The BBC Learning English website aims at supporting learners via self-learning of English as a foreign or second language. My purpose here is to evaluate how effective and adaptable the website is for the purpose it adopts. I will try to implement in my evaluation of the BBC Learning English a checklist of factors: focusing on the structure/design; the appropriateness of the content: teacher fit/learner fit; the authenticity; the professionalism; presentation and currency of materials; and accessibility for teachers and learners. My comparative evaluation findings recommend the BBC Learning English for a specific class of learners as well as educators considering the high level of instructional material served by the website.
The Internet has long been scrutinized as to its benefit in supporting language acquisition. It provides a broad range of communicative learning through CALL tools, such as the E-mails, wikis, blogs, Skype, etc.; which invoke profound opportunities for language teachers and learners. All these courseware tools are provided via language learning websites which are established mainly to help educators and students develop a communicative fluency in English as well as different languages. Therefore, there was a need to evaluate these many learning websites based on, among others, authenticity and appropriacy. McDonough and Shaw (1993) in their materials evaluation model, examine criteria in two integrated stages: the external and the internal stages. The criteria were proposed to evaluate the language teaching materials as ‘comprehensive as possible for the majority of ELT situations on worldwide basis.’ (p. 66). On the other hand, three approaches of evaluation were proposed by Levy and Stockwell, (1997): Checklists, methodological approach, SLA-based approach. Hubbard (1988) adapted the approach, design, and procedure introduced by Richards and Rodgers (1982) into key elements of evaluation: teacher fit, learner fit, and operational description, respectively. Hubbard’s evaluation framework (1988) can be outlined as follows: Technical preview – technical specifications and requirements. Operational description – how the application operates (presentation, navigation, design). Teacher fit – methodological approach (compatibility with syllabus, teaching style, feedback). Learner fit – how well content, skills, language level correspond the learners’ needs. Implementation – time needed to implement, train users, costs involved. Appropriateness – based on degree of learner and teacher fit. On the other hand, According to Chapelle, the evaluation criteria should include: (a) Language learning potential; (b) Learner fit; (c) Meaning focus; (d) Authenticity; (e) Positive impact; (f) Practicality (Chapelle, 2001).
Purpose and Audience
The purpose of the BBC Learning English is to provide support to learners and teachers through self-learning of English as an EFL, with concentration on development of the English four skills: listening, speaking, reading and writing. Thus the program makes available downloadable learning materials for practice. The website also provides teachers with rich pedagogical resources. It provides comprehensive materials for intermediate to advanced ESL learners from the BBC World Service. Uses simplified news stories to present English in context.
The BBC Learning English is most appropriated for intermediate to advanced ESL learners.
Interface & Design
The interface is clear and intuitive. The design of the BBC website is noticeable from the first impression to convey a professional sense that the site is serious in its goal of supporting the user seeking authorized instructional material over the Internet. The front page convinces the learner of its usefulness, clarity, ease-of-use, efficiency and openness; and it raises the visitor’s expectations of the high quality of the website.
The web page layout is moderately constructed in harmonious unflashy colours that do not distract the user. The main topic exist at the top under the heading BBC LEARNING. At the left side of the main web page is a menu including an easy navigational guide leading to each topic for the respective learning material.