I’m not the first person to observe that despite the plethora of time-saving devices in our lives, we seem to be busier than ever. As I was loading the dishwasher last night, I was musing on this point. And I think the reason is that there is always so much choice about what to do with our spare time: do I go online and chat to my friends, do I do some housework (unlikely), do I challenge my partner to a game of scrabble?
Reading about the University of Essex International Academy in the UK setting up a virtual campus in Second Life, an online world where you can assume a new persona and identity, is one more example of a choice that didn’t exist in years gone by: sitting alone at a computer interacting internationally with other people was simply unimaginable the technology didn’t exist and besides, who had the time? There was the washing up to do.
Twitter is a new phenomenon in the UK which I haven’t succumbed to yet because I am convinced that I don’t want to waste my time reading musings and minutiae of other people’s lives... but it is another nod to the lure of the online world in everyday life. I was unaware that there are language learning communities online, but there are more than one; these sites offer the chance to connect with speakers of your target language. Industry publisher, Pearson, has seen the business potential of tapping into such a community by teaming up to offer bespoke online learning products.
While the Internet’s relevance in our lives is unavoidable, it is nevertheless great to get away from it all and relax in an environment that is media-free, in my opinion. One of the appeals of a beach holiday is the lack of distractions: no TV, computer, phone switched off. This is a fact that clearly resonates with parents who want a relaxing yet enriching holiday as we discover in this issue, tailored parent-and-child programming is particularly popular in holiday destinations such as Malta, Ireland, Jersey or in exciting cities such as London .
A city break or active holiday may not be relaxing, but it is invigorating, because interaction with people is stimulating. That is why online language learning is interesting, but it will never replace the excitement and achievement of real-life learning abroad.
Studying abroad can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and of course this is what agents want to achieve, but how would they cope if a language school failed suddenly? We report on tuition assurance schemes, which offer an insurance policy for students’ dreams. Businesses can collapse, but no one wants to learn that the hard way.