Avatars of two friends chatting in a living room


The students have a real and immediate need to learn the language.

  • For example, they can't communicate with new friends or solve problems without the language.
  • Courses in virtual worlds amplify this need by removing reliance on facial expressions and gestures.
Avatars shopping for clothing in a virtual department store


The students are highly engaged.

Playing games, socializing, exploring, and creating are all highly engaging and help learn English online.

Teach Talk vs Student Talk ratios chart

The optimal ratio of teacher talk to student talk--the students should do most of the talking.


The students talk far more than their teachers talk.

  • In TESL graduate programs, teacher candidates are taught to aim for 80% student talk and only 20 % teacher talk.
  • Flipped classrooms help achieve this goal because new grammar is introduced along with reading and writing work outside the classroom.


The other students in a course speak different first languages.

The students must, therefore, speak English to communicate with each other.

The base of the Eiffel Tower in Second Life's virtual Paris
A scenic virtual Alps village in Second Life


New knowledge is associated with new people, new places, and new experiences.

The memory has an easier time recalling highly contextualized information.

Students must communicate to work together in a team-based definition chart race


Courses focus on communication, not perfect pronunciation.

  • What is perfect pronunciation is highly debatable since even native speakers of English have a wide variety of accents.
  • Native speakers regularly mutilate English with utterances like “Whaddya” instead of “What did you.”
  • What is an acceptable is further widened by the fact that the percentage of English speakers who speak English as a second language far exceeds native speakers of English.
A tongue-tied girl


Perfect grammar is not overly stressed.

  • Too much stress on grammar freezes student tongues.
  • Native speakers of any language are given a lot of error leeway when they are learning their language, and they self-correct as they gain more experience.


Information is presented in a variety of ways to appeal to all of the eight types of intelligence identified by Howard Gardner:

  • Verbal linguistic learners
  • Logical mathematical learners
  • Visual spatial learners
  • Musical rhythmic learners
  • Bodily kinesthetic learners
  • Interpersonal learners
  • Intrapersonal learners
  • Naturalistic learners
Gardner's 8 intelligence types chart


Learning is carefully spaced and repetitive.

  • If we do not have many exposures to new material, it quickly becomes lost to us.
  • This is why good teachers regularly refer back to points that have already been taught and assign homework and quizzes/tests.
  • This is also why long sessions clustered together are far less effective than many shorter sessions.
Chart showing recall percentages degrading over time


Students have some control over what they are learning.

For example, they are allowed to choose their topics, projects, locations, etc.

Lots of virtual field trip options available in Second Life
American Univerty in Cairo Master of Arts degree


Teachers are highly qualified.

Unfortunately, many online education platforms do not require their "teachers" to have any teaching credentials. They simply require these "teachers" be native speakers of English.

Image of some USD (United States Dollars)


Teachers are paid appropriately.

You can’t expect highly educated and experienced teachers to design and teach an hour-long class for $10.00.

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