game-design elements and game principles.

It has been seen that students still encounter difficulties when dealing with academic texts. As reported in the First European Survey on Language Competences (2011), in the countries involved in this project, the percentage of secondary students having achieved at least a B1 CEFR in general English reading is the following: France 13%, Spain 24%, Poland 24%. There is clearly a need to improve, taking into account that for a successful academic and professional interaction with other countries, handling academic English is a must, and the minimum level for that to be achieved is a B2 CEFR. Academic reading skills are a cross-sectional competence that enhances linguistic competence in foreign and mother tongue. In addition, the StratApp will not only help students academically in their own countries, but will also increase the employability and mobility of young people, by making them more competitive in the international job hunting arena.

The game-based application will provide thematic scenarios that will act as a plot thread. Then, it will be divided into mini-games or missions, each one designed at improving a specific aspect of academic reading skills. Completion of a certain number of missions or especially hard levels will be rewarded with collectable badges. When all missions are cleared, new scenarios can be unlocked. Scenarios are organized by skills level, following the CEFR, starting with an A2-B1 level. Completing all scenarios will imply a B2 reading academic competence. The target group of the current application are university students, given the need to reach B2 academic reading level at the end of their degree studies.

Initially, the application will be delivered to Educational Degree students in the 3 countries involved in the project, Spain, Poland and France, but further up the app aims to attract users from other European countries in order to compare the scores to other students in different institutions. Becoming aware of how many universities there are in Europe and how easily they can play together and compete should also raise the awareness of the European Union as an entity and foster European citizenship. The possibility of comparing one’s English levels to that of other students across Europe should also improve self-awareness in independent students or students who aim at moving to other countries.

The project is due to finalize in 2019, but after the end of the EU funding, the app will be available to help university students to improve their English reading skills while they have fun playing a game.

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