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Emerging Communities at BBC Learning English - page 3 / 11





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hosts. Even when comments were concerned with English language learning, they tended to be of the "please tell me if this sentence is correct" type rather than discussion of the language learning themes being explored on the BBC Learning English website. There was little evidence that the message boards drive significant numbers of users through to our main site, where the bulk of our materials are located.

We accepted that the popularity of the message boards had little to do with our input and decided to let the community develop on its own, scaling back our role to that of moderator and occasional contributor. In fact the boards' popularity (up to 1,000 messages per day are posted) meant that we did not have the human or financial resources to participate more than minimally. The technology used to facilitate the e-mail discussion group was cumbersome and resource-heavy and this service was eliminated in 2006, while the message boards continued to receive heavy traffic until they were closed to new postings in December of 2007.

We were forced to search for a more manageable way of establishing a learning community that would have BBC Learning English as a focal point rather than just a provider. As blogs began to proliferate on the Internet, we thought long and hard about ways to exploit this new technology to its fullest potential in the BBC Learning English context to build a vibrant and focused community around blogging tools in a way that had thus far eluded us.

We settled on the idea of a rotating student-teacher blogging relationship (currently hosted at the Learning English Blog [http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/communicate/blog/] page). A BBC Learning English user, selected by means of a simple e-mail competition, would have a blog space to which s/he would post regularly. The language and content of the student blog would be responded to by a teacher blogger; other users would be able to post comments on both the student and teacher blogs. The student blogger is changed every month; the teacher blogger every two months.

The result has been the emergence of a focused and tightly-knit but welcoming community of BBC Learning English users. The teacher-student blogging relationship seems an ideal medium for the expression of individual personalities and the achievement of a fun and friendly context in which to explore language. Alex Gooch, the teacher blogger in April 2007 (whose picture appears with these quoted posts), wrote:

Hello Ana Paula, and hello everyone out there.

My name is Alex, and as of today I'm taking over from Samantha as the new teacher blogger. Look at the top of this page [see photo above], and you'll see a

TESL-EJ 11.4, March 2008

Chapman & Scott


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