Online learning and the Teaching of English

Although the scope of my current research is on online learning, I have in the past extended the focal context of research to English language education. Thus, one future research opportunity is a holistic insight into online learning and the method of identifying it in great detail is by means of scrutinising its usage in terms of English language teaching.


There are several justifications for the preference towards English language. In Brunei, English is a core subject that is regarded as an ‘access language’ towards employment and academic prospects. In addition, English in Brunei is still entirely taught and assessed through traditional means, whereas in the history of online learning dating back to CALCampus of 1994, English was one of the first few subjects delivered online and is still the instigator of online learning for its communicative properties that it exhibits. Therefore, it is apt to approach a research on online learning through a subject that is of paramount importance in Brunei.


With English language as the specific focus of implementation, the main strength of online learning is its communicative traits; coined as Computer Mediated Communication (CMC). English learning receives the paramount impact from CMC because it “provides opportunities for language learners to practice their language” (Abrams, 2006). Harasim (1990) perceives CMC as a “possible cognitive amplifier that can encourage both reflection and interaction”, while Warschauer (1997) views CMC as a bridge that connects speech and writing allowing both reflection and interaction to take place in one medium. Under the same agendum, Harasim (1997, p.121) defines Computer Conferencing as “a group communications medium enabling groups of people to exchange ideas and opinions and to share information and resources.”


The keywords that could be extracted from the above paragraph are ‘medium’, ‘interaction’ and ‘reflection’. ‘Medium’ in this case is a virtual classroom environment where students have opportunities to learn and be taught together; ‘interaction’, a means to communicate among students and between students and teacher(s) that is comparable to interlocution; and ‘reflection’ is the facility to return to what has been interacted through the medium, for the medium has a useful attribute that automatically records all text-based communication carried out, as opposed to the ephemeral attribute of unrecorded spontaneous speech. Ultimately, these aforesaid criteria are the strengths of online learning.


With regards to English language, I have written a paper exclusively on Computer Assisted Classroom Discussions in relation to composition writing (Omarali, 2007a), presented a paper on how a new teaching paradigm such as an online teaching paradigm can instigate improvements (Omarali, 2009c), and designed a working English Language online learning website entitled ‘EnglishGuru’ that utilises videos to disseminate thematic information (Omarali, 2007b).



Abrams, Z. (2006). From theory to practice: Intracultural CMC in the L2 Classroom. In Ducate, L. & Arnold, N. (Eds.), Calling on CALL : From Theory and Research to          New Directions in Foreign Language Teaching (pp. 181-210). Texas: CALICO.


Harasim, L. M. (1997). Teaching and learning on-line: Issues in computer-mediated graduate courses. Canadian Journal of Educational Communication, 16, (2), 117–135.

Harasim, L. (2000). Shift happens: online education as a new paradigm in learning. The Internet and Higher Education. 3, pp.41-61.

Kim, K. and Bonk, C. J. (2006). The future of online learning and teaching in higher education: The survey says… . Educause Quarterly. (4). pp.22-30.

McCarty, S., Ibrahim, B., Sedunov, B. and Sharma, R. (2006). Global online education. In J. Weiss, et al. (Eds.), The International Handbook of Virtual Learning Environments. (pp.723–787). The Netherlands: Springer.

Ministry of Education (2008). Strategic Study Report: The Design,Verification, Commissioning, Implementation and Maintenance of e-Learning Systems and Strategies. Brunei Darussalam: Unpublished manuscript.

Omarali, A. S. (2007a). Using Computer Assisted Classroom Discussion to Supplement Collaboration in English Language Composition Writing for Secondary Level Students. Unpublished manuscript.

Omarali, A. S. (2007b). Rationales for the EnglishGuru Website: Using Videos to Prepare Lower Secondary Level L2 Students with Knowledge that they need for their Composition Assessments. Unpublished manuscript.

Omarali, A. S. (2008a). Identifying Bruneian undergraduates and graduates’ levels of familiarity towards the basic concept of online learning. Unpublished manuscript. Retrievable from

Omarali, A. S. (2008b). Learning styles in the future of online learning. Will online learning be shaped by the learner or will it determine learners’ learning styles?Unpublished manuscript. Retrievable from

Omarali, A. S. (2008c). The Implementation of Online Learning in Brunei Darussalam: A Theoretical Perspective. Unpublished Master’s thesis, University of Manchester, UK.

Omarali, A. S. (2009a) Current Trends and Tempos on Using Internet-based Virtual Environments for Education. Presented in the International Conference on Education 2009, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Omarali, A. S. (2009b) An Introduction to Teaching and Learning in SecondLife.
Presented in the International Conference on Education 2009, Universiti Brunei Darussalam.

Omarali, A. S. (2009). Is it time for a Change in Paradigms? Investigating the Appropriateness of the Secondary School English Education System in Brunei Darussalam.
In Proceedings of the 3rd Biennial International Conference on the Teaching and Learning of English in Asia. 18-20 November. Brunei: BELTA.

Twigg, C. A. (2003) Improving learning and reducing costs: New models for online learning. Educause Review. pp.28-38.

Warschauer, M. (1997). Computer mediated collaborative learning: Theory and Practice.   The Modern Language Journal, 81, (6), 470-481.


Williams, C. (2002). Learning on-line: a review of recent literature in a rapidly expanding field, Journal of Further and Higher Education, 26 (3), pp.263-272.