Do you use any web apps for your work? For blogging, project management, collaborating, referencing, lesson planning? If so, what’s been your experience of them? Are there any you’d recommend for teaching?
In July 2009 we launched our own online testing and practice web app for organizations – oxfordenglishtesting.com. A smaller version for students had already been launched the year before. The app hosts the Oxford Online Placement Test, online exam practice tests, online skills practice and a Learning Management System to manage it all.
We felt this was a good time to thank our customers, and do some research on what they thought about the app.
When we launched the app it was a bit of a leap in the dark. Yes, teachers had been downloading resources from the Internet for a while, used it for research and showing interesting videos, and yes our research and user testing showed they liked our new testing app. But would the reality of using the Internet work for them? Would it make their work easier? Would students respond well?
So to find out, we ran a competition asking for their favourite feature and what they’d like us to improve. In this post we’ll look at the three winning favourites. Next time, we’ll report back on their suggestions.
Alan Gibbons is an ESL teacher in the English Language Institute (ELI) at Yale University in the USA. He co-ordinates placement testing. As part of the Yale Summer Session, ELI provides English language instruction for international students who come to benefit from sharing ideas, interests, talents, and cultures with each other.
For Alan, doing their placement testing online means speed. Answers are automatically marked so the whole intake process takes a lot less time: “We tested 113 students in one morning at one location and were able to create class lists based on the results that afternoon,” he writes.
Gustavo Sánchez Piérola works as an Academic Coordinator for Británico, a Language School in Lima, Peru. Británico has been promoting British and Peruvian culture for the last 70 years in its 11 centres around Lima. The school offers class-based as well as online courses. They use both the Oxford Online Placement Test and online exam practice tests.
Gustavo and his students especially like the instant feedback on answers in the exam practice tests. “This helps them to reflect on what they have done and why it is wrong,” he writes. He also feels that the feedback promotes independent learning: “If they can’t figure it out they can always ask the teacher, but only about those questions that they got wrong.”
Fabian Moreno is a young entrepreneurial English teacher who recently set up his own business InEmpres, in Trujilo, also in Peru. He offers local business people flexible English courses in their offices or homes, including online lessons. He uses the Oxford Online Placement Test.
His favourite feature is the test’s flexibility. His clients “do it at their own pace and time. My business does not need to send a supervisor, nor print the exam,” he writes. He gets the results and his clients are placed at the right level without taking up too much of their busy working day.
So, for these teachers it’s the speed, flexibility and instant learning features of working online that caught their imagination. What do you think about working online? Like it or loath it?
There are lots of ‘best’ web app articles out there if you’ve not tried one yet. Here’s a list you might find useful 100 Free and Useful Web Apps for Writers or a couple more aimed at teachers 50 Web Applications for Teachers.