260 146 EC blogger

EnglishCentral Study Tips

We have a lot that students can do on EnglishCentral.   Many students don’t find out what they can do beyond Watch | Learn | Speak | Quiz of the videos.

Here’s a few suggestions to help students  learning English on our world leading platform.

#1  Speak the whole video! 

We set our player with “Focus Speak Mode”.  Students only speak the 5 lines of the video which contain our Focus Vocabulary.   To speak the whole video deselect this setting in the player.

focused speak setting

#2.   Click on words you don’t know. 

When students click on words or expressions they don’t know, these words are added to the final Quiz on EnglishCentral.  The student can study them plus the words we have set as Focus Vocabulary. Plus, these words get added to the My Words page as favorites. Students can then restudy them there, on that page, any time.

click on words

#3   Use the “enter” key to advance through the learning.

Especially in learn mode, use your “enter” key to check if you are right and advance through to the next learn line. It makes life easy!

select enter

#4  Use other keyboard shortcuts.

Click the “?” icon and find and use more keyboard shortcuts to help make learning easier.


#5  Visit your Pronunciation Profile.

After a student records about 100 lines, a Pronunciation Profile is created. Students can access this page and see the sounds they need to work on (red).  Click a phoneme/sound and you’ll be provided a recommended pronunciation course to help you improve the pronunciation of that sound.


299 142 EC blogger

Ted Talks

tedMany advanced students benefit from watching and studying the best TED Talks on EnglishCentral.

We now have a course of all our best TED videos so students can study them in one handy place.  View the course >>>>

You can find all our hundreds of TED Talks video lessons through our video search feature.


243 221 EC blogger

The Top 5 Strategies To Increase Student Engagement Online

This article by our CEO and Founder,  Alan Schwartz originally appeared on Xconomy. Read the original here.

aschwartz-1283Good teachers often say that “95 percent of good teaching is just getting students motivated.” Online learning presents a new opportunity to both measure engagement and create learning methods that increase it. Facebook sets the high bar for online engagement—65 percent of its billion-plus users are on the platform for an average of 40 minutes per day.

For online learning, the current stats are much less impressive. For example, the initial enthusiasm for massive open online courses (MOOCs) dampened when data showed that on average, completion rates were below 10 percent.

Here are 5 strategies that showcase what best-in-class online learning platforms are using to do just that.

1. Let the students drive. Giving students the choice of a content path is key to increasing engagement. It’s the YouTube effect: let learners discover one video that piques their curiosity and then present them with a learning path going forward from there. Khan Academy has done a fantastic job of this with their learning map.

2. Adapt to the students’ level. Learners need to feel challenged, but not frustrated, and the key to this is real-time adaptive learning. Getting learners content at the right level at the right time, and adapting levels over time is key for keeping up motivation levels.

3. Use game dynamics. Online learners, like online gamers, react to incentives. Brain training is a great example of giving students “bite size” nuggets of learning that they feel compelled to consume every day. These incentives can be modeled more towards the experience points of online gaming platforms like the Xbox, or towards badges or certifications like those offered by Duolingo. The best game dynamics also involve collaboration and/or competition among learners. Knowing where you stand among your age group or even better among your friends can be a huge source of motivation to impress and therefore improve.

4. Go mobile. A slick mobile app is a sine qua non to boost engagement. It’s a simple fact that learners spend more time with their mobile devices than with their computers, and mobile access allows them to make progress and engage anywhere and anytime during their day. Duolingo has achieved over 100 million downloads of its language-learning app and claims great user engagement by making a mobile-focused product that allows for snacking on language learning in 10-minute chunks.

5. Amplify the teacher’s voice. The best online platforms don’t eliminate the teacher’s presence in the learning formula, they amplify it. The best platforms maintain a strong instructor presence through frequent teacher messaging (which can be automated) such as “I noticed you didn’t practice in the last 3 days,” or through tools that allow teachers to listen in on student progress and provide asynchronous and personalized feedback. Hybrid platforms go one step further and enhance the self-study learning path by, for instance, providing a “Talk to a Teacher” button along the way to enable access to live tutoring in real time


Alan Schwartz is CEO & Founder of EnglishCentral. He started his career in edtech as an English teacher in China over 25 years ago. After that he spent over a decade in the speech recognition industry, including as head of Nuance’s Mobile & Consumer division. Follow @EnglishCentral1

400 184 EC blogger

Why our classrooms are failing language students


Is this an effective use of class time? 

