The Highs & Lows of Taking ELT Education Online

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Karen McRae talks about Blended learning using Moodle as a online learning management system. Interestingly, the curriculum redesign that Karen describes  sprang from what we might call ‘inspirational dissatisfaction’. In this case dissatisfaction with the lack of suitable text books to cover teaching and learning needs where she works.

A practical and insightful look at logistics, milestones and challenges, particularly interesting for those of us working online or setting up learning management systems and eLearning design.

Learn more from our speaker in the interview and supporting text below.


Overview

In my presentation I will provide an overview of the interactive online platform used to incorporate blended learning aspects into  Academic English Communication units at the Tertiary College where I work in Sydney. It is important to note that our online community does not replace face-to-face teaching, but acts as an extension of the classroom. This blended learning method brings several benefits for both ELT learners and instructors, but also comes with a number of forewarnings to ensure that all participants have the knowledge required to operate online and that facilitators design scaffolded tasks in a welcoming and friendly environment.

First reactions

Naturally, while students were eager to use their Smartphones and iPads in class, teachers were initially sceptical of the involvement they were to have with technology. Nevertheless, they have now successfully integrated the online aspect of these courses into their teaching, introducing activities they had never tried before.

Besides student and teacher feedback on their experience with online technology, I will provide examples of discussion forums, blogs, links to videos and class polls used, which are some of the online tasks that, with careful planning, can help increase students’ level of engagement and collaboration both online and in the classroom.

Flipped Classroom

Some tasks are used for additional practice after class, and others are meant to introduce the upcoming lesson – a necessary step in the flipped classroom approach. In some cases, this has significantly reduced the tedious amount of time spent next to a photocopier, as students now refer to materials provided online, and cooperative activities have replaced most worksheets and textbooks. Additionally, course practice can now take place anywhere – at a café, on the bus, or even at the beach!

Professional development

Despite the undeniable pros, a major concern for colleges considering online platforms is the cost involved. An incredible effort was made to bring all staff and students on this 21st century journey at SIBT, including several hours of professional development to train the tutors with new technology requirements as well as a very skilful IT support team and curriculum designers to assist along the way, all of course supported by the college’s management team.

 

Bio: Karen McRae is the Program Convenor for Academic Communication at the Sydney Institute for Business and Technology (SIBT) and the Western Sydney University, Sydney City Campus (SCC). She has been the Academic Lead for her program area in a curriculum review project at SIBT over 2015-2016.

 

 

Prior to moving into tertiary education in 2014, Ms McRae had previously worked as a Program Coordinator at a language college in Sydney and as an Academic English teacher at various institutions both in Australia and Europe. Shetaught several ESL courses including all levels of General English, IELTS, Cambridge Exam Preparation Courses (CAE, FCE, PET), Business English and English for Academic Purposes (EAP), and has also been involved in teacher training, delivering Certificate IV TESOL courses in Sydney. Her research interests include curriculum design, teacher training and student engagement.

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