Author of several books on digital literacy and education technology, Nicky Hockly is also the Director of Pedagogy of The Consultants-E, an online training and development organisation. They specialise in online, blended and face-to-face training for teachers. The organisation also does consultancy work for educational institutions, helping them to integrate learning technologies into their English language programmes.
Question: When did you first get to Barcelona?
Answer: In 1987, so quite a long time ago! This was before the Olympics, and it was quite a different city then…
Q: Where are you from (city and country)?
A: I was born and grew up in in Cape Town, South Africa. I went to university in the UK, but the weather was so miserable there, I moved to Barcelona as soon as I graduated.
Q: How long have you been involved in training in educational technology?
A: Since 1997. I was the Academic Director of a fully online inter-university Masters programme in Linguistics, which was run by a consortium of Spanish and Latin American universities. It was one of the first fully online academic programmes in Spain, I believe. Anyhow, that was how I got involved in educational technology, and in online teaching and learning.
Q: What’s the main difference between a blended course and a traditional face-to-face course?
A: In a blended course, part of the course is offered online. This means you don’t need to attend classes as often, and you have more flexibility as a student as to when and where you do the online work. But a good blended course still includes plenty of communication between classmates and with the teacher in the online component.
Q: What do you see as the main advantages of BL (in language learning)?
A: Apart from the flexibility I mentioned above, as a student you can also ask your teacher to recommend specific resources to help you with areas you might find more challenging. For example, you may want to work on a tricky grammar area. Or you may want to learn extra vocabulary connected to a topic relevant to your job. And in general, if the online materials are well-designed and relevant to your interests, they can be very motivating.
Q: What do you think the future of BL will be?
A: The World Mobile Congress has just been held in Barcelona, and the big technology topic there was virtual reality. Maybe it will be in the distant future, but I can imagine students taking part in immersive language learning experiences with classmates via virtual reality – a bit like being in a virtual world like Second Life, but wearing glasses or a headset, and having a fully immersive 3-D experience, rather than looking at a computer screen. That would be fun!
Q: What’s the relationship between the tutor and the learner on BL courses?
A: The tutor can guide learners to follow specific interests, or to work on specific language areas as needed. Although the learner may be part of a larger group, there is often a closer connection with the tutor, with whom you can exchange communication electronically easily outside of set class times.
Q: How does BL help busy managers to learn efficiently?
A: Well it’s still up to the busy manager to make time to spend on his or her English, because learning doesn’t happen without at least some effort on the part of the student! But the advantages of flexibility, closer contact with the tutor, and the possibility of working on specific language areas, can in theory help with their learning. I’d say the busier you are, the more you appreciate flexibility, and blended learning can offer that.
Q: What advice would you give a learner in NELC to get the most out of our BL course Spring Special?
A: The online part of a blended course is just as important as the face-to-face classes. If you put effort into both components, you’ll see the rewards!
Name: Nicky Hockly
Position: Director of Pedagogy
Company: The Consultants-E
Sector: Educational consultancy