Why do many online language courses not work?

One of the biggest mistakes many online language courses make is that they are not designed specifically for the internet and self-study online. The internet offers huge chances for learning. But if the online course is nothing more than a printed book on a computer screen, then it becomes self-defeating. Why read a text about grammar on a computer screen? It is far more comfortable to sit down with a book and a lot easier to read.

Reading a book

 

If the course is nothing more than a printed book on a screen …

It is far more comfortable to sit down with a book!

And ‘designed for the internet’ does not mean lots of links, animations, bells and whistles and things to click on. Animations distract and too many hyperlinks lead to confusion as learners can quickly click their way into a maze of info-glut and find no way out again.

The reason why many online courses are not genuine internet courses is that the people who create them don’t understand a great deal how language learning material should be organised and generated for online use. They probably have no specialist pedagogical knowledge; and they probably have no internet specific pedagogical knowledge. If they are primarily IT people who built the site, then you might get an innovative site technologically speaking, but it won’t be pedagogically innovative.

The opposite is true for many authors who write language textbooks professionally. They may know how language learning material should be organised in a book, but they do not understand how the internet works, so they will tend to write content for the internet as if it were a book. It is actually quite rare for IT specialists and textbook authors to work together as a team to create online courses. And yet it is blindingly obvious that IT specialists need to understand the underlying pedagogical approach of the content in order to realise the course as an online product. And authors need the input of IT specialists at an early stage in order to consider how best to organise the content for online use and achieve maximum learning potential.