“How can I use AI to help me produce training materials for business English classes?”
Creating language training content was once a very slow business. Days and weeks were spent creating course plans, selecting vocabulary, writing dialogues and texts, creating practice exercises, and writing case studies. Generative AI can cut these times down to a few minutes.
Let’s say I want to create a complete course plan for an ESP offering entitled: “English for the automotive industry.” I just have to give Chat GPT a role, set the context, and give a very clear request.
You are an expert content developer for an online, corporate language training company. Write a syllabus for an English for Special Purposes course for the automotive industry. Make a syllabus with 15 lessons at B1, intermediate level on the CEFR scale. Include lessons on sustainable transport, electric cars and hybrid vehicles. Each lesson will provide the learners with 20 keywords or phrases. Select nouns, verbs and adjectives. 20 words or phrases in total. Write 3 can-do statements for each lesson. These should start with the word “can” and be between 8 and 15 words. The syllabus should also cover skills like presenting, taking part in meetings, writing emails, making small talk. Include one functional, language production, skills-based task for each lesson.
In a few seconds, Chat GPT generated a complete plan for the course with 15 lessons, each lesson looking like this.
Lesson 4: Electric Cars
Keywords: battery, charging infrastructure, electric motor, range anxiety, regenerative braking, charging station, plug-in hybrid, lithium-ion battery, electric vehicle (EV), battery life
- Can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles.
- Can explain the concept of regenerative braking in electric cars.
- Can describe the factors that affect the range of an electric vehicle.
Functional Task: Give a short presentation on the benefits and challenges of owning an electric car.
Next, I can then generate an exhaustive supply of texts, dialogues, comprehension questions, gap-fill exercises, and role-plays. For example, the following prompt is designed to create the language acquisition section of this lesson:
You are a content developer for an online, corporate language training company. Create a professional text with 150 words. You must stick to this word limit. It should be written in narrative form without bullet points or numbered lists. It should be for Intermediate, B1 English language learners on the CEFR scale. The topic is: “Electric Cars.” Include the following vocabulary: “battery, charging infrastructure, electric motor, range anxiety, regenerative braking, charging station, plug-in hybrid, lithium-ion battery, electric vehicle (EV), battery life.” The text is for training learners in English for the Automotive Industry, and it must cover the following learning objectives: “Can discuss the advantages and disadvantages of electric vehicles. Can explain the concept of regenerative braking in electric cars. Can describe the factors that affect the range of an electric vehicle.”
ChatGPT generated the following text:
Electric cars, also known as electric vehicles (EVs), are becoming increasingly popular in the automotive industry. One of the key components of an electric car is the battery, which powers the vehicle’s electric motor. Unlike traditional gasoline-powered cars, EVs do not require frequent refueling at gas stations. Instead, they rely on charging stations and a well-established charging infrastructure.
One advantage of electric cars is their environmental friendliness. They produce zero emissions, making them a sustainable transportation option. However, a common concern among potential EV owners is range anxiety, which refers to the fear of running out of battery power before reaching a charging station. The range of an electric vehicle can be affected by various factors, including driving conditions, weather, and speed.
Regenerative braking is another notable feature of electric cars. It allows the vehicle to recover and store energy that is typically lost during braking, thereby increasing the overall efficiency of the car and extending its range.
While electric cars offer numerous benefits, they also have limitations. The availability of charging stations and the time required to fully recharge the battery can be a challenge, especially on long trips. Additionally, the battery life of an electric car can deteriorate over time, requiring eventual replacement of the lithium-ion battery.
In conclusion, electric cars offer advantages such as zero emissions, regenerative braking, and reduced reliance on fossil fuels. However, factors like range anxiety, charging infrastructure, and battery life should be considered when discussing the viability of electric vehicles in the automotive industry.
If Chat GPT fails to integrate all the vocabulary in the text, you just need to give it further prompts or press ‘regenerate’. To keep the prompt writing to a minimum, you can save the best prompts into a tried and tested workflow, which you can use again and again. It is astounding that in a short time, all the other elements including the teachers notes and answer keys can be generated.
Why is this a game changer?
Teachers do not get paid to create and prepare materials, as they usually only get paid for the time spent teaching classes. With ChatGPT, the development time is only a fraction of what it was before. This makes it easier to customize materials for clients and create complex ESP content on the fly. In the past, a major disincentive was the impossibility of reusing such specialized content. The blocker was the time and cost, but if you are able to produce content quickly, you are less concerned about that. This opens up new worlds for trainers who are under a lot of time pressure.
You don’t need to be an expert
Another issue with creating specialized courses is that in theory you need to be an expert in a wide range of business activities. In the past, material writers were often constrained by their limited knowledge of industrial production or service industries. This meant that most trainers tended to find a unique niche and then specialize in this limited business sector. But ChatGPT is trained on vast amounts of data, so it has a much broader topical knowledge than any human could offer. With this limitless resource, you are not so limited to your niche and can work in a greater variety of industries.
Will generative AI replace content writers and put everyone out of a job? No. Large language models like ChatGPT cannot think on their own, and somebody needs to tell the model what to do. We will still need pedagogical experts with teaching experience who know how lesson materials should be constructed, what a good dialogue looks like, how to write a clear instruction for an exercise, etc. If you want to get high quality results from a tool like ChatGPT you have be able to write good prompts. A bad prompt will create bad content. Human creativity, intellect, and judgment remain irreplaceable in content creation. Generative AI only aids by refining the process, working alongside content writers to maximize efficiency and effectiveness. If anything, ChatGPT will make teachers more creative, extending their knowledge and giving them new roles as content auditors and editors.
Ruairi Braddell is a CELTA-qualified English trainer. He was born in Cobh in southern Ireland, but spent a large part of his childhood in Donegal. After completing a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music in 2001, he moved to Germany in 2003. He has worked for corporate customers in various economic sectors, such as plastic and steel production, pharmaceutical, finance, and insurance. Ruairi started working full time for Learnship as a content writer in 2021 and was promoted to the role of Business English Editor in January 2022. Ruairi also taught business English at the University of Applied Sciences in Düsseldorf, and specialized in English for the Fashion industry at the Mode Design College Düsseldorf. Check out his blog: www.englishexpert.de