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Thursday, December 06, 2007

Workplace-Focused Language Courses: Keys to Effective E-Learning

It is becoming extremely important for workplaces to offer courses that allow employees to communicate across languages and cultures. In addition, many companies are finding that offering bilingual or multi-lingual service allows them to expand markets. While few companies can afford the investment on an immersion experience or intensive face-to-face course, many are finding that using e-learning (both web-based and mobile learning) is extremely effective Here are keys to effective language e-learning.

1. Identify and articulate precisely what you want to accomplish in the course. Understand the background, contexts, and needs of the learners. Prioritize the presentation of content so that it aligns itself with urgent needs of the course.

2. Good materials. Identify good books, video, audio to supplement elearning (web-based and mobile).

3. Situated learning. Make sure that the activities are placed within a realistic context, and use simulations, graphics, diagrams, interaction, and life-like scenarios whenever possible. This will assure that the learning is "situated" and situational. For example, a course on Spanish for Health Professionals should provide conversations and vocabulary for what one is likely to find in a busy clinic or hospital.

4. Problem-solving approach. Engage the learners by making the learning as experiential as possible. Use a problem-solving approach, which encourages learners to move beyond memorization of terms and vocabulary and to accomplish deeper learning. For example, in a class, Spanish and English for Construction Sites, you may wish to ask students to identify hazardous situations in a workplace, and the find a way to communicate it to co-workers, in Spanish and English.

5. Logical sequence. Make sure that the lessons are placed in a logical order. For example, a course on Spanish and English for construction sites might be organized around the way that learners are likely to interact in the workplace and on the job, as well as the sequence of actions. You may wish to identify various jobs and roles, first, and then the actions of each, and the tools used in each.

6. Scaffolding. Be sure that the lessons build on each other, and that you provide proper cognitive scaffolding.

7. Repetition, Practice, Enactment: Incorporate active learning, which includes repetition, practice, and taking an active part with the content. Focus on student engagement with the material, but make sure it is meaningful engagement. For example, in a course on Construction Spanish for workers and supervisors primarily from Mexico and central America, avoid texts and materials that are idiomatically dissimilar. For example, Spanish from Spain is distinctly different from that of Mexico.

8. Assessments in Same Form as Practice. It is amazing how many times students will learn through video, conversation, and speech, but when it is time for assessment, they are forced to take a text-based multiple choice exam.

9. Clear, Straightforward Learning Platform. The ideal elearning experience for workplace-focused language courses will include a combination of simulations, interactive audio, text, and graphics, along with dynamic interaction among the learners (audio and video chat, informal webinars with multiple presentation capabilities). Although complex applications are attractive, it is important to keep in mind the abilities of the learners and their own situations (infrastructure, hardware, software, wifi or high-speed internet connection availability, mp3 players, etc.).

10. Redundancy of Content Presentation. Not all users will be able to be connected to the Internet. They may not have constant and consistent access to high-speed connections. At the same time, they should be able to use the devices, players, and equipment that they feel comfortable with. This includes the use of mp3 players, video players, even cell phones and handheld (pdas, etc.).

11. Cultural Considerations. Language is more than just words. It is communication that includes and incorporates values, beliefs, traditional behaviors, and codes (both verbal and non-verbal). Needless to say, one could spend a lifetime working on the cultural differences between different groups. In-depth http://www.italki.comcoverage is not necessary. Nevertheless, it is good to provide the learners with key cultural points in order to facilitate and enable mutual understanding. The coverage should include discussions of values and attitudes about family, community, religion, personal relationships, authority, and tradition. In many ways, the writings of Hofstede can be found to be useful.

Useful Resources:

Rosetta Stone. Extremely effective CDs and blended solutions. Excellent breadth. Not many courses are industry-specific. Excellent resource for finding language partners, and other resources for learning languages.

Berlitz. Berlitz is a well-known and trusted source of language instruction techniques and materials.

Free Online Language Coruses. Adequate, perhaps, for vacation traveling. It's a good start. Pretty skimpy in terms of what is really needed in the average workplace or job site. Relying on the average Lonely Planet phrasebooks and such will just cause hardships and problems if you're trying to communicate with your construction crew, food service employees, or health professionals.

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