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A Wider Choice for ESL Students

January 12, 2006

In our technology-dominated world it seems likely that schools will face increased competition from the many forms of self-instruction, distance learning or self-access learning that are offered through the Internet or on CD, Video and DVD.

Hello blog-readers,

I suspect that the market these teaching methods cater for will be increasingly the specialist market rather than general English. In other words, students who have reached a good intermediate level of general English may then wish to enhance their knowledge with a vocationally-oriented course: tourism, banking, law, medicine. The question schools might ask themselves is: are we providing a good menu of specialist courses that would appeal to such students?

I imagine that in many cases the answer will be “no”, not because of lack of initiative on the part of the school but for commercial imperatives: not having enough takers for each course. But I wonder if schools are being imaginative enough in the way they offer additional services. By applying a little lateral thinking they may be able to come up with viable extra courses offered both in the traditional classroom and using new technologies.

To begin with they could think of offering optional extra modules to their general English courses. A student might be given a choice of, say 15 hours’ general English per week plus 5 hours devoted to a specialist area. This is a more flexible model than offering a self-contained specialist course that may not enroll enough participants.

Then schools themselves could use the talent in their teachers to offer their own distance learning and interactive-media courses. If the teachers design and, where appropriate, deliver the courses, the only additional capital outlay will be for the production of software or web-enabled service. Students who have already studied at the school may prefer to buy their additional package from the people they know rather than taking a risk on an unknown commercial provider. Schools could usefully start to think in terms of sending learning packages out rather than simply drawing students in.


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  1. Paul Tagney Says:

    The article may be saying too much too late. Already on-staff at one Korean mega online tutoring site, I feel that with much of the future market, online will be the way to go. I'm sending this online, you're reading it online. The intimacy & human contact of language institutes will always have it's place, but the future will probably soon belong to online ESL.

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