Teaching business English: learners’ motivation and integration of eLearning in Russia


Рассматриваются вопросы обучения деловому английскому языку, проблемы мотивации обучающихся, различные аспекты интеграции elearning в традиционные формы обучения. Приводятся результаты исследования мотивации и предпочтения различных интернет-технологий и сервисных функций в изучении английского языка.

Общая информация

Ключевые слова: Business English, eLearning, motivation, learner autonomy

Рубрика издания: Психологические проблемы образования в условиях информатизации и компьютеризации общества

Тип материала: материалы конференции

Для цитаты: Уддин М. Teaching business English: learners’ motivation and integration of eLearning in Russia // Психология образования в XXI веке: теория и практика.

Полный текст

English language teaching has gone through a radical shift of emphasis for the last four decades, beginning with the communicative revolution of the mid 1970s. And Business English, which appeared on the English language Teaching (ElT) stage as a course programme and learning objective in the late seventies, has been shaped by a range of influences from both the ElT and non-ElT world. Business English courses are offered by many language schools worldwide (by over 100 schools in the UK alone); there are more than 150 Business English titles on UK publishers’ lists; examining boards offer Business English examinations; the Business English Special Interest group (part of IATEFl, the International Association for Teachers of English as Foreign language) has over 1500 members from around the world. Yet despite this enormous interest, Business English is an area often neglected by linguistic researchers, who prefer to work on other more easily defined – areas of special English (Ellis &Johnson, 1994).

Teaching of Business English brings together three broad areas:

a) Teaching – the pedagogic skills involved in running training programs.

b) English – knowledge of the language and, latterly, an understanding of the role of communication in professional situations.

c) Business – familiarity with the key issues facing specific learners or learner groups.

Business English is not a subject of study with a solid base. It is an evolving practice which appears many guises around the world and which takes a variety of forms according to local conditions and requirements. Business English arises from two expediencies: the need for a means of communication between those wishing to do business internationally; and the language used for this communication – English.

Teaching Business English is quite a new phenomenon for Russian language schools and universities compare to general English but current trends indicate a great prospect for this segment of English for Special Purpose (ESP). As the Russian economy is in transition to free market economy, volumes of international trade and foreign direct investment (FDIs) have been growing rapidly. Many multinationals and transnational corporations from developed as well emerging developing countries have been entering into Russian market since the Soviet Union collapsed. With the rapid growth of international trade and commerce the demand for English more specifically Business English has been growing rapidly for last decade or so.

Many studies of human learning have shown that motivation is a key to learning (Crookes & Schmidt, 1991). Psychologists also believe that motivation as one of the major factors of academic achievement and work productivity. Motivation is the most frequently used explanation for success or failure in completing any complex task and has been considered a pivotal concept in most theories of learning. Researchers have indicated that it is very important to examine the individual differences in student motivation in order to describe and understand the connection between students' personal characteristics and academic achievement (Snow, 1990). Maslow clearly indicated that intrinsic motivation is superior to extrinsic motivation according to his hierarchy of human needs (Maslow, 1970). Crookes and Schmidt and Brown also indicated that more and more research findings strongly favored intrinsic motivation. How the teacher or instructional designer can motivate non-intrinsically motivated learners and help them learn better is an issue still to be resolved.

Keller believed that external conditions could be successfully constructed to facilitate and increase learner motivation. Based on this notion, Keller integrated several learning theories and developed the ARCS (Attention, Relevance, Confidence, and Satisfaction) model (Keller, 1983).

learners’ motivation in Business English classroom in Russia has varied significantly for various reasons.Aresearch has been conduced among teachers and learners of Business English to study this notion and it shows the following outcomes.

Common motivational factors for learning Business English in Russia:

  •  to get a better or well paid job;
  •  to improve internal and external business communication skills;
  •  to make a major career change;
  •  to work for a foreign or multinational companies;
  •  to work and live abroad; and
  •  to get a higher business degree like MBA at home or abroad.

As we can see dominant motivational factors are extrinsic here are some intrinsic factors which are common among Russian learners:

  •  to belong to English speaking international community;
  •  to communicate in English while travelling;
  •  to meet and communicate with foreigners and English speaking friends;
  •  to learn different cultures and understand the world better;
  •  to heighten social status; and
  •  to understand American or English art and literature.

To enhance learners' intrinsic motivation, teachers can deliver feedback in the classroom, provide content-based teaching, such as English for specific purposes or English for the workplace, and design different kinds of assignments that engage students in cooperative learning instead of competition in instructional activities (Brown, 1994).

