Development of English skills is a core area of focus for many Indian state governments interested in developing the capacity of their teacher workforce. The Teacher Professional Development Initiative (TOPDI) was a British Council pan-India pilot to offer a fully online English language course, combining self-access material with weekly live classes, to 571 state school teachers. An online course that can achieve positive learning outcomes in a low-resource context has the potential to impact the accessibility and scalability of language learning courses in India and the Global South.
The aim of the pilot was to gauge whether the design and the support mechanisms of the six-week course could maximise participation and retention and therefore successfully develop participant’s English communication skills. Data around course access, attrition rates and completion were gathered, alongside qualitative participant evaluations (questionnaires, focus groups, forum posts) of the course experience.
Access and completion rates remained both fairly high and remarkably consistent for an online course. Participant’s self-rating of language ability rose significantly from pre-course to post course. Ratings and qualitative feedback around elements of the course delivery model highlighted the successes of its design for maintaining and motivating access and completion. The evidence indicates that that this model for an online bring-your-own-device English language course can achieve significant results for language and skills development at scale and is therefore a potential delivery model for the Indian context and beyond.
Beth Caldwell is Head of Blended Learning at the British Council in India. She leads on the management, design and development of blended learning programmes, in particular ‘myEnglish’, British Council’s online English courses, which have welcomed over 4000 adult learners since launch in 2015. She has worked in English language teaching, teacher training and management in countries around the world since 1998 and has lived in India since 2011. Her professional interests include online and blended learning, materials design, quality standards and continuous professional development. She holds a Cambridge DELTA, has been a CELTA course tutor and is a certified e-moderator.