Well, I've done a few coursebook reviews here on the blog, and thought it was high time I took a bit more of a look at some of the online resource sites out there as well. There are plenty of these out there on the web, but one that has seriously impressed me is ESLlibrary.com (an offshoot of Red River Press, based in Canada).
I signed up as a member and it cost me $22 USD for three months of access. If you want access for a year, they're asking for $55 USD. Having had a good look through the materials and resources on offer, I can honestly say that this is an absolute bargain.
It's a pretty common marketing splurt for online resource sites to mention how much stuff they have. ESLlibrary certainly has the quantity, with hundreds and hundreds of lesson plans and worksheets, and literally thousands of flashcard resources.
But it's the quality that really appeals to me, and the resources here represent quality in spades. My teaching/materials designer eye immediately noticed how much thought and care has gone into the worksheets. While the presentation itself is clear and crisp, the content is spot on and brilliantly thought out.
And it doesn't always follow the standard, predictable approach to print-based content. For example, in the Grammar Worksheets section, I like the fact that learners are encouraged to notice and pick up patterns in usage basically by getting stuck into a large quantity of sentences and statements (as opposed to the more common approach of presenting a chart and having students refer to it as they fill in gaps). In the (in my opinion, absolutely brilliant!) whodunit? Detective style materials, learners are encouraged to work with and make sense of the dialogues as they actually read them (rather than as a follow up).
I was also most impressed with the calibre of the materials presented in the Living in English section of the lesson plans menu. Highly detailed, very well thought out and with huge potential relevance to students who are looking to improve their English in contexts where they may need it for everyday purposes.
And that's just a small selection of what the site has on offer. Other sections include Weekly Warm-ups, Discussion Starters, Mini-Debates, Everyday Idioms, Everyday Dialogues, Famous People, Famous Places, Famous Things, Mini Biographies, Office Life/Business English, Travelling in English, Holidays, Grammar Stories, and Easy Grammar Sentences.
There is more than enough material here to pick and choose from and create a very comprehensive curriculum for learners in EFL or ESL contexts. It's well organised, easy to browse through (they also have a simple function that allows you to create your own library) and, as I mentioned earlier, from the content/quality/methodology angles, it is top-notch -- easily as good as anything you see from the big commercial publishers and in some cases a whole lot better.
I don't have any real criticisms, but I do have some suggestions in terms of how I think the site might improve its offerings:
1. Ease off on the quantity priority (you have more than enough good quality material up there now) and look at how what's up there can be improved and added to. For example, with so many teachers now having access to things like beam projectors and IWBs, it should be possible to embed sound files into many of the PDFs so that they can be played directly on screen. I also think a range of quick video tutorials from the material designers (including things like screencasts) would be great for giving members a preview of various materials and how they might be applied.
2. Work a little bit more on the levelling side of things. While the materials do represent North American English, I think they would really appeal to teachers in Europe as well. That would be helped with some reference to how each resource slots into something like the CEF bands.
3. Consider making more of the material open source. We all know now that PDF formatting doesn't safeguard copyright very much in the online sphere, and I think if the material was available in adaptable formats where teachers could tinker with the content for their own contexts it would definitely improve the functionality and appeal. Include things like screencasts and tutorials to help teachers work out how to do this, and you'll probably gather a more loyal membership who aren't there purely for stuff to download and print 5 minutes before class (and/or start uploading to those hyena-like 'free' resource sites who mine others' content and present it as their own).
4. Look at adding material that caters to test preparation. You've already shown you have some excellent ways to work in alternative ways with more 'standard' material and I think you could come up with some excellent ideas for motivating test prep. This will expand your market majorly, while at the same time bringing in more people who can then see the other excellent stuff you have on offer.
5. Keep up the excellent work!
Basically, ESLlibrary.com is well worth the money and will add a lot of great material to your resource bank. You should definitely check them out.