Today we launched the ELTjam Academy – an online training platform designed to help ELT professionals develop their careers in an industry being transformed by digital technology.
As the sun set over Hackney on Friday, the week was winding down as usual for the ELTjam London team. In-boxes were being zeroed; our weekly newsletter was being compiled; tasks were being moved to ‘done’ on the company Kanban board.
The team often ends the week with a bottle of craft ale or two, but the box of 24 beers from Hackney Wick’s Crate Brewery and a 3-litre box of wine suggested that this was to be a different kind of Friday night. At 6pm, we turned off our computers and gathered around the table for the start of our first ever hackathon. It would be the start of a process that, in less than 24 hours, would lead us to create Amé, an ELT ‘bot’.
Frustration, anger, confusion, boredom and repetition are all hallmarks of bad user experience (UX); unfortunately, they’re often hallmarks of language learning too, especially when it takes place digitally. But bad UX is not the only reason digital language learning products fail – sometimes it’s the content, sometimes it’s the pedagogy, sometimes it’s the lack of human interaction. Bad UX alone fails to address the complexities of language learning. We need to start talking about bad learner experience (LX). Bad LX could be defined in a number of ways, but at its most basic it’s this: not only did you fail to learn something; you had a horrible time trying.
When I was four, going on five, a TV show called Knight Rider premiered in the UK. I loved it and remained a fan for most of my childhood (OK, I admit it; I’m still a fan). There was The Hoff, of course – all leather jackets, open shirt buttons and swagger – but the real star of the show was K.I.T.T – Knight Industries Two Thousand – the ‘advanced, artificially intelligent, self-aware and nearly indestructible car’. Over thirty years later Apple and Google are in a head-to-head race to bring K.I.T.T’s spiritual successor – the driverless car – to market. And, as a little-known and hard-to-spot side effect, the ramifications for the teaching of languages, especially English, could be huge.
In 2015, content is no longer king. At best, it’s a minor royal. So in the era of content as a commodity, what’s taken its place on the throne? What do users value instead?