Vol. 5. No. 3 INT December 2001
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2001: A (Cyber-) Space Odyssey

Jim Duber
duber dot com

This was a year of consolidation for Internet-based ESL/EFL offerings. The fear generated by the "dot com bust" in the e-commerce sector seems to have caused a serious decline in the number of investors willing to take a chance on new large-scale online courses. Dave's ESL Cafe began maintaining a list of Online English Courses in 1998. During that year, 19 submissions were added to this section of the site; in 1999, 20 submissions were added; and in 2000 another 17 were added. For the year 2001, there is not one single entry and many of the links to the older listings no longer seem to function.

On the other hand, text book publishers seem to have picked up on the trend of including a web-based supplement to their new book offerings. A few examples:

Heinle & Heinle's ESL Product Web Sites page includes links to companion websites for a variety of their new ESL text and multimedia products.

Similarly, Longman's Companion Websites page includes links to web-based supplements for their new publications.

Not to be outdone, Cambridge ESL has online support materials for many of their new products.

Houghton Mifflin has an extensive selection of online supplements for their ESL textbooks for both students and instructors.

Oxford University Press has built an impressive selection of online activities to support their text Passport. Passport Online offers a range of multimedia games and activities designed to enhance the study of the material in the textbook, especially targeted toward a Japanese audience.

In addition, more and more instructors are building online supplements to their courses. Both of these outcomes are encouraging in that they generally take good advantage of the medium to improve upon their traditional methods.

In the wake of the September 11 tragedy, there have been increased global concerns about travel. I've spoken with several ESL program directors here in California who have expressed concerns about falling enrollments in the near-term, as well as a renewed interest in the development of online courses to help offset the expected losses in revenues. According to Maggie Sokolik, Director of the ESL Summer Workshop at UC Berkeley (and TESL-EJ Editor):

On the one hand, there is a concern in the US that given stricter visa screening, longer times for visa acquisition, and concerns about travel in general, that enrollments will be smaller than in the past two or three years. On the other hand, we have seen the reach of our web-based marketing grow and grow. The number of potential students visiting our website and then requesting information about our program has more than doubled since last year. My hope is that these two forces will cancel each other out, and our enrollments will stay steady. We will certainly do all we can to add value to our website and try to draw students to our program, as always.

Let's all hope for a more peaceful and productive time in the year to come.

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