Oxford Seminars Business Module Review - Teaching Business English Specialization Module Review

BACKGROUND

A Google search for Oxford Seminars Business English Reviews shows, as of 8-13-2012, precious little useful content. So, having finished the Oxford Seminars ESL, TESL, TESOL certification, I decided to take the Business English module and record my impressions. I scanned the physical book (for personal educational use only) into a searchable PDF file on a high-speed book scanner to support my findings below.

DISCLAIMER

In this review, I respect the copyrights of Oxford Seminars (OS) and the authors and publishers involved in the course. Because OS students must sign Waivers, Disclaimers, Terms and Conditions, and other legal documents preventing publication of extracts from certain areas, I cannot always quote directly from the works or systems involved. However, in all other cases, I am asserting my rights to critical review, as copyright expert and lawyer Steven Fisher explains in his book, Copyright Handbook: "An author is free to copy from a protected work for purposes such as criticism, news reporting, teaching, or research so long as the value of the copyrighted work is not diminished."

Online Portion

Overview

The course costs about $400 USD. However, I signed up within 2 weeks of completing the ESL/TESL/TESOL certification program which qualified me for a $100 discount. That seems like a bargain for such a program. To "test drive" the module, I had already purchased a used edition of a required textbook for the course, called New International Business English for about $20 from Amazon Marketplace. The book seemed worthwhile, so I began the course.

Technical Note

The online system appears to use Moodle, a free, open-source software to provide online courses. Moodle is a wonderful project.

Higher Quality

The quality of the online portion seems higher than the equivalent of the base TESOL/ESL program. Ideas are connected together better. The examples, case studies, and explanations are written more formally. This gave me the impression that I could apply the content readily with students. In one example, the author presents a "saving face" problem where students know more English than their higher-ranking peer. The base program would probably have left the scenario as-is for readers to "consider" and without offering guidance or a resolution. However, this business module provides an excellent win-win solution for the teacher and student.

Mistakes

This component does make some mistakes. It asks readers to refer to a comprehensive list of phrasal verbs found in the Training Manual. A comprehensive list has probably not been created anywhere yet, much less in the Training Manual.

Recycled

I Google'd the course's term "conversation maintenance cues," and found that Fulbright is using almost the exact same list as the Online Portion.

Insights

The course makes a good point about the importance of writing -- essentially, that e-mail is critical to business. Since e-mail is often done in English, English is often critical.

Essays

While the module offers minimal helpful advice for essay preparation, other texts are much better, such as The Lively Art of Writing

New International Business English Textbook - Review

Overview

This book is full of great exercises for students like greeting colleagues at an airport, negotiating debt collection, letter writing, and much more.

Dated

It is, however, a bit dated. The French still use francs, computer monitors are enormous (probably x486 processors still), e-mail is not widely used internationally, and smoking is allowed on airplanes (the delicious-looking meals pictured on airplanes under the heading "The Perfect Job" clearly shows we live in a new era). Luckily, those are minor details.

Final Exam - Assessment

Overall

The exam asks you to recall information from the readings in one set of questions. In another, you are asked to synthesize your readings with your previously-learned ESL skills. These questions were more straight-forward than the original set of Oxford Seminars exam questions. However, like the TESL certification exam, many questions are vaguely or poorly worded, so you effectively end up guessing.

Misc.

The companion book to the course, the New International Business English Textbook, is primarily British English, and some questions, particularly those which use present perfect where Americans would use simple past, seem to have been written by a UK speaker.

Conclusion

If you are considering this module, I would recommend it. The textbook is outstanding and useful in a real business English classroom. The manual, while long-winded, offers some practical advice too. At $300 for a Business English certification, this course is well worth the money. Good luck!

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