Do you have to choose a suitable vocabulary app for your students? Select digital materials? Recommend a learning platform for your school? Formally or informally, many teachers and academic managers select and evaluate digital learning materials. On what basis? On what criteria do we base our assessments of learning material, whether created by the teacher, ELT publisher or a tech company? This course provides a systematic approach to ‘evaluating digital materials’, taking participants through the What? Why? Who? and How? of evaluation. Participants assess material relevant to them and finish the course with a set of tools for future evaluations.

Week 1 

We start with a look at definitions. Firstly: “What is evaluation? And secondly, “What do we mean by digital materials?” Next, we will look at a history of digital materials, from the earliest days of CALL (computer-assisted language learning) through the multimedia age of CD-ROMs and interactive whiteboard software to the current mobile age of tablet and Smartphone apps. Participants will choose which set of materials they will evaluate during the course.

Week 2 

We will look at a range of theories of language learning (behaviourism, cognitivism, Second Language Acquisition) and explore to what extent these theories inform the design of digital materials. We will look at the concerns of research – what have CALL researchers focussed on? Evaluation can be done from a number of perspectives and we will explore the following three approaches: the instructional designer, the language teacher and finally, the student who uses the material.

Week 3 

This session will look systematically at the What? Who? Why? and How? of evaluating digital materials. Under ‘How’, we will explore four useful frameworks as follows: Hubbard / Chapelle / Leakey and Reinders & Pegrum. We will see how each framework fits best with evaluating certain types of materials. The session will also present the many, various methods (or instruments) available to the evaluator, such as: questionnaires, focus groups and observations, considering the pros and cons of each method.  

Week 4

This practical session will bring together the content of the earlier sessions in a list of recommendations: “10 practical tips on evaluating digital materials.” As materials are changing so rapidly, we will focus on the future and examine many exciting (yet scary) developments, including: adaptive learning, voice recognition, Virtual and Augmented reality. We will see how language teachers need to take an informed view on many controversial developments, and stay up to date with the pedagogy in order to continue to evaluate the new types of digital materials our learners will be using in the imminent future.

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Evaluating Digital Materials

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