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EFL Technologies launched their flagship website this month with the help of Prospus. EFL Technologies created ER-Central to be the largest free online resource for EFL training materials. Dr. Rob Waring, co-owner of EFL Technologies and a respected professor of linguistics at Notre Dame Seishin University, Okayama, was the visionary behind the platform. Dr. Waring said, “I created ER-Central for the EFL Community. There is a dearth of quality resources online, and almost nothing that uses extensive reading”.

The Academic Team

Dr. Waring and his partner Dr. Browne are passionate about edtech and the instruction of English to non-native speakers. They employ the second language reading method known as “extensive reading”. According to Dr. Waring, “When learners read extensively, they read very easy, enjoyable books to build their reading speed and fluency. Another way to say this is students learn to read by actually reading rather than examining texts by studying the vocabulary, grammar, and phrases.” Extensive reading is often compared to Intensive Reading (IR).

EFL Technologies is based in Japan but works with clients from all over the world to build edtech solutions. According to their website, EFL Technologies is committed to developing innovative digital learning solutions for English language learners. Together, Drs. Warring and Browne have over 60 years of EFL experience. The team run by  two veteran educators:

  • Dr. Rob Waring is an acknowledged expert in second language vocabulary acquisition with emphasis on extensive reading. He is on the Executive Board of the Extensive Reading Foundation and is also the author and series editor of the Foundations Reading Library, the Footprint Reading Library, and the Page Turners Reading Library by Cengage / National Geographic Learning.
  • Dr.  Charles Browne is Professor of Applied Linguistics & TESOL and Head of the EFL Teacher Training Program at Meiji Gakuin University’s English Department. He is a well-known expert in online language learning, especially as it applies to second language vocabulary acquisition and reading skills development. Dr. Browne publishes widely on the topics of English education in Japan, second language vocabulary acquisition, and online learning.

The Tech Team

The ER-Central platform had a four-person team of full-time developers working around-the-clock for 12 months at Prospus. The web application has one section for student learners and another for teachers. Teachers can create an account for their institution, then prepare new materials directly in the browser using a variety of editors. Students can join for free and progress through the educational resources. Student and teachers both have access to role-specific dashboards where they can check progress against goals. At the time of this blog, the app offers translation into both Japanese in Korean, but there are plans to offer additional Asian languages in the future.

According to Prospus President and founder Marc Ragsdale, “ER-Central was a challenging application, but also very satisfying to build. Not only do we admire Dr. Waring and Dr. Browne’s passion for their field, we appreciate their oversight.” Dr. Waring directly oversaw every detail of the project, including the database. Ragsdale added, “I was surprised at Dr. Waring’s persistence and willingness to dive deep into database architecture, in which he is not formally trained. But by the end of the project, he knew it all, in and out.” Given the complexity of word relations, building the correct database architecture was critical to this project.

Prospus used the latest technologies in the creation of the ER-Central online platform. The core CMS was built in WordPress, but the custom LMS to track learner progress was built in PHP. We used Angular to build out the front-end editors, and open source technologies for the back-end. According to Ragsdale, “The architecture that Dr. Waring requested is very powerful, and can be used to power valuable research as the platform is more widely used.”

Looking Forward

Over the next year, EFL Technologies plans to add many new features. Chief among them is full integration with Amazon to offer existing EFL training materials. Additionally, there are plans for new editors to help teachers build more compelling learning materials for their students. EFL Technologies has even started to conceptualize a new kind of open-source reader format to compensate for the shortcomings of epub. Prospus is looking forward to helping EFL Technologies with its mission to create the largest free resource of quality online learning materials for English language learners.

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