There’s a conundrum for businesspeople looking to improve their English.
Those at the front line of cross-border business gain the most from having superior English skills, but they also have the least time to study.
That’s where online training courses come in
Online courses and language apps are growing in popularity because people incorporate them around busy schedules. But there’s a catch:
Watching pre-recorded videos lessons and completing multiple choice exercises generally doesn’t deliver the results businesspeople need. To get a return on your investment (time and money), you need a course that gives engaging online content as well as video call lessons with qualified trainers.
Here are 6 factors to consider when looking at online English courses. They’ll help ensure you’re investing in one that delivers maximum benefit to your career and business.
1. Ensure video call lessons are central to the program
There are 2 aspects to this:
- Having an expert who helps you engage and improve
If you’re not forced to apply what you learn, you won’t become a more effective communicator. That’s why passively listening or watching doesn’t work, and why face-to-face lessons were the preferred approach for so long. But for busy professionals they're not always practical, and they don’t easily scale for a team. You end up missing and cancelling lessons, which leads to wasted money and slow progress.
Lessons over video call give you the best of both worlds. You can attend them from anywhere – there’s no time wasted travelling and you can work around your schedule. The Language Grid platform even has a slick calendar feature that makes it easy to schedule and reschedule, so you never lose a lesson if something arises.
With video call lessons, you still get a personalized approach from a native speaker focused on helping you apply what you’ve been studying online – ensuring you acquire the practical skills you need to be more effective in your daily working life.
- Having a course that is specifically designed to integrate studying and speaking
This is essential to your success. It shouldn’t be an online platform where you study alone, with speaking lessons as an optional extra or a bolt-on. The video call lessons must be intrinsic to the course alongside a human-curated platform and human-curated lessons (we call this the blended approach to learning business English). This isn’t about self-study, it’s about having an expert driving your training – using effective online tools to deliver results.
2. Look for expert, interactive content
The research is compelling. Video increases engagement levels and effectiveness in digital learning – students only remember 10% of text-based content, compared to 65% of visual content and 95% of video content.
To get that level of benefit, you need content specifically designed for digital engagement. It should prompt a variety of different interactions, not just multiple choice and ‘fill the gap’ exercises. To properly process the content, you need detailed quizzes, timed tasks and complex analyses. It should be presented in easily digestible sections, so you can make tangible progress when you have 10 minutes on a train or during lunch.
At The Language Grid, we also have sophisticated online progress tracking and benchmarking. The leaderboards show you in real time how your skills compare to peers, which is key to ongoing motivation. And we’re one of the rare business English training programs to have an assessment process that’s fully online.
3. Check for accreditations
Think about other types of business support you use – would you settle for something with no track record or verification?
If you choose an online English course without academic and management accreditation, it means the program has no quality control. Simply put, it’s low quality. English has a major impact on your ability to do deals, your earning potential and your career progression, so now’s not the time to rely on something amateur. To give you an idea, The Language Grid has the following accreditations:
- Eaquals – for quality assurance, academic management, teacher development and the CEFR
- ISO 9001 – for quality management
- ISO 14001 – for environmental management
Why waste time and money on apps or courses whose methodology and skills aren’t accredited?
4. Make sure the course is business-oriented
There are 100s of online language courses available, but if you’re learning English to help advance your company and career, look for business-oriented ones.
Yes, you need grammar, vocabulary and conversational skills. But as a businessperson, you must be able to apply them in a commercial context rather than an academic one. This means you need training focusing on practical skills like negotiating, participating in conference calls, networking, writing emails and reports, and giving presentations in English.
Here at The Language Grid, we use an evidence-based methodology refined by analyzing data from thousands of professionals. This helps students approach their learning with a commercial mindset – and delivers a 100% success rate.
5. Interrogate the technology
Other areas of business are benefiting from digitalization, omnichannel strategies and the Internet of Things, and so is EdTech. Given the career progression and revenue winning potential of effective English, you shouldn’t settle for a basic app or website hosting a few videos.
The platform should be as advanced, user-friendly, and agile as other areas of your digital life. It should be optimized around practical features proven to benefit professionals like you. Look for elements like integrated leaderboards, evidence-based benchmarking, calendar, video call, social networking, and instant messaging.
6. Check for regular updates
Cultural references, business trends and technology evolve constantly. What was cutting-edge a year ago might have been superseded, so make sure the platform and course materials are updated regularly.
The Language Grid’s AI-driven platform, for example, is constantly generating and analyzing user feedback to inform continuous improvement. And our course content is regularly refined to make sure our students get the most benefit in their everyday working lives.
Ultimately, digital learning and video-based training can be a great way for time-poor professionals to improve their language skills – but only if it’s specifically designed with a businessperson’s experience in mind.
Zoe Flaherty, Founding Director of The Language Grid
Image: © Stefania Cazzaniga