Fast Forward: An Analysis of Online and Distance Education Language Training

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By: Mike Kelly, Trudy Kennell, Rob McBride, Matthias Sturm
Org: New Media Language Training

This report and appendices provide an analysis of online language training programs and relevant technologies.

The researchers looked for examples of different kinds of online distance language programs in different countries, seeking best practices and examples that CIC could emulate in Canada. Of interest is their conclusion that any distance online language learning program that CIC funds or creates should be more than a language learning site; it needs to be embedded in Canadian culture. It needs to help users settle, and become citizens as they are learning English in Canada or before they come to Canada. They also suggest that social networking opportunities are key to online learning experiences and that, beyond excellent, Canadian-focused content, any successful site would need to incorporate this community-building perspective.

Section I of this report, Introduction, summarizes the entire report and recommendations. The section begins with a description of the distance education field and the role of the Internet, and the particular learning implications of emerging Web 2.0 technologies and practices. The section discusses the web implications of social constructivist theories, and describes the methodology employed in developing this report.

What is New or Significant in these Reports?

This report provides a very useful overview of and introduction to newer technologies that are being used to teach language skills online.

As the report indicates, "more and more people are looking for flexibility and independence in their learning experiences. This holds especially true for newcomers to Canada and their need for seamless integration of learning experiences with many other demands of settling into a new way of life."

We know that newcomers want and need information and resources in different forms, media and in a 24/7 format. Paying attention to new technologies outlined in this report provides useful insights to what our clients are looking for.

It's important for us to become more literate about these technologies. Use this report to help you become more aware of how online learning can fit into your suite of services, including e-service delivery.

Section II of the report, Project Research & Reporting Methodology, describes how the authors researched, consulted, and collaborated during the project. And the section describes how they drafted, finalized, and submitted the report and responded to comments. The questions posed for the research are listed, and the criteria they used to evaluate courseware.

Section III of the report, Teaching and Learning Online: Theory and Practice, covers:

  • second language acquisition theories and their implications for online learning
  • learning scenarios that put distance learning principles to work
  • a longer, and more general discussion of constructivism
  • the role of the instructor in online learning
  • effective learner participation in online learning
  • the role of culture in language learning and the implications for online learning content

Section IV, Learning Program Review, provides guidance on usability and interface design, and includes individual evaluations of many learning courseware products including web sites (BBC English, English for All), commercial ESL software products (ELLIS, Auralog, Rosetta Stone, Tense Buster and more) and other products or publications that could be versioned into ESL learning content for Canadian LINC learners (Your Money Matters, A Newcomer’s Introduction to Canada and others).

Section V, Managing Learning. In this section, the report provides a discussion of learning management online and a review of commercial and open-source learning management products. The section concludes with a discussion of learning objects and their technical compliance (SCORM) with learning management systems. Section VI, Tools for Online Language Learning is a tool by tool description of useful distance learning technologies including e-mail, chats, podcasts, blogs, concordancers, and games.

Section VII gathers the Key Recommendations from the report in one place.

Section VIIII is made up of the Appendices.

English - PDF format (2.6 MB, 59 pages)

Download the main report (2.6 MB, 59 pages) and Appendices (5 MB, 94 pages).

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