Brown also suggested that, instead of tests and exams, the use of peer evaluation, self-diagnosis, and level-check exercises could enhance students’ intrinsic motivation. Teachers can help students set their personal goals, short term and long term, to motivate them to achieve self-actualization and strive for self-esteem and fulfillment.

learners’level of motivation highly correlated with the learners’expectation i.e. reasons for learning Business English. Our study indicates that, learners of Business English classes are highly motivated compare to learners of general or Communicative English. Most of them are well aware about their roles and responsibility and determined to improve their performance by participating in all kinds of classroom activities. It’s a very common phenomenon that Russian learners are very good at English grammar as most of them have started learning English at school but have little or no communication skills as they hardly communicate with native speakers of the language at work or personal life. On average students who study English as a second language at school and university spend approximately 1000 academic hours in the English language classroom. As, Russian is the state language people only use Russian at office and personal life and really don’t bother about speaking in English even though they know the language. But recently this situation has started to change as English is widely used and highly demanded at workplace in many renowned national and multinationals organizations. Nowadays it’s very common among companies to arrange in house Business English classes for their employees so that they don’t need to go to language school after work. In this situation companies are usually paying for their employees. From personal observations and survey it’s evident that learners are not as motivated as when they pay themselves for their lessons. As a result tardiness and absenteeism are very common in those groups of learners. On the contrary, when individuals come to school for Business English classes they are highly motivated as they are paying for it, so they try to get the maximum from each and every lesson and try not to miss the class and do their home work. Although they become tired after hard and long working day, they always try to present in the class because they want to communicate, improve their language skills and share their knowledge and new information with other group mates.

As we know that motivated learners are more likely to be successful in learning than not motivated. Beside those extrinsic and intrinsic motivational factors of Business English learners, we can identify several critical factors which may play a big part in motivating students:

  •  see immediate result i.e., can speak and express their feelings in English;
  •  interesting text-book;
  •  qualified and experienced teacher;
  •  methods of teaching;
  •  good atmosphere and comfortable learning environments;
  •  friendly and cooperative teacher; and
  •  friendly and helping group mates.

Before the Internet, it was hard for us to learn English if you didn't attend a college or university. These were the only institutions where the language was widely spoken. If we lived in a community so poor that it didn't have a college or university, our chances of ever learning English were remote. While many people still live in these circumstances today, the Internet has allowed the English language to spread around the word. Because the Internet was invented in the West, English was inherently built into it. Because Internet usage has expanded throughout the world, more people are being exposed to English. In any event, the Internet has played a powerful role in allowing English to spread across the world, there are more than 1 billion people who are learning English and this number likely to increase in the future.

A study has been conducted online as well paper survey among teachers and learners to find the teachers and learners Internet habit, motivation and attitude towards integration of online or elearning in teaching and learning English in Russia. Total respondents of the survey is 101, 37 online and 64 paper survey, among 37 online respondents 20 teachers, teacher-trainer of English and Business English. Important findings from the study are highlighted as follows:

Table 1: Learners Internet habit

% Teachers

% learners


use often

use often


1. I use Internet at work




2. I use Internet at home




3. I use Skype/MSN/ICQ/Messenger/Agent for communication




4. I use social sites like Facebook/Vkontake




5. I read blogs in Russian




6. I read blogs in English




7. I visit forum for my personal interest




8. I visit forum to learn English




9. I use my computer for learning English




10. I use my mobile phone/smartphone/iPhone/iPad for learning English




* Not sufficient data to include








From the above table it is clear more than 90% respondents reply that they use Internet regularly at home or work. 72% teachers and 92% learners use online audio-video communication service like Skype, Messenger, MSN and ICQ. 100% learners and 74% teachers regularly use social networking sites such as Facebook and Vokantake for staying in touch with their friends or colleagues. Only 46% teachers and 41% learners use mobile phone, smart phone, iPod and iPad for learning and teaching English.

Table 2: Attitude towards Internet tools for learning or teaching English online

% Teachers think useful

% learners think useful

1. Online/mobile dictionary



2. Online newspapers and magazines



3. Online/mobile chat



4. Forums



5. Blogs



6. Skype/MSN/ICQ/Agent



7. Social sites like Facebook, Vkontakte



8. Internet games



9. YouTube



10. Internet televisions



From the study it is evident that 96% teachers think online or mobile dictionaries are very useful for teaching English and most of them use them regularly in their classes. 77% learners strongly agree that online magazine and newspapers can be very useful tool for learning English. 92% teachers and 77% learners consider Skype, ICQ, MSN, Messenger can be really effective in learning and teaching English online. Only 64% learners and 71% teachers consider that Internet games are useful in learning and teach­ing English. More than 70% respondents think YouTube is very effective tool for learning English.

