Friday, 9 September 2011

Advantages and Disadvantages of Online ESL education by Natalie Hunter

While the use of the Internet is becoming fairly standard in curricula everywhere, incorporating computer and Internet use into ESL classrooms is still a regularly debated topic. Although using online school to teach English has many benefits, there are certain obstacles to using the Internet for this purpose. Before a teacher designs an English course integrating technology, he/she needs to take these advantages and disadvantages into careful consideration to determine whether or not such lesson plans are appropriate.

Perhaps the first thing that comes to the fore when thinking about online ESL are the advantages of such a course. Online education is well known for its ability to be tailored to every student's needs, whether it is a matter of time constraints, location, or learning and physical disabilities. It gives students time to think things over without the stress of having to speak up or answer questions immediately in front of their peers. Using the Internet for education also teaches various important skills for the modern world, such as typing and the ability to maneuver deftly around the web and other computer programs. 

The advantages of online education particular to learning language are even better. The Internet can connect students to native speakers across the world, and enables them to use English in real situations, such as reading and discussing current events. These courses can integrate chat rooms, email, and even video games to create a highly interactive environment for the students, while simultaneously promoting a high level of literacy. Collaboration and socialization puts a strong focus on student participation, and the degree of anonymity afforded allows students to feel confident about their ability, as well as look up words and structures they may not immediately know quickly without feeling embarrassed. There is also the fact that student interactions are monitored closely, so verbal mistakes can be corrected before they are perpetuated.

These are all quite useful things in the study of any language, but it must be remembered that the internet is a tool, and no tool can fix every problem. A common complaint among ESL teachers is that the Internet can provide too much information, which can lead to confusion and inaccuracies. Resources must routinely be evaluated by their intended audience and the quality of the information. Much content available may also be inappropriate depending on the age group of students, their culture, or their background, so it is important that educators keep an eye on what students are looking at. As well, chatting with native speakers can have a negative effect on reading and writing ability, as many English speakers will make typos, grammatical mistakes, or use acronyms instead of spelling out whole words while texting. There is also the fact that technological difficulty can get in the way of learning. If a student is unfamiliar with using the Internet, or is anxious about computers, these things can easily hinder the ability of a student to learn. If their Internet is slow, they won't be able to hear speech files or talk with fellow students as easily, and that can be a serious problem. 

The Internet can be a valuable tool for ESL educators. However, as with any tool, it is important to know its proper uses, and when it should not be used. Evaluate its usefulness in relation to a given set of students, and be aware of its shortcomings.


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Distance learning is isolated. Although you are in a virtual classroom full of students, the dynamics of interaction change with online education. You may feel detached or lonely when you pursue a distance learning program but there are opportunities to send emails, post to message boards and engage in online group discussions. At first you might miss face-to-face contact with your instructor and other learners, but web collaboration can fill this void for many students.

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Anne said...

One advantage we can name in being an online student is to be able to take notes using your browser :) Read more about it at

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