I am struck by the opposition to e-learning from within educational institutions in Canada. Rather than seeing e-learning as an opportunity to provide education of various kinds to a broader range of people than can be accommodated in institutions, teachers seem to see it as a threat to their livelihood. A recent meeting I had was only the latest illustration of this sad fact.
Our lumber company has always contributed annually to various charities. Since I launched The Linguist, I make sure a portion of our donations go to literacy education. We have been working with a local Rotary club to develop a program whereby the members of this Rotary club would record content about their careers, companies, history etc. This could be transcribed and become learning material for The Linguist that would be especially useful for recent immigrants, many of whom are struggling financially. The Rotarians could also mentor learners.This could all be done via The Linguist which we would make available free to group of learners.
Our company gave a considerable amount of money to the Rotary club to cover teachers, MP3 players and other expenses. The club arranged a meeting with a local Immigrant Services Society which is paid for by government money and from charitable foundations. The Rotary club was thinking of giving the money to this organization to administer the program.
In my first meeting with the Immigrant Service Society I was told the following.
1)Language teaching can only happen face to face, nothing else works. People need to learn the body language. ( I forgot to ask if they even bothered to look at our website).
2) Their students do not have computers. They are poor. This kind of learning would alienate them. (Well what about others in the community that they are not now serving I asked, the professional immigrants.)
2) Immigrant professionals do not need to improve their English,I was told. The only problem is prejudice against certain accents and the unwillingness of employers to recognize foreign credentials and experience. (Of course there is some prejudice against accents, not only non-native ones, but also regional variants of English. This kind of prejudice is not deep, and is only one of many factors an employer considers. The ability to communicate easily and naturally is more important than accents.)
3) The only part of our proposal that was of interest to them , they said, was the mentoring by the Rotary club members. Language learning can only happen in a class room, they said with emphasis.
4) Then they said that It should still be possible to work something out, however. (Even though they had completely dismissed our system they thought we could work together!) The problem was that there was no benefit for the Immigrant Service Society. In their words, I benefit by spreading my system, the Rotary benefits by appearing to help the community, but what about their Society? What is in it for them? (The fact that I was providing the funding for a program that might help 50-100 immigrants over 6 months was an irrelevant detail. The idea that they might develop a new outreach program to a client group that they were not serving did not seem to interest them.)
At that point I said that there was no fit here and ended the meeting.