Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, back in those times we now call ‘normal’, I did a small amount of teaching via Skype. Now, after two months of doing nothing but online English courses, I’d like to share some thoughts about my recent experience.
There are, of course, things I miss:
- Interaction in the same physical space – perhaps it shouldn’t matter, but it feels closer to the majority of our everyday linguistic connections with other people
- Being able to stand up, move about, draw a quick diagram on a whiteboard.
- Getting students to do physical, kinaesthetic activities – matching cards, running dictations, etc
- Easily monitoring students doing pair work, brainstorming activities, etc
- Students bringing me coffee and biscuits by way of apology for being late.
While yes, I miss those things, now I’d say there are things about online teaching that go a long way to balance the missing elements – and in some ways online English classes seem even better. So here are my comments on the five points above:
- When I Skype or Zoom with a student, they are sharing their space with me. I’ve enjoyed: walk-round tours of new flats (admiring herbs growing in window boxes); explanations of re-decoration plans, and descriptions of the things my students have around them, from kittens to displays of masks on a wall.
- I use the whiteboard function in Zoom, and using shared screen means I can show students not just text, but pictures, diagrams, video clips as well.
- ‘Drag-and-drop’ works brilliantly for matching exercises – and it’s easy for students to take screenshots to save anything they want for reference.
- Giving keyboard access to any document I share means I can easily monitor while students correct their written work, fill in gapped sentences, write dialogues, etc.
- Dammit. I just can’t find a substitute!
So, there we have it. There may be a few ‘cons’, but there are many ‘pros’ when it comes to online language classes, and I’m happy to say that I’m now actively enjoying teaching online. If you’d like to read more information about my online English courses, please click here, or if you have any questions you’d like to ask me, follow this link.
Footnote: I’ve been asking my students how they feel about this, and, interestingly, one of my one-to-one students has said that when we finally return to ‘normal’, she wants to have most of our lessons online. (Maybe I’ll get her to write a guest blog and explain why!)