Let’s be honest.

Language classrooms don’t have a stellar track record when it comes to students achieving proficiency in the target/taught language.  This despite, hard working, well trained and dedicated staff and teachers.

Why is this?

In my over 25 years as an educator and working in and with schools teaching languages – 3 very strong reasons spring to mind.

1The classroom experience does not contain “agency” or purpose.

The classroom remains an isolated practice area with little relevance to students.  Students become de-motivated when language isn’t the real thing, when it isn’t used for a purpose and is just words in a list or  a mental exercise of memory.

This recent post by a teacher trainer, nicely illustrates the point.  The teacher despite designing a stellar lesson is confronted by student apathy. The teacher planned a very creative lesson about eating food and ordering food in a restaurant in Mexico.  When she asks why one student isn’t into the lessson, the student replies, ““Why the hell would someone like me be traveling in Mexico?”

The point is, students get frustrated when they don’t see the relevancy of the classroom materials and activities. “The future” is a long way away and provides little practical motivation to a student.  Students need to interact with examples of real language, participate and communicate with real target language speakers.  We need to make our classrooms NOT have 4 walls.

2The classroom does not offer students enough time on task with the target language.

All teachers know about this pink elephant in the room – time.  There just aren’t enough hours committed to language instruction for students to make adequate progress. Language learning is time intensive.

Students need more time interacting and experiencing the target language, more time the school schedule doesn’t offer.  Further, the classroom is for the most part a very ineffective use of the time given. So much time gets eaten up with non-subject related “stuff”. Announcements, classroom management, entry/exit etc ….  We need to design a better classroom experience for students and use this precious time better.

I began helping build EnglishCentral because I wanted a solution to these two fundamental problems plaguing language education in this day and age. I wanted EnglishCentral (and ed. tech in general) not to replace the classroom teacher but to support them and at the same time mitigate these 2 fundamental problems.

How does EnglishCentral do that? 

Essentially, EnglishCentral allows schools and teachers to “flip” their classroom.  Students get additional practice with real life language.

EnglishCentral provides authentic input amd takes a natural language approach. Either through the best videos on the web or through our 1-1 tutor GoLive! lessons about the video lessons.  Students interact with real world language that is relevant to their interests and curiosity.  We make language learning relevant and about “out there”.

EnglishCentral also provides a study platform where through mobile learning, students can more efficiently use their non-class time to get much more engagement with the English language.  Students using their smartphones, dramatically increase their time interacting with the English language.  EnglishCentral allows them to use our apps when waiting for a bus, when waiting on a friend, in the city, on the street, in the park.   We compliment the in-class learning by providing meaningful, “comprehensible” input for the student. More time on task = more gains in student oral proficiency.

Find out more about the blended learning approach using EnglishCentral.  Also how you can flip your language classroom using EnglishCentral.




400 390 EC blogger

EnglishCentral Deploys with Huawei at Mobile Summit


EnglishCentral demonstrated its newest mobile app at the 2015 Innovation and Transformation Summit from October 22 to 23 at the Westin Resort in Bali Indonesia.

During the event, EnglishCentral  launched its HiStudy app, the English learning app developed with Huawei for the Chinese Market.  This application has been a huge success in the Chinese market, reaching over 10,000 activations per day, reaching over 10 million in its 1st year.

Huawei is the largest mobile handset provider in China and #3 worldwide, and expanding rapidly in international markets.  We are excited to duplicate the results of the Huawei-EnglishCentral China deployment with mobile carriers and operators throughout the rest of Asia.

EnglishCentral’s analysis of data from over 150,000 learners learners of its mobile app in 2015 shows that students make progress two times faster when they are able to practice from their mobile devices.

For more information about EnglishCentral’s participation at the Huawei Summit, or if you would like to see a demo of the mobile app, please contact us through this form.
[vimeo 140929004 w=500 h=281]

150 150 EC blogger

ELS Adopts EnglishCentral’s Online English Learning Solution

Powered by EnglishCentral, World’s Largest Network of Campus-based English Language Instruction Centers Launches Mobile Learning Experience Customized to its Course Curriculum  

ARLINGTON, MA – September 29, 2015 –  EnglishCentral, the leading provider of online English conversation solutions, today announced that ELS Educational Services (ELS), a Berlitz company, has adopted its online English conversation platform.  With this technology partnership, ELS will now be able to offer its students an engaging and interactive English language learning experience with self-study and in classroom practice options, customized to ELS’s course curriculum.

