“It was fun and interactive”. “We could do it from our homes and didn’t have to leave the house.” said one of the students from the blended English pilot recently run by the British Council Teaching Centre in Maputo. The pilot tested whether a blended learning product using a combination of learning English through a self-access course, online tasks, online lessons and some face to face classes could be a viable product in the future.
58 volunteer students and administration staff from ISCTEM University were divided up into 3 groups who all completed one level of the LearnEnglish Pathways course (British Council’s online self-access General English course) with added online and face to face components for some groups. The students had already taken part in a questionnaire about attitudes to online learning.
The project outcomes were very positive in terms of outcomes and feedback from learners. 28 students improved their level of English as a result of doing the course. The best results in terms of participation, completion and learning outcomes were from Group 1 who received the full blended including face to face classes. “I think the course is great and an option to learn English in a different way”. The lowest completion results were from Group 3 who only received the LEP course self-access course.
There were challenges too especially technical with the learning platform which did put some students off from participating. The use of Skype as the online teaching platform was difficult at first due to connectivity issues and it seems that this was one project component that was not working. However, the adoption of the Zoom platform halfway through the course resulted in much better connectivity and the teacher was able to start conducting online lessons with less technical difficulties.
There were issues too with student participation but this did pick up after the mid-course point with the help of personal calls from the admin co-ordinator to encourage them to compete. There were still 22 students who dropped out mainly due to a lack of time or internet access.
It seemed that the more successful learners were strong at self-discipline, ‘it seems like you have to be your own police’ said one student and able to manage their time around all their other commitments of studies, work, internships etc in order to complete the course to study at least one hour a day, turn up to classes and not leave everything to the last minute. A good internet connection and access to a computer helped too. Those who finished the course were motivated by the reward of getting a British Council Certificate which is seem as very prestigious in Maputo and the motivation to improve their English.
“For me online learning is perfect. I study four hours in the morning and four hours in the afternoon at university so I’m very busy but I need to improve my English as I’m an athlete and need to travel to foreign countries.” said one of the students.
Overall, the outcomes of the SSA pilot project are very positive and indicate that blended learning could be a possibility in Mozambique and some countries in Sub Saharan Africa.