Some Suggestions on Conducting a Needs Analysis for an Online English Course


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What teachers do online is actually similar to what they do “on the ground” (Ko & Rossen, 2010, p. 12). That is why the first and most important step for designing an effective online course is conducting a needs analysis.

Here is a to-do list for doing an English needs analysis, along with a few suggestions based on a needs analysis that I have done recently:

  1. Choose a needs analysis approach (e.g., Target Situation Analysis (TSA), Present Situation Analysis (PSA), Pedagogic Needs Analysis (PNA), Discourse Analysis, Genre Analysis)
  2. Choose a needs analysis method (e.g., questionnaire, interview, observation, diaries, journals, logs). Try to choose/design a short questionnaire or adapt long ones such as Gravatt, Richards, and Lewis (1997) to make the analysis process easier.
  1. Triangulate the data (i.e., collect data from more than one source using different methods).
  1. Read the whole recent book by Brown (2016), titled Introducing Needs Analysis and English for Specific Purposes, before starting your needs analysis (as suggested by Brown himself in the preface). This book is an up-to-date, step-by-step guide to doing the recursive, holistic process of needs analysis.


*Aloha, in this very context, means: I don’t live in Hawaii, and you might 😉

My Favorite Open Educational Resources (OER) for ELT


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Open Educational Resources (OER) have a central role to play in designing an online course.

Here are some of my favorite links of OER for English language teaching and learning.

Portals and other related links:

Check the following links to find more OER for ELT:

Three Practical Points on CEFR (Common European Framework of Reference)

English Profile

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR or CEF) is a guideline used to describe language ability on a scale of levels from A1 for beginners up to C2 for those who have mastered a language. CEFR can be used as a standard in the process of designing a language online course.

1. The English Vocabulary Profile (EVP) shows which words and phrases learners know at each level (i.e., from A1 to C2) of the CEFR. You can subscribe to the A1-C2 English Vocabulary Profile here, which is available for free for the time being.

Words are also listed according to their CEFR levels in Cambridge Learner’s Dictionary.

2. The English Grammar Profile (EGP) shows which grammatical forms and meanings learners know at each level (i.e., from A1 to C2) of the CEFR. The EGP is available here.

3. The following text inspectors can be used to check the difficulty of any text in terms of the CEFR levels.

My Favorite Websites for Creative Commons Images


Images are an indispensable part of your online course. Here, I share my favorite websites for Creative Commons (CC) images.

Pexels (which also searches these websites: PixabayUnsplash, and Gratisography)

Creative Commons Search

Flicker Creative Commons

Free Images

You can also use Google advanced image search.

And remember, “avoid using distracting images for decoration”! (Marjorie Vai & Kristen Sosulski, p. 73)

If you are not familiar with Creative Commons licences, click here (“Shared Creations: Making Use of Creative Commons” by by Emily Puckett and Kristin Fontichiaro, 2013).

Writing Good Learning Objectives and Learning Outcomes

These two resources will help you write good learning objectives and learning outcomes for your online course.

  1. Writing Learning Outcomes by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski (2011)

    Check the book’s website for models of good online course design:

  1. The ABCDs of Writing Instructional Objectives by Brett Bixler

    Blooms_Taxonomy_pyramid_cake-style-use-with-permissionPhoto credit:

Two Checklists of Online Course Design Standards

Two checklists to self-evaluate your online course:

1. The Standards Checklist by Marjorie Vai and Kristen Sosulski (2011)

Essentials of Online Course Design

2. Quality MattersTM Higher Education Course Design Rubric Standards, Fifth Edition (2014): “A set of eight General Standards and 43 Specific Review Standards used to evaluate the design of online and blended courses”