ICT Tools in ESP Syllabus Design

Designing a Syllabus for a Course in Technical English for Industry 4.0





English for Specific Purposes, syllabus design, technical English, Information Communication Technologies, Blended Learning


In recent years, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) have become a regular part of everyday English Language Teaching (ELT) practices in higher education and are merging with face-to-face activities. A hybrid modality, defined as Blended Learning (BL) (Sharma and Barrett 2007), has become established practice in Italian universities. The advantages of BL have long been recognized, particularly in ESP instruction (Luzón, 2009; Arnó-Macía, 2012), whose overall objective is to adapt the language learning experience to the learners’ specific needs. ESP practitioners who have experimented with BL to deliver their university courses may have recognized in it an efficient way of meeting the students’ needs and offering them an original experience. Having learned the lesson of the Covid-19 pandemic, and since they will very likely continue to teach their courses in hybrid or blended modalities in the future, it is arguably essential that ESP practitioners explore the full potential of ICT tools and are brought to reflect on the issues pertaining to their use. This paper aims to contribute to a reflection on the use of ICT in English language teaching (ELT) in higher education. It draws on the author’s personal experience of designing a Blended Learning (BL) syllabus for an undergraduate English for Specific Purposes (ESP) course in Technical English at the Department of Sciences and Methods for Engineering (DISMI) of the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia in the academic year 2021/2022. It describes the syllabus design process, illustrating how ICT tools and particularly online resources were used to analyze target students’ needs and customize the syllabus for the Technical English course.

Author Biography

Marco Bagni

Marco Bagni holds  a PhD  in  English Studies, with a Doctoral Thesis on university students’ attitudes towards English and English as a Lingua Franca. He is currently an adjunct lecturer at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia, where he teaches Technical English and English Language. He has taught English Linguistics at the University of Mantova. He also works as a High School Teacher of Spanish in Reggio Emilia. His research interests include Global English Language Teaching, English as a Lingua Franca, the Sociolinguistics of English and Language Variation, English Language Teaching.


Arnó-Macía, Elisabet. “The Role of Technology in Teaching Languages for Specific Purposes Courses.” The Modern Language Journal 96 (2012): 89-104.

Basturkmen, Helen. “Analysing Needs.” Developing Courses in English for Specific Purposes. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. 17-35.

Belcher, Diane. “What ESP Is and Can Be: An Introduction.” English for Specific Purposes in Theory and Practice. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2010. 1-20.

Bloch, Joel. “Technology and ESP.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Edited by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 385-401.

Carvalho, Núbia Gabriela Pereira and Edson Walmir Cazarini. “Industry 4.0 – What Is It?” Industry 4.0 – Current Status and Future Trends. Edited by Jesús Hamilton Ortiz. London: IntechOpen, 2020. 3-11.

Constantinou, Elis Kakoulli and Salomi Papadima-Sophocleous. “The Use of Digital Technology in ESP: Current Practices and Suggestions for ESP Teacher Education.” Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes 8.1 (2020): 17-29.

Dashtestani, Reza and Nadezda Stojkovic. “The Use of Technology in English for Specific Purposes (ESP) Instruction: A Literature Review.” Journal of Teaching English for Specific and Academic Purposes 3.3 (2016): 435-456.

Douglas, Dan. “ESP and Assessment.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Edited by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 367-383.

Dudeney, Gavin and Nicky Hockly. “ICT in ELT: How Did We Get Here and Where Are We Going?” ELT Journal 66.4 (2012): 533-542.

Dudley-Evans, Tony and Maggie Jo St. John. Developments in English for Specific Purposes: A Multi-disciplinary Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Flowerdew, Lynne. “Needs Analysis and Curriculum Development in ESP.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Edited by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 325-346.

Gavioli, Laura. Exploring Corpora for ESP Learning. Amsterdam: John Benjamins, 2005.

Hartle, Sharon. “Professional Development for EMI: The Choice of a Blended Learning Format for Training EMI Lecturers at the University of Verona.” Iperstoria 16 (2020): 169-191.

Hinkelman, Don. “Evolution of Blended Learning.” Blending Technologies in Second Language Classrooms. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 1-21.

Hodges, Charles, et al. “The Difference between Emergency Remote Teaching and Online Learning.” EDUCAUSE Review 27 March (2020): 1-12. http://hdl.handle.net/10919/104648. Last visited 30/08/2022.

Holme, Randal. ESP Ideas: Recipes for Teaching Professional and Academic English. Harlow: Longman, 1996.

Hyland, Ken. “English for Academic Purposes.” The Routledge Companion to English Studies. Edited by Constant Leung and Brian Vincent Street. London: Routledge, 2014. 392-404.

---. English for Academic Purposes: An Advanced Resource Book. London: Routledge, 2006.

Ibbotson, Mark. Professional English in Use. Engineering. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Johns, Ann M. “The History of English for Specific Purposes Research.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Edited by Brian Paltridge and Sue Starfield. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 5-30.

Johns, Tim. “Data-driven Learning: The Perpetual Challenge.” Teaching and Learning by Doing Corpus Analysis: Proceedings of the Fourth International Conference on Teaching and Language Corpora, Graz 19-24 July, 2000. Edited by Bernhard Kettemann and Georg Marko. New York: Rodopi, 2002. 105-117.

Long, Michael. “Methodological Issues in Learner Needs Analysis.” Second Language Needs Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. 19-76.

Luzón, Maria José. “Learning Academic and Professional English Online: Integrating Technology, Language Learning and Disciplinary Knowledge.” Teaching Academic and Professional English Online. Edited by Isabel González-Pueyo et al. Bern: Peter Lang, 2009. 11-33.

Nesi, Hilary. “ESP and Corpus Studies.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Edited by Brian Paltridge and Susan Starfield. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 407-426.

Ortiz, Jesús Hamilton. Industry 4.0: Current Status and Future Trends. London: IntechOpen, 2020.

Paltridge, Brian and Sue Starfield. “Introduction.” The Handbook of English for Specific Purposes. Boston: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013. 1-4.

Piccioli, Ilaria. Take the Wheel Again: English for Mechanical Technology & Engineering. Bergamo: Editrice San Marco, 2016.

Robinson, Pauline. ESP Today: A Practitioner's Guide. Hemel Hempstead: Prentice Hall International, 1991.

Sadeghi, Manijeh. “A Shift from Classroom to Distance Learning: Advantages and Limitations.” International Journal of Research in English Education 4.1 (2019): 80-88.

Sharma, Pete. “Blended Learning.” ELT Journal 64.4 (2010): 456-458.

Sharma, Pete and Barney Barrett. Blended Learning: Using Technology in and Beyond the Language Classroom. Oxford: Macmillan, 2007.

Whittaker, Claire. “Introduction.” Blended Learning in English Language Teaching: Course Design and Implementation. Edited by Brian Tomlinson and Claire Whittaker. London: British Council, 2013. 11-23.