This week I invited two companies to come into the college to give demonstrations of their products. On Wednesday morning ‘Tell Me More’ gave their demo and this was followed by ‘Rosetto Stone’ on Friday. I’m not a linguist so I wasn’t sure what to expect. I found it difficult to learn a language at school so the prospect of an online self study programme didn’t seem that appealling…. to be honest.

Anyway the process started a few months ago when I sat down with the Head of Languages, Amparo and we discussed what we actually wanted from a languages self study pack. We came up with a list and then I visited other interested individuals in the College. I contacted the VLE manager, the project manager in IT, deputy head of the English Language School, head of Learning Reources and a representative from the library team. They all made contributions to what we required and then we ordered them into what is ‘essential’ and what is ‘desireable’. As a result we produced a chech list that I emailed to the two companies before they did the demo:

Self-access Language Packages tick list RS

I was quite surprised by the demonstrations. I wasn’t expecting great differences between the two products but they both had very different approaches to language learning. So the evaluation is not just about the technical differences of the two products. Evaluating the technical differences is a relatively easy thing to do. . So for example,  we can easily assess how many languages are provided or to what level they can provide support. What was clear to me was that these two products fit the needs of different users within the college. Tell Me More was much more closely alligned to the rigors of learning languages in a academic environment. It is much easier to identify parts of its progamme that match what the students are doing on their course. Whereas, Rosetta Stone is a much more emersive way of learning a language where grammer and vocabulary are picked up unconciously as the learner passes through the learning activities. I could see that the former might be more suited to the higher level language courses whilst the later would be more applicable to rest of the College’s non-language provision.

I was also really pleased with the turnout for both sessions. We had over 20 members of staff who came to both sessions. Whilst we had a few technical specialists the majority of the audience was made up of language lecturers. They all gave feedback on the two products and I look forward to reading their comments.

Anyway, this is just the first stage of evaluating what is ‘out there’ for this type of product. My intention is that we look at a couple more other products before we make a decision. We are possibly going to have a look at ‘Eurotalk’ in September and maybe a couple of others at the same time and make a final decision in October. It would be great to have the language packs fully installed and ready to go for Jan 2013!

….for more information on this project see my second blog post: