Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Classroom Experience Benefits Effective Online Education

When parents send their children to study English at a school, they expect the school to provide a safe and effective learning environment. They also expect the school to provide the curriculum and materials. They don’t expect to have to find and organize their own materials. The internet now has a vast array of teaching and study materials, but what about complete English courses. What if a parent wants his or her child to study English at home? Do they want to be constantly searching the internet for appropriate study material, then have to organize it for their child’s use? The answer is no, they are not teachers nor native English speakers. They want the thinking and organization to be done for them just like it would be done for them in a language school course. They want their child to be able to study on their own and they want to be able to see progress. So the question comes down to: What online English courses for young beginner learners are available that meet these criteria?

It has taken a while for the internet to come of age regarding online English education for 4 – 8 year olds, but it finally has. Online English material is no longer just a hodgepodge of random ESL youtube videos, downloadable worksheets, and games. Several companies like the British Council, Pumkin Holdings, English Media Lab, ESL Gold, and TutorABC have started to create online English courses. However, except for Pumkin, these online courses require a teacher or adult to aid the student. Pumkin Holdings out of Hong Kong, which recently launched Pumkin Online English, has created a complete and organized English course and brought it into your home via the computer.

Resent research has shown that online education can be as effective, if not more effective, as classroom instruction (Tallent-Runnels et al, 2006), as well as being more cost efficient. Online education now has the ability to mimic the dynamics involved in high-quality classroom instruction (Larreamendy-Joerns & Leinhardt, 2006). This means that an online English course should be created by ESL teachers, not internet technicians. Experienced teachers know what works in a classroom, know what keeps children entertained, and know how a course should develop over time.

This is where Pumkin Online English stands out. It was created by experienced teachers who saw the possibilities of taking a highly effective classroom course and making it assessable to everyone on the web. It became obvious that not only could the classroom course be constructed online, it could also be made better by using emerging internet technologies, like flash games and data bases to monitor the students learning progress. In addition, an online course could more easily implement a student centered approach to language instruction, allow students to use their individual learning styles, and allow some individual control of the learning process. All of these have been proven to help children learn more quickly, and are implemented by Pumkin Online English.

In conclusion, an online English course should try to imitate effective classroom teaching techniques like listen and repeat, question and answer, review, games, quizzes, listening before speaking, reading before writing, immediate feedback, and the having native English speakers. An online course should also utilize the full potential of the web by incorporating emerging internet technologies like flash animation, virtual worlds, data collection of student progress and performance, and multiple language platforms. It should teach the basic language skills; reading, writing, speaking, and listening, as well as phonics, typing, and mouse skills. It should be both entertaining and educational. It should not rely on complex instructions or require a parent to assist in the learning process, yet it should include a way for parents to monitor their child’s performance. Online courses that are both safe and use proven teaching methodologies are few and far between. To see the future of childrens' online education, go to It truly brings the classroom into your living room.

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