Blended Learning in English as a Second Language (ESL)

By on February 11, 2011

Blended Learning System

Blended learning refers to the combination of multimedia elements on a computer with classroom instruction with a teacher and peers. Although the TALL system began using blended learning over a decade ago, the concept has only recently gained currency in the world of computer assisted learning. Blended learning uses each of its two elements (computer assisted learning and classroom interaction) for what each does best (Osguthorpe and Graham, 2003). Together the two elements of blended learning combine to create a whole system, which is stronger than its constituent parts.

Teacher/Classroom Strengths

Teachers have long played a crucial role in language learning and the blending learning environment is no exception.. Many functions can be most effectively carried out by a caring and well-trained teacher. Teachers provide interactive activities in the classroom. Teachers and fellow learners can also be extremely motivating to a learner. When learners produce either spoken or written language, teachers provide the best, most personalized feedback. Teachers can also help learners set achievable goals for their language learning.

Teacher/Classroom Weaknesses

Because a classroom situation usually involves one teacher for ten or more learners, teachers by necessity are limited in how much time they can spend with each learner one-on-one.  The pace of instruction in class must proceed at an average speed which is often too fast for some learners and too slow for others.  This can be frustrating to both teachers and learners. It can also be difficult for teachers to know exactly how well each learner knows a particular concept because he or she is responsible for so many learners and so many concepts. Teachers are vital, and as technology evolves, it should be used to support them and their learners.

Computer Strengths

In language learning, there are several things that computers have historically done well and these abilities are carried out in blended learning as well.. Among these are:  1) the ability to provide massive amounts of comprehensible input to learners through the use of video and other multimedia assets without requiring teacher time; 2) the ability to provide learner support materials in the form of written texts, translations, pictures, etc. which enable learners to comprehend and process texts repeatedly and individually, and in greater depth than is possible in a teacher-fronted classroom; 3) the ability to track learner performance and adapt learning schedules to individual needs better than a teacher can in a classroom setting alone; and 4) the ability to tirelessly provide learners with learning activities designed to meet individual needs.

Computer Weaknesses

On the other hand, computers are very poor at providing oral interaction. They do not provide the social interaction that motivates the learner to want to use language in the many situations necessary for the development of communicative competence. They are inadequate at providing feedback about the quality of the oral and written language produced by learners and in helping learners set individual learning goals. In all of these areas the teacher and the classroom setting are essential to the success of the learner, which is a vital part of a blended learning environment.

BLENDED LEARNING IN TALL

TALL is a language learning system that fully integrates the use of face-to-face instruction and technology-assisted instruction. The following table outlines the way the TALL system utilizes the two forms of instruction:

TALL’s blended learning design enables learners to gain knowledge in ways that would not be possible without the integration of technology and the classroom.

Adapted from “The TALL Language System: An Integrated, Research-Based Approach to ESL Instruction”, by Dr. C. Ray Graham, and Dr. Kent Parry, both of Brigham Young University. Used with permission.  To receive a free copy of the complete document, click here.

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Comments

  1. oren romo
    April 8, 2013

    Leave a Reply

    Found interesting. I had experience with Read-180 a blended reading program in US classroom. Seen two presentations of English Central.com . I am going to a job interview for a blended language ESL school in Seoul, Korea

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