Web Site Update

 

Watching this video can be a great place to start to learn about the history and changes for the site (or you can skip it and read more below).

Let me first provide a brief historical overview of my site as well as my hopes for the future.

Background

I started the site in 1997 while I was working in Japan. In many ways, online learning was still very much in its infancy as we know it today. Basically, I wanted to create a site that focused on listening skills, but I had no background on create Web sites, so it was very much experimentation in the beginning. I had no idea that I would still be developing it 20 years later. Since the beginning, I have done almost everything by myself, except for the voices of family and friends (this includes Web page design, audio/video recording and editing, server management, and all the other details and cost that go with creating, maintaining, and developing an online presence).

This site is a personal project done outside of my work responsibilities as a teacher at a university in the US. For a number of years, it was difficult to balance teaching, family, and my Web sites (not just esl-lab.com now), but now all of my children are adults,  I have learned to fit together a schedule that works. Actually,  I'm now  balancing a life as a grandfather, too. 

New Goals

Over the years, technology, my own skills, and my development as a language educator have evolved, and for that reason, I have wanted to update the site to reflect this evolution. However, many people know, finding the resources to do this, especially time, can be difficult. That said, I determined several goals with my sites that would move my work forward and make it better for the end user. 

I would like to ask you to read these goals. Then, if you can, please test the site and let me know your experience.

  1. Mobile-Responsiveness: With so much moving toward mobile devices, I realized I needed to make my sites work well on the largest number of devices possible.How well does the site work and render / appear on your mobile devices and on a laptop or desktop?
  2. Overall Layout, Design, and Functionality: I wanted to update the feel of the site with a more modern, but functional, look, again that worked on most devices. The old site was designed for desktops. That said, I have always believed that content comes before look, but I believe you should be able to achieve both. Furthermore, it is much easier to make global changes to all aspects of a Web site with new content management systems than basic HTML.
  3. Listening Activity Quiz and Feedback: In the past, I used a multiple-choice quiz that indicated the results at the end of it, but the quiz lacked any immediate feedback. Now, when you answer each question, you immediately see whether you have answered correctly, as well as the actual text of the conversation where the answer appears. I realize both teachers and learners have their own preferences to when they see the answers, and some people would prefer the quiz style of the past. For now, I think having the ability to see the text right from the conversation benefits many learners without having to read over the entire script in the old site to find the answer. 
  4. Speed: Back in the 1990s, you often had to wait a VERY LONG TIME before a media file would load. It was as if you could make a sandwich, go for a jog, and then take a shower before you could anticipate a video to play. Times and patience levels have changed as people expect more from Web site speeds. As common with Web sites in the past, the html files AND the audio/video files for my site are on the same server, and the server can experience a heavy load when you have multiple requests from visitors around the world at the same time. HOWEVER, I am now using a CDN (Content Delivery Network) which speeds up Web sites by delivering static files faster based on geographic location. In other words, if a user is in Australia and clicks to view a video file on my site, a server in that area will deliver the file rather than pulling it off my server in the United States. 
  5. Quiz Questions: Over the past few years, I have become more familiar with assessment design, especially when it deals with writing the questions and answers for my questions. Thus, I have spent time the wording of questions to make them easier.
  6. Listening Content: I have tried to make the learning content interesting, informative, and often humorous, but I want to make sure it is relevant to learners. 

Common Questions and Future Plans

What is URL for the new site?

The Web site address remains the site at https://www.esl-lab.com, with more recently a secure HTTPS secure protocol.  

It looks like the URLs to the specific activities on the new site are different from the ones on your old site. What will happen if I visit an old link online or if my students visit old links to specific activities I gave them?

Almost all of the old links will be redirected automatically to the new ones, so in most cases, any handouts teachers created for their students or any links they put on their Web sites will take learners to the new ones. I want to minimize as many issues as possible.

Is all of the old content available on the new site?

I am trying to retain as much as I can from the old site. Because technology is changing, some of the old content no longer functions on newer browsers and devices (e.g., the old vocabulary mix and match quizzes). Thus, some content will not be transferred over, but it may be converted into a different format in the future. It just is very difficult to maintain everything as technology evolves. 

Is old site sill available somewhere in case the new site doesn't work for me?

Unfortunately, no. It is just too difficult to maintain two sites with the time and resources I have. It sounds easy to just have the old and new site available, but for many years, it isn't. In addition to time, having two different versions online can be confusing to search engines and users, plus I would have to rewrite a lot of the old content (questions and answers) to reflect changes in my own ideas and directions.

Are you planning on adding more activities to the new site?

Yes. I already have some in the works. With the new site, it will be easier to manage and update, and thus, it will allow me more time to create new content.