Ministry connects learning and social media

By February 1, 2013

International (HCJB/MNN) — Facebook says it now has 1.01 billion people using the site each month.

With so many users, it seems a natural outgrowth that the use of a social media site would morph into a learning tool. HCJB Global connected with that changing usage, and it seems that Spotlight, an English-learning program is becoming a version of an online classroom.

Last November, Spotlight surpassed 50,000 Facebook fans–four years after it was first offered on the social media site. Since the typical Facebook brand page collects some 40,000 fans, Spotlight has surpassed the average. The milestone comes 13 years after Spotlight first aired as a radio program in November 1999.

Spotlight was the brainchild of FEBA UK's Mike Procter who based the show on "Special English" programs aired by the Voice of America. To make English-language learning easier, the program's writers use a vocabulary limited to 1,500 words, and Spotlight announcers speak slowly.

This approach succeeds in helping people learn English in a non-traditional way. People around the world practice their listening and speaking skills by recording the programs and playing them repeatedly.

Reframe Media is the English media ministry of Back to God Ministries International. Director Steven Koster said the ministry maintains 10 Facebook accounts and "Spotlight has consistently been the largest and fastest-growing, due in part to its wide international reach. There are just many, many people who are interested in practicing English with Christians, and we are thrilled to build Christ-oriented relationships with them."

"What we hear from many of our listeners is that they love Spotlight because it helps them improve their English, but it also shares important and meaningful content," said Robin Basselin of partner ReFrame Media. "It's not a boring English lesson; it's real programming made for English learners," adding, "We are working to increase the level of conversation, though, by posting questions and participatory posts." Additional tools are also in the works. "We are working on a mobile version of the site and hopefully in the future, a mobile app," Basselin added.

The Spotlight Web site receives more than 1 million hits annually; last year the show aired on nearly 70 radio stations in 16 countries. In addition, Spotlight English Clubs (conversation clubs) were operating in late 2012, including seven clubs that reach two security-sensitive countries via Skype.

Audio programs are available for download at Spotlight's homepage, Visitors spend an average of 9 minutes and 38 seconds on the site–a length that Katy Blake, Spotlight coordinator for HCJB Global-UK describes as "very high."

Check out what they're doing: visit and click on "Like."


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