Widgets Inc.: A task-based course in workplace English is an English course employing a communicative language teaching approach called task-based learning. Widgets is published by Atama-ii Books (2018) and was written by Marcos Benevides and Chris Valvona.
Widgets is a workplace simulation course. Students imagine being interns working for a fictional company called Widgets Inc. They are placed into small groups and follow a task-based/project-based product development cycle over six stages:
Stage 1 is the orientation stage. It introduces the company and a cast of fictional characters who interact with the class via authentic video scenes. At the end of Stage 1, students are put into project teams.
Stage 2 is the research and development stage in which students brainstorm product ideas. Working in teams, each student must produce a written product proposal and a video-recorded 'elevator pitch'.
Stage 3 is a management decision stage. Teams are given several product ideas and must select the best one to go into production. Each team then writes a short report and gives a poster presentation.
Stage 4 is the market research stage. Students are again given a new product under development, and must perform market research on it. They write a longer report and give a formal presentation.
Stage 5 is the advertising campaign stage. Students prepare a proposed marketing campaign for yet another product. They then prepare a handout and give a multimedia presentation outlining their campaign.
Stage 6 is the conclusion stage. Having completed their internship, teams are disbanded, and students must now prepare a resume and then interview for a promotion within the company.
Each Widgets stage is punctuated by a main speaking and a main writing task which is related to that stage's topic. All tasks are sequentially connected, and increase in complexity as the students progress through the stages. For each stage, a different team member is selected to act as project manager for that stage. Students are assessed via can-do statements which are built into the simulation as "employee evaluations". These include self, peer, and instructor assessments.
The course includes streamed video, which requires an internet connection to stream or for initial download. The video comprises about 15 clips which total to about 30 minutes. The video is not DRM protected, and is under a CC-BY-NC-ND license, which means that it may be copied and shared for non-commercial purposes without modification.
Widgets Inc. is designed to be compatible with a wide range of English proficiency levels, including mixed-level classes. It requires a class of 12-40 motivated adults who meet for a minimum of 30 ninety-minute sessions (although this can be shortened or lengthened according to how large the class is, how fluent/confident the students are, and how flexible the teacher is about adjusting the material.
The print version (120 pp., A4 paperback, full color) is available from the following distributors: