Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is the Touchstone Online Course basically a digital version of the Touchstone Student's Book?
A: No. The online course complements the book and facilitates the integration of classroom study and self-study. It allows you to move from a 100% face-to-face, traditional course to whatever ratio of blended learning - that is, the blend (or mix) of both face-to-face and online learning environments - that best suits your needs.
The Touchstone Online Course includes Web 2.0 features; these are tools which allow users to communicate with each other in special online communities. The online course also includes computer- and game-based learning with tightly structured learning paths. It offers numerous extra presentation and practice activities, for example, many of the Touchstone language points such as Conversation Strategy, Strategy Plus, and Grammar Presentations have been expanded and provided as Flash movies. There are other compelling features such as the opportunity for students to record their own voice and compare their recording with native speaker models, and to take part in interactive online role play.
Q: Does the Touchstone Online Course replace the teacher?
A: Not at all. The Touchstone Online Course was developed with an awareness of the increasing need for blended learning. With the online course, you will be able to tailor your classroom time to the language areas best suited to face-to-face teaching, and you will have the flexibility to select those areas based on your students’ needs. From monitoring their self-study activities to facilitating and moderating their online community, your role in integrating your students’ online and classroom learning is indispensable. How you actually use the online course will depend on your program and the model that best suits you and your learners. The content can be used in a number of teaching scenarios: pre-teaching, post-class revision, class time replacement, indeed whatever suits your particular teaching and learning situation.
Q: Why was the Touchstone Online Course developed?
A: The Touchstone Online Course mitigates the common problem in many ELT programs of finding enough time to complete a course syllabus. Research shows that students need stronger motivation and closer monitoring in order to work independently, and the Touchstone Online Course meets those needs. the course provides instructing and carefully structured self-study materials, and student activity within the LMS can be tracked. This trackability allows teachers and institutions to monitor not only the learning outside of the classroom, but also the relative success of that learning, and the strengths and weaknesses of the students. Moreover, today’s students expect to learn using computers and Internet-delivered Web tools. They use these in their everyday lives and learning.
Q: What methodology is used in Touchstone Online?
A: The Touchstone Online Course stays true to the methodology of the Touchstone corpus-based course. It retains Touchstone’s noticing methodology for language presentation and personalized practice activities, and offers additional opportunities for interactive and collaborative learning.
Q: Is the Touchstone syllabus different from other courses’ syllabi?
A: The Touchstone syllabus will be familiar to most teachers to the degree that it teaches the four skills of listening, speaking, reading, and writing. The syllabus is different in that it includes conversation strategies – an exciting new syllabus strand that is the result of extensive corpus research. Above and beyond the usual course material, Touchstone is full of helpful and interesting notes about the way English is really used. It also helps students become more efficient learners by presenting techniques to log and remember new language.
Q: What is a corpus exactly? What’s in it?
A: A corpus is a database of written and/or spoken language that can be searched to discover how language is actually used. Data for spoken corpora can be gathered from transcriptions of everyday conversations, interviews, and TV and radio broadcasts. Text for written corpora can be gathered from books, magazine, newspapers, or the Internet.
Q: When you say the course is corpus informed, what does that mean?
A: It means we did extensive research with the Cambridge International Corpus to help us create the course. The Corpus helped us determine the syllabus strands for the course: grammar, vocabulary, and conversation. The fact that we used the Corpus is also your guarantee that the book is teaching authentic language. Note that the plural of corpus is “corpora".
Using the course
Q: How would I use Touchstone Online?
A: The Touchstone Online Course course content maps to the Touchstone Student’s Book at every step, right down to the level of individual exercises. It is therefore easy to blend the online course with face-to-face classes using the Touchstone books and other resources. Whatever blended learning solution you may need, the Touchstone Online Course has been designed so that you can always adapt it to your students’ and your institution’s needs.
Q: Can students study the lessons in a unit out of order?
A: No. It is very important that Lessons A, B, C, and D are studied in order. This is because the new structures and vocabulary taught in the earlier lessons are generally recycled and reused in the later lessons. Each lesson in a unit assumes that students have learned the language of the previous lesson(s). So, for example, simple present statements are taught before simple present questions; students learn the strategy of asking questions in two ways only after they have learned how to ask yes-no and information questions.
Q: How will my students respond to the Touchstone Online Course?
A: Adults and young adults use the Internet all the time - for social networking, making arrangements, playing games, watching movies, and downloading music. You will find that your students are very motivated to use technology in their learning too. The Touchstone Online Course appeals to learners with its online community, games, timed activities, animation, movies, and the overall interactive nature of the program.
Q: Is the unit opener at the beginning of every unit important or can I skip it?
A: The unit opener is important for several reasons: it presents the unit objectives (key grammar, vocabulary, functions, and strategies), it helps introduce and create interest in the unit topic by activating students' schema, and it gives the teacher feedback on students' prior knowledge.
Q: Should I have my students do the vocabulary logs in class or can I assign them for homework?
A: The vocabulary logs in Touchstone help students become more independent learners, so they should be done for homework. Having said that, students don't become independent overnight. To help get students started, the first two or three logs can be done in class with the teacher's help, especially for Touchstone 1 and 2. Then students can do the remaining logs on their own.
Q: My students read the audio script while they do the self-study listening work. How can I stop them?
A: Realistically, you probably can’t stop students from reading the audio scripts if they really want to, but you can remind them that their listening skills will likely improve much more if they try to listen without the scripts.
In the beginning, students may want to rely on the audio scripts, as the scripts will help them feel more confident. If so, rather than insisting that they never read the scripts, encourage your students to stop doing so gradually, as they feel more confident of their listening skills. For example, start by asking your students not to look at the scripts the first time they listen. Next, a little later, ask students not to look at the scripts until after they have completed the self-study task. Be sure to praise students who do this, and continue to encourage the less confident students to do so.
Q: I love the oral quizzes at the back of the Teacher's Edition. Do we have to use these as quizzes, or can we use them as ordinary speaking activities in the classroom?
A: Yes, you can use them in the classroom as speaking activities if you prefer. Students find them enjoyable, especially if used at the end of a unit.
Q: My students need more controlled vocabulary and grammar practice. What can you suggest, apart from the Workbook?
A: We highly recommend the Homework Ideas in the Teacher's Edition. Many of these involve written practice of recently taught grammar and vocabulary.
Q: I’ve never taught conversation strategies before. Does the Teacher’s Edition provide help?
A: Yes, the Teacher’s Edition provides extensive support, including helpful language notes that further explain the language in each unit.
Q: Can I use my own activities in class?
A:Yes. Touchstone is a flexible course that will allow teachers to prepare and present their own material.
Q: Do I need technical training in order to use the Touchstone Online Course?
A: No. The Touchstone Online Course does not require any specialized technical skills on the part of the student or teacher.
Q: How do I access the Touchstone Online Course?
A: Every user is issued with a username and password to allow them to access the Cambridge LMS and their Touchstone Online Course within it. The course is accessed via the Cambridge LMS. It is delivered online and not using local servers.