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advantage and disadvantages of online ESL programs 
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Joined: Mon Jan 02, 2006 10:46 am
Posts: 2130
Location: Nagano, Japan
Post advantage and disadvantages of online ESL programs
I recently got into this discussion with another teacher and I was wondering what everyone thought about all of these learn English on-line websites and programs.

Discussing CALL (computer assisted language learning) in general is too difficult, so I'd like narrow it down to all inclusive ESL sites for learners or similar sites.

I make ESL on-line learning games and I think the internet and these types of programs have their specific merits but I feel many places may be fooling students about the real potential they have.

Are these sites preying on people's aspirations to learn English and bleeding them for cash?

Are these sites filling a specific need for some students?

Do you think an on-line course can provide a well rounded ESL/EFL curriculum?

I can't say that I'm well informed about all the benefits of these programs, because you have to pay for them to use them. However, I put them right up there with the "learn to speak English in 30 days" software packages that sit at the bottom of people's closets. Those I have seen and they're not much more than a computer book and workbook.

What do you think?

Build up! Be positive! Teach hard!

Wed Apr 12, 2006 10:06 am
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Joined: Mon Oct 13, 2008 2:55 pm
Posts: 29
Location: Korea
As far as I can tell, these online programs are not much or any better than a good old fashioned book.

However some of them do offer access to "online assistance" which means that someone is available to answer your questions about the materials.

I think the value of these programs comes in the motivation factor. What I mean is, if you sign up and pay the money you are more likely to follow through with it to the end. On the other hand if you buy a book or a software package, you get the feeling that you'll just get to it whenever you get to it. Its not going anywhere.

So in general, I don't think they're any better than a good book and some hard work. But if it gives you the motivation that you otherwise lack..... maybe its worth it.

Tue Dec 02, 2008 9:14 am

Joined: Thu Jan 24, 2008 5:38 am
Posts: 128
Location: Italy
Good question, and one that looks likely to become increasingly relevant. For reasons too complicated to go into here, I've looked closely at five of these sites.

The main advantages I can see are:

- The format can be staged, a bit like a computer game - you have to get one level right before you can go on to the next. This can be good for motivation.

- In most cases you can re-do a section from scratch if you want to, consolidating your learning. In contrast, with a regular workbook, once the excercises have been filled in, they've been filled in.

- The sites can have easy-access audio and even speech-recording components.

The disadvantages: all the sites I looked at weren't very well written, were a bit clunky and unappealing in design and were irritatingly slow to load. Add to that the fact they they were charging way more than the cost of a regular book with CD, and I'm left with the opinion that such sites are guilty until proven innocent. I think there are one or two sites out there that are genuinely good, but my advice to students is "be very sure it's going to be worth it before handing over any money."


Wed Dec 03, 2008 2:18 am
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Joined: Sun Dec 21, 2008 3:55 pm
Posts: 29
The last CALL center I saw was at a university and it was woefully under-utilized and not very well maintained. I think that although much can be made ado about the glorious virtues of internet ESL classes, it will be very difficult to match the face-to-face interaction that occurs when people are in the same room. I've experimented a bit with some distance learning via Skype etc. but have not yet been moved to think it is "just as good" as a classroom environment where there is interaction, chemistry, and a human-connection.

Tue Dec 23, 2008 5:50 pm
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