good online learning

Many years ago I wrote a short article called “How To Be a Better Student”, which was given to every new student at English Language Training. I’ve just re-read it, and the advice still seems useful – eg use a monolingual dictionary, organise your studying, personalise your learning, etc. But we are in a different world now – over the last 20 years technology has totally changed the way we live, work, study and communicate, while in the last few months Covid-19 has brought more changes to the way we do these things.

So here are just a few pieces of advice about good practice when more of your learning is happening online – both the classes you take, and the self-study you do.

ONLINE CLASSES – Practicalities

1) Use the biggest screen you have – and get a mouse
I share my screen a lot when I’m teaching, and it’s far harder if my students are using a phone or tablet. I particularly like giving my students access to documents I’m sharing (to correct and edit text, to do exercises like ‘drag-and-drop’) – and this is so much easier with a mouse rather than a touchpad.

2) Choose your location carefully
You’ll obviously want to be somewhere with a strong signal if you’re using wi-fi, but think about other things too – too much light can make a screen hard to read, flatmates or partners can be a distraction, while Zooming from your untidy junk room may not help your brain function efficiently!

3) Set up your hardware properly
Take time to check all your video and audio settings. If you can’t turn up the volume without getting feedback, consider buying a headset with mic. At first you may feel like you’re working in a call centre, but trust me, it’s worth it for the improvement in quality.

4) Think about your onscreen position
If you can (and it’s more difficult with an ‘onboard’ cam), adjust your webcam to position

good online learning supporting image

yourself square to the screen, preferably with an uncluttered background. I really don’t care what you’re wearing, but I’d rather not be looking up your nose!.
I hope this doesn’t sound too prescriptive or bossy, but I’d argue that this onscreen etiquette is the equivalent of body language in the face-to-face world – we find it harder to engage with people who don’t look us in the eye or who keep their arms folded. Take a look at these pictures – which one looks best?!

So, that’s enough on the practicalities of online learning. Now read here for advice on the ‘procedures’ involved, or here if you’d like to read more about my online courses.