I have just come across a rather negative critique of online language teaching at http://www.teflideas.com/055_The_Drawbacks_of_Online_Language_Learning.html
While there may be some challenges in teaching languages online, it seems to me that the post is unduly negative. I first address the comments and then state some advantages of online language learning.
1 "only one person can have the mic at any time". This is not true in OU Live. The teacher may choose to restrict access to the microphone but it is easy to allow multiple speakers although this might affect sound quality.
2 "Groups tasks - are incredibly hard to initiate and execute". Again this is not true. In OU Live, there are Breakout Rooms where students can work together in groups.
3 "Circulating, listening in, praising good language, speaking specifically, demonstrating a point, eliciting errors and answers quietly to a group while others are working is virtually impossible in a virtual classroom". Again this is not true. A tutor can be in one of the breakout rooms and address feedback to the learners in that room only.
4 "Instruction gets filtered and convoluted when you put a medium between yourself and the learners. Non verbal gestures are unknown and unnoticed — you can’t point, shrug, nod, or grimace". Perhaps there is more justice in this comment. However, there is the option of the text box, which might be more public and allow for another mode for expression. There is also the possibility of using emoticons.
5 "Teacher led teaching". This does not need to be the case. Learners can be asked to work in groups. Learners also can/should bring their own needs to a class. Learners can be asked to prepare to lead the session.
6 "whiteboard presentation, which forces all written communication to be typed". This is not completely true but I am not really sure what the problem is with this.
7 "If a student asks
something to the
teacher, it’s inevitably typed rather than spoken". This is not necessarily the case.
Some other points that seem relevant are the following:
- the OU's online language learning tends to be integrated with the rest of the course (eg online asynchronous discussion forums) so online tutorials should not be seen in isolation.
- online classes allow for learners to be remote from each other and this provides opportunities in that the learners can see and know different things. The sessions may bring people together who might not otherwise meet.
- sessions can be recorded and in theory, learners might be able to reflect on their performance in a way face to face teachers cannot.
Would anyone care to comment on the original posting or my reply?