Oxford University Press is the biggest university press in the world (Cambridge University Press is the second). It publishes an impressive catalogue of EFL/ESL course books that are used is academies, schools and universities and by individuals around the globe. Over the last year or so they’ve been very busy creating a complementary set of on-line resources to accompany their course books.
What’s the big deal?
I think OUP have made a very astute move, in marketing terms, by providing these resources. As you most probably already know, there’s already a plethora of free on-line EFL/ESL resources for students and teachers on the web, some of them high quality, especially on the BBC’s Learning English website and some of them not so high quality. The major drawback of most on-line resources is that they don’t always correspond very closely to what learners are learning at any particular time – they may cover a particular grammar point but the vocabulary and context may be completely different or they might cover vocabulary but in differently organised lexical groups, for example. OUP have addressed this problem quite admirably by providing on-line resources that correspond to specific books that they publish, such as New English File, Natural English and New Headway, unit by unit, topic by topic. Now it’s a case of learners looking up the website addresses printed on their course books and finding the appropriate chapter and language point that they want to practise.
But no learner accounts or records!
However, one drawback, that I can see, is that learners can’t easily keep track of their activities or progress. They can’t even tell if they’ve already done an activity or not, unless they make a note of it somewhere and keep it for reference. I think it’s an important part of promoting learner independence for learners to have access to records of their activities and reports of their attendance and progress. It can be very motivating and useful as a self-diagnostic tool.
I can see why this is, I don’t think OUP want to commit themselves to the administration overhead of maintaining a student login and records database system. That would be a huge project that might even rival the world’s largest learning management system at the UK’s Open University which accommodates nearly 200,000 students.
They’re definitely a good idea.
Overall, I think OUP’s EFL/ESL on-line resources are a useful addition to their publications and address the growing expectation from learners that some part of their studies should incorporate e-learning, and I think other publishers are likely to follow their example.
The OUP’s on-line resources are accessible to everyone, without registration and they’re free of charge.