Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Guest Blog Post from Alla Sobirova--What Makes On-line Learning Effective?

By Alla Sobirova
Alla Sobirova started to teach English on-line after she delivered her baby in 2009 and could not teach English in traditional face-to-face  way. It was a new field for her and she had to read and learn a lot in order to organize oral practice lessons that helped her students.

In this blogpost, she would like to share some of the main ideas how to make on-line learning effective.

 On-line learning is learning at a distance, that is, the learner is separated from the tutor. In the practice of teaching foreign languages, it is used very widely now as the number of learners grow and as well as the need in good teachers.

 Therefore, there always has been a long search for a more effective learning at a distance. In addition to print resources, there are also widely used features of television, video, and CD-ROM. The fact is that without systematic feedback from a qualified teacher such courses are usually doomed to failure, despite various attempts to make them entertaining with communicative elements.

 In recent years, universities in different countries have paid attention to the fact that there is a possibility of using computer telecommunication technologies for distance learning, including foreign languages.

Unlike other forms of distance learning, learning through computer telecommunications make it possible to:

  • Rapid transmission of any information on the distance;

  • Storing that information in memory for the right time, to edit it, etc.

  • Interactivity with specially created for this purpose multimedia information and immediate feedback with the instructor and other participants of the training course;

  • Access to various information sources, including remote and distributed databases, numerous conferences around the world via the Internet.

  • Joint telecommunications projects, as well as international, electronic conferences, audio and video conferences (webinars).
The effectiveness of any kind of distance learning will be  depends on four factors:

  • The effective interaction of teacher and student, despite the fact that they are separated;

  • Using proper pedagogical technologies;

  • The effectiveness of the developed teaching materials and methods for their delivery;

  • The effectiveness of feedback.
In other words, the effectiveness of distance learning depends on the organization and methodological quality of materials used and the skills of teachers involved in this process.

In addition to the allocated number of characteristics that should be inherent in any kind of distance learning, so that it can be considered as effective:

  • Distance learning requires more thorough and detailed planning of the student’s activities, their organization, a clear statement of goals and learning objectives; delivery of necessary training materials;

  • The key concept of the educational programs of distance learning is interactivity. Distance learning courses have to ensure maximum interactivity between the student and teacher, feedback between the student and teaching material, as well as a chance to have group learning;

  • It is very important to provide high-performance feedback to students to make them confident in the rightness of their actions. Feedback should be timely,  and expressed later  in the form of external evaluation(grades);

  • A key element of any course is motivation, it needs to be applied in  a variety of tools and techniques;

  • The structure of distance learning course should be modular, so that the student had the opportunity to become aware of their progress from module to module, could choose any module on your own or at the discretion of the governing teacher, depending on the level of training. It should be noted that the modules of a large amount markedly reduce motivation for

  • Particular importance when learning a foreign language has a sound that can be achieved either by networking or through CD-ROM or other devices.

Currently, modern information technologies offer unlimited possibilities of solving the problem of distance learning as well as there is possibility to store, process and deliver information over any distance of any volume and content.

 In such circumstances, the most important in organizing the distance education system is the methodological and content organization. This takes into account not only the selection of content for learning, but also the structural organization of educational material.

I myself teach EFL via Skype.  I don’t use camera in order to get full attention of my tutees towards my pronunciation not appearance. Usually people ask me to help with spoken language so I try to get stories or short texts from “hot” news in order to teach my students “newest” words as they call them or some interesting short stories that I ask to read as homework.

You can find some examples of my work at www.allasobirova.com.

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