Are You Spending Your Training Budget Wisely? Part 3: Course Material

Another major factor affecting whether an English training course is likely to be successful or not is the course material. Obviously, the course material should be appropriate to the students’ abilities when they begin a course, and it aim to facilitate clear understanding and steady progress. The lessons may get boring quite quickly if the course material is either too easy or too difficult.

The natural conclusion to draw from this is that the students need to be tested before the course begins to determine their starting level of ability so that appropriately stimulating course material can be recommended.

Another point to consider when it comes to choice of course material is its relevance to the daily work of the course participants. You may ask yourself whether this really matters. After all, English is a universal language which can be learnt by anybody, anywhere and at any time, using the same material, can’t it? Well, I believe that for students learning English as a foreign language that they may use sparingly under particular circumstances such as in communication with work colleagues and customers, the relevance of the course material is important.

Let’s take as an example a standard business English course book available here in Thailand. The contents of such a course book aimed at students at a pre-intermediate level might include the following:

  • greeting visitors
  • describing graphs
  • making telephone calls
  • writing emails
  • making appointments
  • using English socially

Do the students really do all these things during the course of their daily work? The chances are that they do not.

Imagine for example that you are running a course in an outbound call center, where the students have to contact customers in order to get information or to persuade them to commit to payment. In this case there is no face-to-face contact, and there is little if any email writing involved.

How many of the topics above are really relevant to what the students have to do at work? Shouldn’t the students be given material that reflects exactly what they really have to do at work? I believe that the learning experience will be much more successful and motivating if the students can identify with the material at hand and see how it can be applied in real-life situations. In this way each course unit serves as a dress rehearsal for the next time the learners have to use English at work and prepares them for what they have to do in their jobs.

Most if not all of the multinationals based here in Bangkok have very specific requirements as to what their staff need to do in English, and the times when companies offered English training as a perk are mostly long gone. Therefore, the courses offered should reflect this, and the course material should be relevant to each organization’s particular needs.