Reflections on a Course: Post 7 (Week 8): Working online

As we get close to our final weeks in this course, as we are having our projects ready, one issue has risen this week: Online activities for the ELT classroom. This raises some questions to be answered.

Does online learning provide with the necessary coverage of all aspects of the students’ learning process?

If we analyse what kind of learning is being offered to students, we will see that there are two main types of methodologies. Both could be analysed as self-access resources or as “guided” resources as both contain activities that can be carried out in class with the teacher or at home .

The first type contains those resources that consist on drills related to skills (reading, listening, writing), to grammar and vocabulary. Sites that offer interactive activities to reinforce a certain aspect of the language. These sites can be used as support resources in the classroom, or they can be referenced as self-access tools for students. It would be foolish to mention any of them… there are hundreds of websites offering this, and many have an excellent quality both in aspect and in content. These sites contain activities that could also be linked to a second type of online services for learners: Virtual Learning Environments (VLE’s)

This second type called VLE is based on the idea of transferring the course-based concept of teaching from a physical classroom to the net. VLE’s contain materials connected together in order to shape up a whole course for students. All materials contained in a course hosted within a VLE usually comply with the requirements for a standard course. It is directly related to the type of resources described as first type as these can be embedded within a VLE as part of the course. VLE’s are usually teacher guided, of course, but quite often those tasks and activities can be followed by students in a self access approach. That implies the loss of assessment that teachers provide in the guided VLE, which can contain grading and feedback. Many of the resources we link to VLE courses contain self evaluation, so students can also check their own progress on a personal basis.

Do we have to rely solely on a VLE-based course?

A good course in a VLE can provide with different types of activities, practises and drills that can shape up a really engaging course. Nevertheless, if we know the course will be our basic structure to be used both at home and in the classroom. We could, or rather should, include classroom activities that do not depend on the use of computers. Communicative drills as well as some writing and aural skills that we have traditionally used in our classroom should be preserved and fostered within a VLE used in a classroom. Some of them have their counterpart online, but students need changes of rhythm and that is easily provided when the format of the activity varies.

Online? Offline? VLE? Interactive exercises? A perfect blend will probably create the right combination for a perfect educational cocktail!

photo credit: ©athrine via photopin cc

5 thoughts on “Reflections on a Course: Post 7 (Week 8): Working online

  1. Luísa Lima

    Hi, Ricard.
    Excellent post, as always. And about something I relate very much to. I have already worked with VLEs and I find they are great even for our secondary school students. I wouldn’t recommend pure e-learning for them, as most are not yet as autonomous as a solely online course would require, but I have used VLEs in a blended learning experience and it has worked wonderfully. If you choose well and have the right training, you can also go a little bit further into instructional design and create scorm packages that will fit different learning rhythms and needs. It’s not easy, I know, but with appropriate guidance we could also do that. As I was doing my Masters Degree I tried instructional design and I found it interesting. Unfortunately there wasn’t much time to go deeper into it, but it’s an idea I haven’t given up on.
    So, yes, I would agree with you that a combination of it all would give the perfect result.

  2. Natasa Bozic Grojic

    Hello Ricard and Luisa,

    I agree, the blended approach works best. However, I think adult students (professional people in particular) are going to demand long distance courses more and more in the future. Decentralization, lack of time… I believe long distance language courses will require a whole new pedagogical concept. It is not only about the tools, it is about engaging the students and making them communicate with each other. It is also about them gaining enough confidence to go out and talk to other people one day. It is probably already happening, it is just that the long distance concept is new to me.

    What do you think?


  3. Yuliya

    Hi, Ricard!
    I like your reference to educational cocktail. One method, technique or tool is never enough for today’s sophisticated society.
    You are much of an expert in VLE and I rely on your point of view here. You state that it is necessary to combine and vary the activities but what do you think should prevail in today’s classroom: VLE over traditional classroom activities or vice versa?


  4. rgarcia5 Post author

    I total agreement, Natasa! VLE’s, ICT tools, and other catchy resources might be enticing, but there’s no memaning in that i f we find out that our students still lack the ability to describe their feelings to a friend in English!

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