Using its flexible online course creation platform, EnglishCentral built for ELS a customized online English learning solution that maps its extensive library of video lessons and pre-built course modules to ELS’s existing curriculum.  Offering a variety of levels for ELS learners, the new online courses allow ELS students to access custom-made EnglishCentral courses that match the scope and sequence of traditional coursework and books used in class.

Available on the web, tablet and mobile, the customized solution for ELS now gives ELS students the ability to practice speaking English for the first time on their mobile devices.  EnglishCentral’s analysis of over 50,000 learners in Japan shows that students make progress two times faster when they are able to practice from their mobile devices.

“We truly believe EnglishCentral is a perfect complement to our current curriculum,” said Mr. Ward Morrow, Vice President, Academic Affairs at ELS. “Our priority is ensuring that our students have the tools necessary to learn English effectively, and we believe that EnglishCentral’s use of video along with state-of-the-art vocabulary acquisition and speech assessment technology will significantly improve the student experience with us. We have been testing EnglishCentral in several locations over the past year, and our teachers are very excited about using the service in their classes.”

EnglishCentral’s customized solution for ELS will be rolled out starting this fall in all of its North American centers. ELS expects to enroll over 60,000 students in the first year and will also roll out EnglishCentral in its international locations, including Japan and India, later in 2015.

“We are delighted that ELS has adopted EnglishCentral so broadly,” said Alan Schwartz, Founder & CEO of EnglishCentral.  “We’ve had millions of users around the world use our platform, and we see the best results for students when our platform is used in conjunction with what great teachers are already doing in the classroom.”

About EnglishCentral

EC New Logo smallEnglishCentral turns popular web videos into powerful language learning experiences for both self-study and one-on-one tutoring, providing a complete platform for practicing English conversation online. EnglishCentral has been adopted in over 400 universities worldwide and has partnered with the world’s largest private and online English language schools, including Open English in Latin America, UOL in Brazil, NTT Learning in Japan, and Meten in China. The company is backed by investors including Google Ventures, NTT DoCoMo Ventures, and SK Telecom Ventures. For more information, visit, friend us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @EnglishCentral1.

About ELS Educational Services

els_logoELS is the world’s largest network of campus-based English language instruction and university preparation centers, with 80+ locations in Australia, Canada, China, France, India, Malaysia and the USA. Each year, ELS places thousands of international students in degree programs through a network of 650+ colleges and universities worldwide, accepting the successful completion of the advanced ELS curriculum as proof of English proficiency. In 2016, ELS will celebrate its 55th year of leadership and the more than 1.2 million students from over 140 countries who have learned English quickly and effectively through ELS. For more information about ELS, please visit:, www.UniversityGuideOnline.orgor

Press Contacts:
EnglishCentral Inc.
(617) 807-0711

225 225 EC blogger

Evaluating The Impact Of EnglishCentral: New Research


EnglishCentral is constantly being evaluated by professionals in the field.  One recent study is by Shane Dixon of Arizona State University titled:”Evaluating the Impact of an Online English Language Tool’s Ability to Improve Users’ Speaking Proficiency under Learner- and Shared-control Conditions

Here is a brief summary of the research and findings.  

Download the full report

The study looked at EnglishCentral as used by 83 advanced level students in ASU’s AECP (American English and Culture Program) listening and speaking course.  All learners were given a pre and post test to measure their English language fluency using the Pearson Versant Test

There were 3 groups examined. 

1. Learner control.  EnglishCentral “free” study. Students chose the videos lessons or courses they would study on EnglishCentral

2. Shared control.   EnglishCentral controlled study. Experienced teachers selected video lessons and assigned them as a custom course for student study. Additionally, students could also select their own video lessons.

3. No treatment.  No EnglishCentral study but were given an equivalent amount of traditional homework as the 2 other control groups

Research Questions.

1.  In addition to the 168 hours of classroom instruction does the use of EnglishCentral (learner or shared) lead to gains in fluency vs the no treatment group?

The study found significant gains in fluency through the use of EnglishCentral as a study tool vs the no treatment group when in the shared control condition.

2. Is the shared-control or learner-control system in the EnglishCentral environment better at achieving learner gains in speaking proficiency?

