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Are you interested in delivering virtual ESL programs?
English360 promises “a better way to use the web for teaching English”. Sounds promising, doesn’t it? Read on to find out more.
English360 is an online learning platform that allows English teachers to deliver customizable blended learning. The platform allows you to create your own courses and provide a good range of activities for ESL students to complete in class or at home. English360 has partnered with Cambridge University Press to offer a large selection of CUP materials, from Business English to English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Still, you may choose to create your own multiple-choice or fill-in-the-blanks activities, or include multimedia tasks with audio or video.
English360 may be used during face-to-face lessons, online lessons, or as blended learning—a combination of both. English360 is not a course, but rather the online platform that allows you to deliver your own course content, designed by you or your collaborators.
The Low Down
What I find particularly appealing is that you can take one exercise from a Cambridge course and create another, entirely new one yourself—you can mix and match.
Teachers may create an account absolutely free of charge. Once you’re all set up, you’re taken to your dashboard where you can start creating your courses. In my opinion, it’s a good idea to watch some of the video tutorials available on the English360 YouTube channel. The tutorial for creating a course, for example, is very clear and takes you step by step through the entire process. You have the option to choose a ready-made Cambridge course—there are lots for business and ESP—or you can simply create your own activities. What I find particularly appealing is that you can take one exercise from a Cambridge course and create another, entirely new one yourself—you can mix and match. This is really useful because sometimes we don’t want to use all of the exercises included in the one coursebook. This allows you to really customize courses for your students’ needs.
Finding your way around the platform is not that hard. The main tabs are located at the top and allow you to Teach your courses; Manage your courses, resources and members; Network with other teachers; and Organize your calendar and classes.
Of particular use are the Public Courses, which are available for all users and provide information that is essential to either students or teachers. For example, there is an Introduction to English360 course to teach students how to use and navigate the platform. There is also a Sample Course Structure for teachers, a kind of template you can use to create your first courses. Finally, there is another public course, the Showcase of Activity Types, that literally shows you all the different types of templates for activities you can create. There are currently 15 different activities from fill-in-the-blanks to matching, multiple-choice to categorizing.
To navigate the site and start creating courses, you must understand the difference between courses and resources. The resources included in the English360 platform are for example, the Cambridge University Press materials. There is a great variety of ESP materials available, as well as grammar and vocabulary resources. Now, you can use any of the activities included in these resources to create your course. But you don’t have to use a Cambridge resource as is, not if you don’t want to. You can mix and match, and create your own resources. Under the Organize tab you can organize all of your resources—think of it as your own personal library with books and worksheets. This is what you use to create your courses.
All in all, with the tutorials and guides available, you could easily sign up and have a course ready within a couple of hours.
Free for teachers!
Teachers may sign up and start designing a course absolutely free of charge. English360 will start charging you once you start enrolling students, and there is a set fee per student per month, so this allows you to set your teaching rates accordingly. On the plus side, there is no contract, no obligation to pay a certain amount every month. You pay on a monthly basis, depending on the number of students you enroll, and you may cancel anytime.
Teacher and Tech Support
If you feel overwhelmed or need help with anything, there is an email for Teacher Support and a separate email for Tech Support. I can’t vouch for response times, but as the whole site looks super professional to me, I don’t think you’ll have to wait long to receive an answer.
There is an entire YouTube channel with tutorials, and each video is a crystal clear, step-by-step guide.
Frankly, I was surprised and amazed to find all of these Cambridge books, online and ready to use in courses. The variety is great, especially for Business English and ESP.
Not for teachers who aren’t tech savvy
If you’re the type of ESL teacher who is not accustomed to using technology on a daily basis, this platform is not for you. Now, you don’t have to be a computer wiz, nor is it necessary for you to know anything about programming, but you do need to be able to get around an online platform. This platform is recommended for teachers who feel comfortable in virtual environments.
No video conferencing tool
There is no option to chat or have a video conference, which would allow you to actually teach online. That said, you could always try using another web conferencing tool like Skype or GoToMeeting (there are several good ones available and some have free versions). I did not actually try this, but I imagine you could use the screen sharing option on Skype, for example.
The Bottom Line
English360 does not technically replace face-to-face lessons; however, I believe you could use the platform in addition to another web conferencing service, like Skype, to give completely virtual lessons. On the other hand, English360 provides an excellent platform through which you, or your school, can offer blended learning courses.
The tools and the materials available are certainly impressive, and of the highest quality (you can hardly beat Cambridge University Press, especially for ESP materials). I have not had the chance to try it out fully because I have yet to enroll a student. But I did manage to create a short course in less than two hours.
Check out their tutorials on YouTube and read this brochure for more information.
Do you think you could use English360 for online or blended learning? Let us know in the comments below!