Re: Use a coursebook or not? - Online Business English exam course
- Hi Nergiz
I have just yesterday finished a blended learning business English course which was an experiment to find out whether people would like to learn 50% in the classroom and 50% online.These were definitely in the pre-intermediate category.
I had an extremely mixed group including cable fitters, fish processors, yeast factories, tourist office and ferry companies. I decided that the best way to cope was to try and personalise as much as possible. This meant that in class we worked on building up a personal vocabulary list which could then be worked on during the online part. I used the English versions of their organisation websites to generate some exercises and encouraged them to bring in authentic material which we could work on as well. One woman sent me an email she had sent to a Polish contact. Both her own email and the reply she got were almost incomprehensible to me (but these things mean more when you know the context!). So we spent part of one class working on that email and in the end I suggested that the person who brought it should be working on building up a bank of template emails for frequently occurring situations. She also gave me some invoices which we could have used in class but in the end I didn't through lack of time rather than through lack of relevance.
For the online part I wanted them to have a mix of drill type/language exercises, partly to give them something familiar, as well as some more open-ended activities. I devised a structure which included the following:
1. A relevant exercise from Mike Marzio's Real English (eg present continuous, past tense, giving directions)
2. Some drill exercises on Smart FM (which turns them into games). Smart FM is built on word lists, so I could use the words and phrases which they themselves had come up with or which I had noticed during class (using Karenne Sylvester's Conversation Control sheets translated into Danish). Unfortunately Smart FM had an 'upgrade too far' during the course and became extremely buggy. But I am sure they will sort themselves out.Learners did not need to sign up to use it but could get themselves a more personalised experience if they did.
3. Listening exercise on Voxopop
4. Interactive exercise on Voxopop. Here it was essential for learners to sign up.
5. Internet search exercise which developed into a webquest to be presented during the next face to face meeting.
6. Conversation with real people over Skype or similar.
It was number 6 which my group found most daunting and I can quite understand why. The idea was that they should be contacting people via Skype as advocated by Jason West of Languages out There. I wanted them to record their conversations but Vista gives all sorts of problems in sound recording and even a trustworthy program such as Pamela does not work properly. However, my secret weapon was Teresa d'eca Almeida who posted a lovely friendly welcoming message on Voxopop and by week 2 I had one volunteer who was so enthusiastic that by week 3 she had gathered 2 or 3 more volunteers and when we were doing the evaluation of the course yesterday, I heard that this group of 3 or 4 intended to continue talking with Teresa through Skype.
So this long post is also a public thank you to Tere and a way of setting her contribution in the context of the whole course.If I were to repeat this I would need to find a more sustainable way of encouraging my learners to make those contacts. I would very much like to share Jason West's enthusiasm for this approach but cannot yet say that it works for me.
I have a recurring problem that people psychologically seem to discount the online part of a course with only the face to face counting as real learning so it took a while for this group to get into their stride, online wise. They needed courage to record on Voxopop. Once they did, I made transcripts of some of the recordings and turned them into C-tests at Lucy Georges' website, something which the learners can do themselves also. It was also interesting to see one woman yesterday recognising that the essence of her message had been lost when she read her transcript so we had a short discussion about how she could have made her Voicemail message better so that it conveyed exactly what she had meant. Since I had not realised the intent behind her message when I heard it, it was only she who was in a position to recognise that things had not gone according to plan there.
This was a lot of work for me. The idea was that if I pump-primed with some transcripts for example, the group would then see the value of seeing their own recordings as dictation exercises and as a way of identifying vocab to add to their Smart FM lists and so on so that in the long term I would not be the one making transcripts. But I feel the course was too short to get that sort of momentum going.
Sorry that was so long. It was a way of explaining how I did not use a coursebook. Hope it helps.
--- In firstname.lastname@example.org, "Nergiz" <k.ergiz@...> wrote:
> Hi everyone
> Imagine you had to design a pre-intermediate to intermediate online Business English exam course, would you base it on an existing coursebook (students would all have a copy of the coursebook) or would you attempt to create all the material yourself. If you based it on a coursebook, what would be the copyright issues to consider?
- Dear Anne,
Thank you for the lovely "public thank you"! I had a wonderful time and was
amazed at how at ease they felt with me, especially two of them. And, yes,
we are to continue... They are enthusiastic and interested. :-)
----- Original Message -----
From: "Foxdenuk" <af@...>
Sent: Tuesday, December 01, 2009 8:32 AM
> Hi Nergiz
> I have just yesterday finished a blended learning business English course
> which was an experiment to find out whether people would like to learn 50%
> in the classroom and 50% online.These were definitely in the
> pre-intermediate category.
> It was number 6 which my group found most daunting and I can quite
> understand why. The idea was that they should be contacting people via
> Skype as advocated by Jason West of Languages out There. I wanted them to
> record their conversations but Vista gives all sorts of problems in sound
> recording and even a trustworthy program such as Pamela does not work
> properly. However, my secret weapon was Teresa d'eca Almeida who posted a
> lovely friendly welcoming message on Voxopop and by week 2 I had one
> volunteer who was so enthusiastic that by week 3 she had gathered 2 or 3
> more volunteers and when we were doing the evaluation of the course
> yesterday, I heard that this group of 3 or 4 intended to continue talking
> with Teresa through Skype.
> So this long post is also a public thank you to Tere and a way of setting
> her contribution in the context of the whole course.If I were to repeat
> this I would need to find a more sustainable way of encouraging my
> learners to make those contacts. I would very much like to share Jason
> West's enthusiasm for this approach but cannot yet say that it works for
> Sorry that was so long. It was a way of explaining how I did not use a
> coursebook. Hope it helps.
- Hi Mary, Barbara, Elisabeth and all
Thanks so much for the valuable information and suggestions you have shared! I have bookmarked them all and I am sure they will come in handy at some point even if we decide to use a coursebook.
@Mary, I don't have to use specific material. The owner of the school that I will design this course for and I will decide together what material to use. We only need to make sure that it covers everything the participants need for the exam (an international business English exam).
The course will be delivered completely online with 6 -8 synchronous sessions a week and about the same amount of asynchronous self-study time over a period of 3 months. There will be a lot of project work involved.
The idea is to make the course available under a Creative Commons licence. If we use CC material, we can make everything available.
@Elisabeth, I agree with you that creating all the material from scratch is extremely time-consuming and not an easy task. One reason why we might want to do it anyway is that the complete course is online and there are two issues here. Firstly, the copyright issues. We can't simply use the content of the book online even if we change the format. Secondly, although all students would have a copy of the book, we would have to make some material available in a digital format.
If we used existing online material, this would save us a lot of time. But we would have to spend a lot of time finding appropriate material covering all exam topics and language at the appropriate level. So, there are pros and cons for both solutions.
@Anne, thanks so much for this detailed account of your course. Great work!
I didn't know Smart FM. Looks useful. I also like the idea of inviting guests to classes. You were especially lucky to have someone like Tere :)
Thanks again for your help!