About us

The Network of English Language Enhancement (ELE_net) is part of the Office of the Provost​. It was established in September 2014 to provide effective solutions for the enhancement of English language skills across AKU. As a transnational English medium university, it is essential for members of the AKU community to be able to communicate effectively in English.

ELE_net functions as a distributed network. This means that we work closely with other parts of the University to identify English language needs and find effective solutions. Sometimes the ELE_net team​​​​​​ is directly involved in designing and delivering English courses and at other times we work with partners to do this. The main approach to scaling up and widening access to high quality English language provision is through online learning. Your gateway to these learning resources is through the AKU website.​

Find out about ELE_net's projects and activities below.

  • ​​English Course for AKU Drivers
  • ​​Online English courses fo​r ​staff
  • English test studies at AKU​
  • English courses for AKU staff​
  • ​Design office staff course​
  • ​Development workshop for SONAM English Team
  • ​Learning English for Academic Purposes​

  • English Course for AKU Drivers

    drivers_1.pngA group of 11 AKU drivers have completed a part-time English course. The course ran for nine weeks and was designed and delivered by the British Council in Karachi in collaboration with ELE_net and HR at AKU.

    The content of the course was based on common encounters AKU drivers are likely to experience with passengers in a typical working day. The principal objective was to develop the learners’ confidence with using English in common work-related contexts. With ​driver_certificate.png​each module, the drivers learned situational language for these encounters, focusing on vocabulary and functional phrases.

    By the end of the course, the drivers reported that they felt far more confident when using English for greeting passengers and engaging in conversations with them. They also felt that they were able to deal better with queries about places to visit in Karachi.

    Images show British Council teacher Sara Ahmed explaining a language point during an English class and below, AKU Vice President Human Resources, Carol Ariano, giving out the course certificates.

    O​nline English c​ourses for AKU staff​

    staff_online_certificates.jpeg ELE_net recently completed piloting three online English courses for 115 staff members, ​from 36 departments at AKU. Course participants were expected to complete approximately five hours a week of online self-study over a 16 week period. The aim of the pilot project for ELE_net was to assess the effectiveness of the online courses in enhancing the English language proficiency of participating staff.

    Course feedback and evidence of language skill development was gained through surveys, pre and post-course proficiency tests and focus groups. The online courses were shown to have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the language proficiency of staff. More than 90% of staff felt that their English had improved as a result of the course and also felt more confidence in their ability to study online. Course participants who successfully completed their online course improved on their pre-course Aptis test (a British Council English language proficiency test) result by an average of 13% when retaken at the end of the course. 

    While the majority of course participants actively engaged in the online activities and tasks, a number of staff were not able to complete the course. We are keen to ensure that all staff are able to actively participate in their online course in order to maximise their learning. This is an area we will focus on addressing in the future.​ The invaluable staff feedback and findings from the pilot will form the basis of recommendations for the next stage of the project.​​

    ELE_net will be offering more opportunities for staff to participate in online English courses from January 2017. We look forward to you joining us on an English course soon!​

    English test s​tudies at AKU

    presentation.pngELE_net has been carrying out a number of studies assessing English levels among AKU students. The first study was with master’s students in three different locations (D​ar es Salaam, Karachi and London). This study compared the English levels of students on different programmes and year groups. 

    The test used for this this study was Password Knowledge. This is a test of the test taker’s knowledge of academic English in higher education settings. The results can be benchmarked against other international tests of English language, such as IELTS and TOEFL. AKU is now using Password as a common admissions test.

    The results of master’s study placed 85% of the students tested in the B2 band of the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR). The visa requirement for higher education study in the UK is B2 in all four language skills (Reading, Listening, Speaking and Writing). IELTS is currently the only external test that can be used for this purpose.

    The other test studies have focused on the undergraduates in SONAM, P. The first of these was a benchmarking study across all SONAM, P programmes and year groups – nearly 700 students in total. A follow study was carried out in February 2016 focusing on the BScN second year students. This ​study revealed the amount of progress the students had made in their knowledge of academic English after a year’s study at AKU.

    staff_courses.pngIn close collaboration with AKU Human Resources, ELE_net is piloting several English courses for AKU staff. These are part of a wider plan to provide more opportunities for AKU staff to enhance their English language skills. Approximately  140 staff are involved in this pilot project. Participants are mostly based in Karachi and are selected from a wide range of occupations and departments. 