Surprisingly, the shared-control group (which controlled for language level/appropriateness) had the more significant gains in speaking proficiency.

3. Is student attitude, operationalized as the combination of motivation, ease of use, and feelings about technology, affected by the learner control and shared control models? Do other variables such as age, gender, first language, and teacher effect learning outcomes?

Student attitude and motivation was a factor. Students with higher comfort using technology generally had higher achievement scores. Teacher attitude towards technology and EnglishCentral use in general was not a contributing factor towards student success (as measured by an additional survey).

The research raises many interesting questions which are described in the full paper.  

Is EnglishCentral better used during class time (as opposed to homework done outside of class, in the study)?

Why is EnglishCentral not as effective when students are given full control of the learning environment?

Read and find more research regarding EnglishCentral here and here.


236 267 EC blogger

Giving Students More Control: Learning 3.0

networkI call what Alan November advocates, “Learning 3.0”. (see the video below)

It is about giving students the space and tools to make their learning relevant to the world. REALLY relevant and actual. Make them active in the community, bring them alive to their potential.

THIS is schooling, learning, education and whatever sticker you want to place on it. Authentic material. Real problems = real learning. Purpose. Learning for the world, not for teachers or just the piece of paper or to get through the year. Knocking down the 4 walls of the classroom.

It is so important that we get off the assembly line and start really letting students venture/learn in and of their own motivation and volition.

This article – “How Teachers & Tech Can Let Students Take Control“, expounds more on the points Alan November makes in the video.  Technology is allowing schools and teachers to treat students less like children, to really make them into the self-correcting, autonomous, independent learners our society needs and our future demands.

We at EnglishCentral see what we’ve built as being central to this change in education. Making school less about babysitting students and more about giving them additional responsibility for their learning – letting them be the ones driving the “learning” bus.

Just an ordinary talk with an extraordinary meaning to those who really want to change things….  Students can add value to the world. It’s up to us teachers, administrators, publishers to let them have a go.


325 233 EC blogger

How is your language awareness?

lookingfordecision2Jack Richards is a big name in the world of English language learning and teaching. In the video below from Cambridge University Press (an EnglishCentral partner), he discusses a number of things that learners need to be able to do well so they continue to develop.

He reviews the research of Richard Schmidt who developed theories related to attention and noticing that have had a large impact in English language teaching. He supports the need for students to become more “language aware” and notice the differences between their own language and that of a native model. The precise thing that EnglishCentral provides so effectively.

Richards states:

“Many people (language learners) develop fossilization, they have learned English, used it for years but contain many fossilized errors, errors that are stuck. They (the learners) don’t seem to have moved beyond a certain stage of proficiency despite repeated opportunities to use English. And I think they are not aware of it because …. they haven’t noticed the common mistakes they are making, no one has ever pointed it out to them.”

Are you someone who is a “dinosaur” and your English just isn’t improving?  Well, according to Richards and Schmidt, you’d benefit from more language awareness, more “noticing the gap” between yourself and native speakers. (read more about noticing the gap – here).You’ll improve faster if you become aware of your own errors and what you can do to improve.

Schmidt even goes further and says (and this recent paper of his is a nice outline of his research):

What happens then within attentional space largely determines the course of language development, including the growth of knowledge (establishment of new representations) and the development of fluency (access to those representations). Evidence continues to accumulate that noticing has a strong impact on second and foreign language learning.

So how do you become more language aware by using EnglishCentral?  Here are a few pointers.

1.  Pay attention to your own speech and the native model. Click on lines you’ve spoken and listen to your own speech and then the speaker of the video. What are the differences?

2.  Listen with intention. The cloze listening activity (LEARN) should be done and learners need to listen for key language when listening. Intention is key to improving fluency and read more in this article.

3.  Use your pronunciation profile.  After you speak 100 lines on EC, you’ll get this in the top right corner in the progress bar. Click it and view what sounds you don’t pronounce well (red).  Become aware of these and practice the courses there to improve (click each sound).

4.  Go Live!  Right now in Korea and Japan, learners can take a free level test and also get one-on-one tutoring. We will be launching this service in other markets soon.

Your tutor is your coach and will help you become more aware of what you are doing wrong and ways to improve. This direct, immediate feedback from a professional is something invaluable and a proven best way to become fluent and become a more “aware” language learner.