It can take years for students to take the skills acquired from online coursework and apply them to real-world situations.
When Did Online Language Learning 2006
By Aya Tarrant, New York Times News Service
LOS ANGELES — He comes from the right part of the world, by way of Silicon Valley and the Far East. He likes to keep the mission quiet, even when he is spotted — even when he is from a nation to which few American students aspire.
“Even in North Korea,” Kim Gisong-chun, a 13-year-old student, said, “you always meet somebody.”
Kim and thousands of other students from the Far East and Latin America are coming to America to learn English, and they are doing it online.
That change is reflected in the building number of Chinese students taking English for credit courses, which, experts say, is helping to make language classes more popular than ever with Americans. The nonprofit language organization EdVenture Group estimates that there are about 1.9 million students registered for online courses, up from about 3,000 two years ago.
Online learning has grown explosively over the past decade. Initially dismissed as a drain on public resources, it is now valued at $24 billion in the United States, according to Deloitte Consulting. More than $37 billion is invested annually in the market by corporations and universities.
Online learning is capitalizing on an increasingly mobile public that wants to travel and transact without leaving the laptop.
The advent of mobile devices has helped. “The change has made language learning much more accessible,” said Alexander Hope, a professor at the University of California at Irvine, who studies learning styles. “Before, you couldn’t possibly play chess if you didn’t speak English. Online, you can learn just about anything and meet like-minded people.”
Online students, though, still need to face and work with other people while learning, in classrooms or online.
Increasingly, online courses are using high-resolution audio, text and graphic images to produce multimedia lessons.
One aspect of online learning appears to be changing the way people learn English.
More than a third of online students cited their class size in surveys of Deloitte Consulting survey respondents, compared with one-third of traditional students.
An increasing number said they planned to teach courses themselves. That group was more likely to grow, the survey found. The students who said they would teach in the future were more likely to have sought online instruction at some point.
Online courses have the virtue of being virtually anonymous.
A high school student in Mexico, for example, can use the online broadcast tool on social media to join a Google hangout with a professor, search for questions and take an online quiz. The professor, who could be anywhere, can respond to the student.
“It’s more personal,” said Santiago Benavidez, a 48-year-old professor of English at the University of North Florida who is teaching about 6,000 students this year through Coursera.
Their anonymity also attracts a captive audience that generally prefers learning online because they are required to log in once a day, or they have another obligation. They are not distracted by smartphones, or their well-guarded homes or families.
“It’s a group who is very much interested in learning,” said Emilia Cercone, deputy program director at the Center for English in Latin America and the Caribbean at the Johns Hopkins Center for Communication Programs, who is working with 11 schools and 40 students in her field.
The schools, she said, usually conduct meetings between teachers and students. Typically, the schools have five or six classrooms and about 200 students. They hire a class, and then allow the teacher to teach for the group and make sure there is alignment in their study material.
Many new American students go to online colleges or take language classes at university campuses.
But they are also joining language schools that are dotting American cities and suburbs in which there are large numbers of Asian students.