    ELE_net is working with three external providers to run the pilot courses. These are the British Council, English 360 and Pearson. The courses being offered are:

    • two online British Council courses (Pathways and Select)

    • an online Pearson course (English Go)

    • a blended course for staff working in the Design Office using English 360 – an online platform with pre-loaded English language materials

    • a face-to-face course for AKU drivers run by the British Council (due to start in April).

    All the course participants take a test before the course and at the end of the course. This is to help assess the impact of the course on their English levels. The test results also allow us to benchmark English levels with international standards of language proficiency.

    Once the pilot courses have been completed and evaluated, ELE_net and HR will consider how to expand access to English language courses and support across AKU.

    Design office staff course


    ELE_net designed and delivered an English improvement course for a group of staff members from the AKU Design Office. The course focused on developing the participants’ skills in using English for Occupational Purposes. The main objective of this course was to provide a language-rich environment to encourage the participants to develop their English skills needed to communicate more effectively in their work environments.

    The course content focused on developing the participants communication skills by exposing them to scenarios that simulate their work environment. These scenarios were developed from the needs analysis undertaken by the participants. A broad range of activities and materials were used to improve the participants’ speaking skills.

    The course followed a blended approach and included ten 1.5 hour face-to-face classes and 6 hours of online learning tasks per week. The course was hosted on an online platform called ‘English 360’. This platform also contains thousands of hours of online material designed for improving English language skills.

    All the course participants actively participated in the course, and their eagerness to develop English language skills was commendable. During the course, the participants became more confident in speaking English and their fluency improved as a result. This improvement was remarked upon by the Head of Design. He felt that the participants had conquered their fear of communicating in English and were more willing to use in the workplace as a result. 

    ELE_net is very pleased with the success of this project and looks forward to expanding its English support services to other departments.  ​

    ​Development workshop for SONAM English Team 

    ELE_net organized a workshop in April 2016 for the SONAM, Pakistan English language team. This team is responsible for the English provision on SONAM’s academic programmes - amounting to around 3,000 contact hours a year. 

    The workshop was facilitated by Diane Schmitt (third from the left). Diane is a Senior Lecturer in English as a Foreign Language at Nottingham Trent University.  She is also the Chair of BALEAP, a UK-based professional organization supporting the development of those involved in Teaching English for Academic Purposes (TEAP). 

    The workshop covered a number of areas related to TEAP but mainly focused on the work BALEAP is carrying out to support professional development. Of particular interest was the TEAP accreditation scheme offered by BALEAP. This gives individuals the opportunity to apply for BALEAP fellowship by compiling and submitting a portfolio of work to evidence how they meet the requirements of the BAELAP competency framework.

    ELE_net is planning to join BALEAP. When it does, the SONAM English team and others involved in TEAP at AKU will have the opportunity to gain BALEAP fellowship status. For more information about the scheme or other benefits BALEAP members​hip provides, please email ele.net@aku.edu​.

    Learning English for Academic Purposes​

    LEAP.pngIn November 2015, ELE_net launched the first online course to be made openly available on the VLE for any student across the AKU campuses. The Learning English for Academic Purposes (LEAP) course was developed for AKU students who need to improve their English language skills for academic study. ELE_net delivered three iterations of this 12 week course, with over 150 students participating online in Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya, Pakistan and the UK.

    The course content was based on interactive, online learning materials developed by the University of Southampton, UK. These materials (technically known as learning objects) were designed to support the development of language skills for study in English medium higher education contexts. Course materials made use of text, audio and video based content, in addition to visual elements such as charts and graphs. The course also provided opportunities for students to interact and practise their language skills in discussion forums and synchronous chat rooms.

    Providing open access to this course represents the first step taken by ELE_net to address growing concerns about the English standards of many AKU students. Based on the principles of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC), the LEAP course provides an opportunity to extend widespread support in academic English to students across AKU. 

    This project generated valuable feedback from course participants to help develop and improve the LEAP course in preparation for its relaunch in late 2016. More information and registration details will be posted on the ELE_net web pages nearer the time.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​