Tesol master's students in merry ol' England have stepped boldly into the twenty-first century -- and have relished the experience. An article appearing the March 8, 2011 edition of The Guardian reports that "research carried out recently among a group of students enrolled in a distance MA Tesol course at Leicester University offers a glimpse into a not-too-distant future when learners distributed around the world but linked via the internet will be able to enhance their learning experience with the use of some simple and low-cost digital tools."
These tools range from e-readers to audio equipment and have served to bridge the distances among learners situated thousands of miles apart.
Leicester's distance learning course fosters an innovative virtual learning environment in the form of "a closed website via which students can access course content and keep in touch using a text-based message board."
The course takes distance learning the extra distance with the addition of a "simple voice recording program and headphone-and-mic sets." These features make it possible for students "to add audio clips to these message board postings."
These small touches add a significant human element to what can otherwise be a lonely educational experience. Not only can students interact with one another through a more natural medium (voice), they can also form a closer bond with their instructor.
This human element matters especially for the group of Tesol students featured in the Guardian article. They are far-flung, many having left their home countries to teach abroad. A highly mobile population, Tesol students present a perfect test group for these new technologies.
The e-reader is another device that has made life easier for peregrinating students. Publishers now make texts available for immediate download onto e-readers, saving students time -- and shelf space!
Between e-readers and audio technology (not to mention a slew of other technological innovations) students are having an easier time enjoying the benefits of distance learning. And it's not just Tesol students who reap these benefits; students at all levels and in all disciplines come to the classroom with increasingly complex and unsettled lives. New e-learning technologies allow them to pursue an education without having to sidetrack their personal and professional lives.