by Nancy Wood
We live in an exciting time for teaching languages and linguistics. Educators no longer need a physical classroom populated with eager students to teach a new language. No, now educators can take their skills online to expand their scope of their lessons to teach countless people how to speak the language they've always dreamed of speaking.
A recent article in The Atlantic discusses the unlimited potential for language studies using the web as a primary medium. The article in particular discusses the success of the online teaching community called The Khan Academy, which has taught lessons to nearly 200 million users on subjects ranging from college biology to English language.
The secret to success for online educational enterprises such as The Khan Academy is the level of engagement that they're able to achieve with users through an appealing interface and straightforward teaching methods. These companies condense an entire textbook worth of material in a few information packed videos that a student can play over and over to fully absorb the information, or they can join a forum and discuss the contents of the video with their peers.
Of course instructional videos are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovations in online education, especially in the field of language.
The Atlantic article also discusses how entire startup companies are being founded for the sole purpose of teaching English and other languages. It's a trend that's gained quite a bit of momentum in offerings like Colingo and Verbling. The article mentions that there's a surprising similarity between many of these startups that try to corner the ESL education market: they want to use video chatting as a primary means of education. Colingo and Verbling in particular are both fascinating services because they believe in the power of human interaction in teaching a language to another person.
Rather than present a student with a series of pre-recorded video lessons on diction, grammar, and vocabulary, these companies believe in personally coaching students in verbal exercises in a completely real-time interactive online experience. Students can now enter a dynamic atmosphere where they can ask questions and work out usage problems in front of a native speaker from the comfort of their homes or a coffee shop. Learning a new language doesn't have to be relegated to a college classroom, it can happen with real live people wherever you have an internet connection.
And that's a trend worth celebrating.
Nancy Wood is a writer and freelance blogging working for onlinecollegeclasses.com. Nancy writes about topics pertaining to higher education and the impact of digital technology on today's classroom. Feel free to send any comments and questions her way!