Table 3: Motivation and attitude towards Online/eLearning

1.         Online learning is very effective and motivating 73 66

2.        Anyone can learn language online 59 56

3.         Online/elearning is not for me because I need to talk to real person 66 45

4.        language can be learnt only face-to-face not online 74 49

5.         Online learning saves time as you don't need to go to school 78 58

6.         Online learning is very expensive 66 67

7.         Online learning is interesting and interactive 73 55

8.         I can speak with native English teachers from all over the world 86 85

9.         Online learning is not stressful 60 71

10.      Online learning is very flexible and result oriented 73 68


73% teachers strongly agree that elearning is very effective and motivating for learners, on the contrary 66% learners share the similar idea. While asked whether anyone can learn language online, only 59% teachers and 56% learners agree with that statement. 45% learners reply that ‘online or elearning is not for me because I need to speak with real teacher or person’ while 66% teachers strongly believe that 322 it is possible. Surprisingly, nearly 85% teachers and learners strongly agree that learners can speak with native speakers from different countries online.

To validate the possible integration of elearning and online materials with traditional classroom it’s necessary to know that learners existing Internet habit and awareness of Internet technologies. The study indicates that learners and teachers are quite confident in using Internet tools but many teachers reluctant to integrate them in teaching process because of typical stereotypes, lack of experience, lack of facilities, fear of rejection by students, not enough preparation time, and not enough Internet resources for references.

On the basis of the findings from the study we can develop an integrated approach in teaching Business English. Various communicative and interactive elearning tools can be used to enhance and sustain learners’ motivation and create positive attitude towards elearning.

1) Online feedback:Regularand instant feedbackonlearners’completedworksincreasemotivation to work better and reduce absenteeism. For this group-email, forums or blogs can be used extensively. As Business English learners usually miss lessons for unavoidable circumstances like business trip, so, online feedback can really help them to move with the rest of the group even though they can’t attend the lesson physically.

2) learners’ autonomy: A vast majority of students are really enthusiastic about using the Web for learning English. The Internet-assisted instruction fosters learner independence through such activities as 1) interpersonal exchanges, 2) information collection & analysis and 3) web-publishing (Krajka & grudzinska, 2002). The integration of learner autonomy into digital communication is demonstrated by the global Classroom Project (Tretyakov, 2002) developed by the European University language Centre in St. Petersburg, Russia, and the School of literature, Communication, and Culture of the georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, the USA.

3) Peer evaluation: learners usually learn more from others’mistakes than their own. Peer evaluation can lead to some conflicting situation in traditional classroom. group blogs or forums, social networks are perfect for giving writing tasks to Business English learners. Moreover, learners can simulate e-mail or other business letter writing within groups which is more motivating, realistic, interactive and interesting for them.

3) Supplementary materials, homework, assignment, schedule online: An online calendar or journal is really handy for all of these. However, teachers must encourage learners to visit online calendar or journal regularly to get all necessary information and materials before and after the lessons. Moreover, there may be students who want to read extra materials and do extra grammar exercises but don’t know which is suitable for them. For them this can be really useful as they can go to the respective blog or forum and choose interesting materials for them. Data collected in another study revealed that students had an overall positive attitude to using the teacher-selected websites for learning English (Kung & Chuo, 2002). Teachers can put bookmarks of authentic online text, audio and video language materials in their blogs, forums, social sites or group mails.

4) Developing online readership: Various online projects can be established on various Business topics where learners can contribute with their own ideas and thoughts in English. By doing this learner develops own readership, become open minded and ready to accept criticism from their fellow group mates. More importantly, it helps learners to break the psychological barriers in verbal and written communication. Students can make small video presentation and share it with other group members to get feedback and improve their skills.

5) Interactive online audio or video communication: Interactive online audio and video conference once or twice in a week for 30-40 minutes can be integrated with traditional classroom. This is really helpful for students who can not attend several lessons because of avoidable or unavoidable circumstances. From personal observation it is quite apparent that it remarkably increases learners’ motivation, self-confidence and attitude towards elearning.

Popularity of Business English is growing rapidly in Russia. The potential market is really big and rapidly growing in many big cities all over Russia, so the schools, colleges and universities are offering Business English courses not only to in-service professionals but also pre-service learners. learners are eager to learn and highly motivated in the classroom because they strongly believe that if they can really improve their business and communication skills and it will help them to move further in their professional career. The major potential advantage of integration of online or elearning in Business English classes is a wide range of interactive activities that permit to foster independent learning and it promotes learners’ autonomy. Teachers and learners attitude towards learning Business English on Internet has been positive. Successful integration of online or elearning in the traditional classrooms depends largely on learners command of computer skills, Internet habit, self-organization, experience in assessing information on websites and good reading comprehension skills in English.


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Информация об авторах

Уддин Мд. Актхер, Аспирант, Московский городской психолого-педагогический университет, Россия, e-mail: aktherpu@gmail.com



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