The area of international languages teaching has not been paid proper attention in distance learning. However, there exists clear rationale behind the need to develop distance learning classes for teaching international languages.
Education has recently been challenged to develop innovative forms and approaches to meet the newly emerging needs of students. One such innovative trend is distance learning. Despite this, I believe that the area of international languages teaching has not been paid proper attention when distance learning classes are created.
I will briefly explain the rationale behind distance learning in international language teaching.
Learning an international language depends to a considerable degree on the students learning style and individual capabilities. Distance learning best allows for the individual to set the pace of their study, control the intensity and duration of classes and makes the most of the learning style of each particular student.
Also, cognitive and creative skills are essential to learning an international language. In this respect, distance learning offers a great number of ways to employ personal input and develop critical and analytical skills.
A language is a living system. Thus it is subject to change, and traditional education fails to keep up with it. Distance learning, on the other hand, possesses a variety of updated learning tools and materials. It is crucial that distance learning incorporates video, audio and recent media materials into the learning process.
As a system reaching out to meet students needs, distance learning is more attractive. It caters to personal interests and can enhance motivation.
Distance learning classes for foreign language teaching can very from forms employed by traditional education- such as discussion, tests, text materials, essays- to forms unique to distance learning, including video and audio materials and others.
Despite its advantages, there are potential problems associated with distance learning in international language teaching: lack of qualified teachers for the distance learning classes, lack of proper development and availability of technology, non-existence of a national set of standards for distance learning and difficulties associated with outreach to non-urban populations. It is our firm belief that these problems should stimulate growth in the development of distance learning in Canada, rather than prevent it.
Learning any language involves getting acquainted with the culture of the country, where native speakers of that language live. Thus country studies is a crucial component of learning any language. Distance learning is then the ideal way to introduce updated authentic materials and acquire practical knowledge, which can then be applied in practical situations.
It will be instructive to describe a particularly helpful distance learning class and its structures. The name of the course is "Contemporary issues in American society" and it is designed for students of foreign language departments with a minor specialization in country studies. The aim of the course is to aid students in forming a more competent view of modern American society and to develop their professional, social, linguistic and personal skills. The course consists of two parts. The first part is a general knowledge test, which either results in a student proceeding to the main part (in case of successful completion) or in taking an introductory course (basics of the subject), which will aid them in remembering the material learned previously and will prepare the student for the main part of the course.
The course consists of 14 modules which illuminate the amount and diversity of knowledge a student may get from such a class: symbolism in American society, ecology and technological development, ethnicity and races, Christianity and non-Christianity in American society, the role of mass media, women in the U.S., employment and economics, American family peculiarities, new Iraq- perspectives and interests, formal and informal education and others. The content of the course is compiled from the recent media materials on the subject. Naturally, there is a great variety of tasks and practical assignments.
In conclusion, it is my strong belief international languages teaching is a very positive direction to explore within the general framework of distance learning development in Canada.