Buying any sort of educational technology can be a difficult and time-consuming task. Particularly at the moment, when the recent global health concerns are still at the front of everyone’s mind. It’s also difficult when the market is flooded with so many different online language teaching solutions and apps, each proclaiming that they’re exactly the right solution for your needs.
So, if you’re looking to buy an online language teaching solution and don’t know which way to turn, Sanako is here to help. Asking these top ten questions will really help you to make the right decision for your educators and students.
1. What do other educators think?
Don’t make a decision just based on slick marketing messages or a cool social media campaign. It’s really important to find out if anyone’s actually using the solution already and to find out what they think about it. Ask to see customer testimonials and case studies, maybe even ask the salesperson if you could speak to a customer. We do this automatically when buying a car or a holiday, so make sure you do it when buying a new language teaching solution as well.
You can see Sanako’s customer testimonials here and do let us know if you’d like to speak to one of our global customers about our solutions.
2. Is the solution designed for education purposes?
Over the first months of 2020, a wide range of new products have burst onto the scene as educators got to grips with online or remote learning. But it’s essential to differentiate those solutions that are designed specifically for online teaching from those which are just repurposed versions of corporate software. Check the terms and conditions to see if you can use them in class; make sure that your students don’t need to provide personal details to create accounts and if they do, ensure that the data will stay safe (see point 3 below!) and the software’s functionality genuinely meets your requirements. If it doesn’t, then don’t use it!
3. Will my students’ data be safe and secure?
One of the first responsibilities of educators and institutions is to keep their students safe. This applies equally to any activities or work conducted online. Understand how the solutions you’re considering keep student data secure, where the date is stored and for how long, and also ask what they’ll do if and when cyber disaster strikes. Equally, it’s worth taking the time to ask how students access any online environment – what happens with their personal email ID, password and other data needed to log in?
For Sanako Connect, the solution’s simple. Each teacher simply provides a unique URL link or QR code for each virtual session, which students click on to join. No login details are required, so there’s no data privacy or data storage issues to worry about either!
4. Can my students use it anywhere they like?
Whilst appreciating that this depends on the type of institution and age of students involved, students do want to be able to flexibly access learning content and resources. They need to be able to access that content at places and during times that are convenient to them. If your institution is likely to be running either a fully or partially remote timetable, then ensuring that students can access your resources whenever and wherever they are and on whatever device they’re using is clearly vital. Therefore it is worth checking if the online teaching solution can be used in synchronous teaching as well as in asynchronous learning mode. Most likely it will be easier and more cost-efficient to use a unified online platform allowing both teaching/learning modes instead of combining single purpose apps to be able to do both!
For example, Sanako Connect delivers all of the benefits of a traditional language laboratory lab online and is easily accessible anytime and anywhere via student laptops, Chromebooks, tablets and smartphones.
5. Does it maximise time for speaking and listening?
For most language teachers, building students’ fluency in speaking and listening lies at the heart of their pedagogical approach. It is important therefore to think about how these skills will be enhanced by using your chosen online language teaching solution. And to ensure that your solution has the functionality to securely cope with these requirements.
6. Does it really engage students?
Ultimately, we’re guessing, the reason you’re buying an online language teaching solution is to help your students to learn and to improve their educational outcomes. So consider how your chosen solution engages students and maintains their interest in the long-term. If no thought’s been given to keeping motivation levels high, then students will quickly get bored and disengage. Of course, this is particularly important when teaching remotely, where it’s more difficult to maintain eye contact and harder to manage student behaviour.
7. Can I use it to assess and evaluate progress?
Linked to the above, your chosen online language teaching solution should also offer teachers the ability to monitor and measure student progress. As education budgets get ever tighter, it’s imperative that solutions (and their teachers) can demonstrate the impact that they’re having and that their use is helping to increase student attainment.
8. How do I review work and give feedback to students?
Of course, most assessment in language teaching happens informally during lessons as educators suggest new vocabulary or correct a student’s use of grammar. Take time to ensure that any new online teaching solution offers similar flexibility and that you can review and feedback on work in real-time or via recordings. If this isn’t possible, then students will simply continue to make the same mistakes.
Sanako Connect recognises this and offers educators the ability to collect and review students’ audio recordings and to feedback on them in real-time or via secure messaging.
9. Is it possible to create content and assign it to students?
As with any high-value purchase, be really clear about exactly what you’re buying. For EdTech teaching solutions, it’s particularly important to understand what learning content is or isn’t available as part of the purchase price. Also make 100% sure that you understand if any available content can be tailored to your specific needs or if you can only use what’s been provided.
Sanako Connect offers highly flexible content creation tools to supercharge your language teaching. Connect makes it really easy to create and assign exercises such as role-plays, group/pair discussions, pronunciation tasks, flashcard decks, model imitation, gap-fill exercises, for example.
10. How do I get help and support?
It’s highly likely that at some stage you’ll have a question, will need support or want to speak to someone about your product. As such, it’s important to consider how easy it is to access such help when you need it. Make sure to ask any vendor you work with about their customer support functions – Where are they based? Can I speak to a real person? Will you come out to my institution and meet me if needed? Make sure that their responses meet your requirements and ensure that their commitments form part of any agreement.
Sanako has a dedicated customer service function, who are ready to respond to your questions and queries. We also have an international network of resellers and partners in key markets globally who are ready to help you in your local language and visit your school.
Are you interested in learning more about Sanako Connect and seeing what features and benefits it offers for language teachers? Book a FREE remote demo and see it in action.