University of URBINO “Carlo Bo”

Research Title:

CLIL-CS: Content and Language Integrated Learning for Computer Science: Using a Foreign Language in Online Higher Education.


24 Months


The project has a dual aim: on one hand , the promotion of more effective linguistic acquisition by means of constant use of English and, on the other hand, the examination of the efficacy of CLIL methodology in the acquisition of both language-specific skills and content-specific knowledge. The analysis carried out will centre on the abilities of “reading” and “writing” constantly used in the pedagogy of distance leaning courses. However, it will also be applied to the particular typology of “informal writing” characteristic of the new communication genre associated with chat groups, and synchronous and asynchronous electronic discussion forums.
This new communicative medium is indeed becoming a more and more significant phenomenon at the international level. The acquisition of social-pragmatic skills correlated with this new type of language has, at this point, become an indispensable professional requirement.
In conclusion, the present project proposes both to carry out innovative language learning experiments aimed at the systematic application of the CLIL approach to the specific degree course in question, and to study the outcomes of the experiment itself. The didactic aims will be pursued through specific teaching activities, while the study of the outcomes will result in specific research guidelines.
The project is aimed at the following target:
– students of the online degree course in Computer Science in which CLIL methodology will be applied, who will acquire a more conscious and effective learning approach to the foreign language;
– Instructors of the online degree course, who will be introduced to CLIL methodology so as to improve their teaching skills;
– CLIL experts, who will have the opportunity to test and evaluate the systematic application of the CLIL approach at the university level.
The evaluation of the experiment will be carried out by isolating and evaluating the weight of the variables ( distance learning group/classroom attendance group; mother tongue/foreign language) as well as the constant factors (curriculum requirements, course contents and evaluation requirements).

Innovative aspects.

The present research plan combines two important areas of language instruction that involve innovative teaching/learning methods: the CLIL approach and Computer-mediated learning.
The context analysed is that of university instruction, which has not yet been fully examined due to the minimal number of experiments conducted to date.
In particular, this project proposes to implement and study innovative didactic methodologies aimed at the systematic application of the CLIL approach to the online degree course in Applied Computer Science at the University of Urbino, delivered both face-to-face in the Italian language and online in the English language ( The CLIL methodollogy will be applied to the online degree program, while face-to-face students will be used as a control group to evaluate the results of the project.
It is expected that the results emerging from our study will be able to shed light on the advantages and drawbacks relating to distance learning in a scientific field through the use of a foreign language. In the specific case, results will be gathered regarding the entity and the quality of the linguistic progress made by the students following CLIL methodology limited to written production in the foreign language. Therefore, the written language exhibited will be formal (onlne exercise materials prepared for the course) and informal (the transcription of interactive exchanges in an electronic context, i.e. Chat and Forum “discussions”).
The experiment will be applied to a degree course in Applied Computer Science, the services of which are provided online in the English language. This application constitutes a particularly interesting case study for the following reasons:
1) It allows the application of CLIL methodology to a complete degree course;
2) The same course is also provided face-to-face in the mother-tongue language. This fact offers a useful control group of students for the final evaluation of the outcomes of the experiment;
3) The knowledge of the English language is deemed to be indispensable in the field of Computer Science, and therefore the experiment can exploit the momentum of the students’ strong motivation to acquire the foreign language;
4) The combined application of both CLIL methodology and computer-mediated learning has not yet been sufficiently studied;
5) The degree course in question, having been awarded ISO-9001 Quality Certification which includes the systematic monitoring of student satisfaction, offers a series of past data which will be extremely useful in the comparison of the outcomes of the project.

Score from the PRIN board:

Importance and originality: 35/35
Scientific quality of proposers: 15/15
Feasibility: 10/10