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Japan, India, Online English Writing

Anecdotes and experiences of a language services entrepreneur from India

August 17, 2010

Techniques to make online writing courses work

Online ELT has not caught on in a big way, and there are a number of reasons. Two reasons that immediately come to mind are logistical problems (how to set up and use the IT infrastructure) and the fact that the teacher can’t be around when the student is writing. However, if the student needs a lot of writing practice (not necessarily in exam-simulation conditions) and personalized corrections, there are a number of advantages of teaching writing online, which I’ve covered in my previous post. But before this can be done, the common problems in online courses need to be addressed.

Some of the common problems are insufficient guidance (no teacher leading the learning process), excessive focus on self-study, and the expectation that learners will figure out a study schedule that works for them. Educators are left with the question – Is the student really learning?

These problems can be overcome through some techniques: personalized attention for each student, making sure that the course is more about practice than self-study, a space for the student and instructor to interact (preferably in privacy), an encouraging teaching style, and a strong administrative and operational support system.

The last point is often ignored, but this is also critical to the success of the course. The support system should help with the student with the scheduling of the course, counsel the student if they’re stuck somewhere in the course, function as an intermediary between the student and teacher if needed, and resolve any complaints or problems the student has.

As for the platform for online courses, open-source learning management systems offer a quick solution. The open-source LMS Moodle is being increasingly used by English language teachers, and from personal experience I can say that Moodle works for online writing courses. In fact, Moodle was frequently mentioned in the JALT conference last year.

So, to make online writing courses work, teachers need a strong focus on individual students, a good support system, and an easy-to-use LMS. While that sounds easier than it actually is, it’s certainly not too hard!



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I want to develop my writing capacity in English so that, i can confidently convey my views which will not only help me to communicate my views but also influence the other person.

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