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09/03/2018 NOVEDADES

Can you really learn English online?

by Matthew Ray, General Manager
23/01/2018

In the last couple of decades, the use of technology and online courses in language training has been on the rise. Online study is an ideal way to learn a language because you can study when you want, where you want, and at your own pace. But you may still wonder, can I really learn a language online?

The answer is yes… of course you can. In fact, over the years I have often seen my online English students progress much faster than my face-to-face students! Online students understand that to learn, they must take responsibility and do something, while face-to-face students often resist doing things between classes because “they are busy.” The listening, writing and even speaking skills of my online students have generally developed much quicker than those of my face-to-face students. So, after seeing such great progress with hundreds of online English students over the years, I don’t THINK students can learn a language online, I KNOW they can.

However, to be a successful online student, you must have the right attitude and the appropriate personality or learning style. If you have a busy schedule and very little time, but you are organized, motivated and determined, then you will have no problem learning online. On the other hand, if you tend to leave things until the last minute and have problems organizing and prioritizing your time, then it’s not likely you will succeed with an online course. It would be better to study using a more traditional methodology, or consider using a blended methodology (online plus face-to-face, telephone classes or virtual classes). 

In my experience, only 10%-15% of languages students have the appropriate personality to be successful with online study. That number rises drastically (to 60%-80%) when the training is blended. I’ll give you a case in point; several years ago, one of our clients with around 140 face-to-face students decided to move all the students with a B1 level or lower to an online course (about 80 of the 140 students). The objective was “to save money.” We warned them that this was not a good idea, since not all students have the right personality for online study. Despite our warnings and the huge effort made by our online tutors to keep the students active, the outcome was a disaster (which was no surprise to us): only around 12 of the 80 online students (15%) finished their assigned level; so, our client didn’t really save money in the end because they paid for nearly 70 online licenses for employees that did very little, or nothing. They forgot to filter out the students who didn’t have the appropriate learning style for an online course. 

After that failure, in the same company, we convinced them to do a pilot study with 4 blended groups (with a total of around 20 students) that had face-to-face classes every 15 days to complement their online course. 90% of the students finished their online level, and the face-to-face attendance was excellent too. Our client got a much better ROI (return on investment) from the blended methodology than from the online methodology, and learned their lesson; from that point on students were filtered more carefully, or offered a blended option. 

Online (or blended) study is an excellent option for corporate language training: students can complement the online course with telephone classes, virtual classes or face-to-face classes. Like any training, of course, it must be carefully implemented to guarantee success. In the first place, it should only be offered to employees with a suitable learning style, and objectives and expectations must be clearly defined from the start. The key is to match the methodology with the learning styles of the students.

If your company is thinking of setting up online or blended English training and you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, or contact me directly by telephone or email (mray@ziggurat.es / 933 635 478). I would be happy to speak to you about your strategy, how you are filtering employees, which online course and/or materials you are thinking of using, or any other aspect of the training. Your employees and/or colleagues can learn English with an online course, but it must be set up appropriately; Ziggurat can help you.