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!