Is teaching online different?

Many teachers are considering shifting to online teaching as there is a growing demand for those who can help learners study in the comfort of their own home. These teachers might be used to certain principles and teaching techniques that they rely on and they have doubts whether to accept this may-be-the-biggest challenge of their career or keep working offline. To my mind, whether it is online or offline, it is still teaching so we need to search for ways to help our students learn in the most efficient way. Thus it involves the same things like needs analysis, lesson planning, managing tasks and giving appropriate feedback.

Let’s have a look at some principles and techniques that are likely to be the same.

This refers to collecting information about our students wants, needs, preferences, expectations, negotiating possible outcomes and goal setting.

This is an ongoing process, which will hopefully help build and maintain short-term and long-term motivation. I have already posted an article about motivation so follow the link if you want to read more about that.

Teachers will plan their lessons according to a syllabus to help students reach their aims, which means planning will be there. I believe that creating a variety of opportunities for the students to feel the need and use certain target language is very important. What we need to keep in mind is not that straightforward but we definitely rely on the information collected about our learners. Having said that, I’d like to share a variety of lesson plan components and factors that we may consider while planning our lessons.

This entails finding or creating relevant tasks and staging the lesson so that there is a clear progression from something familiar and relatively easy to more challenging tasks, which will ensure that learning takes place. Teachers need to incorporate skills development, inputs on new language, revision and recycling of what has been studied to reinforce learning. The lessons should be balanced and well structured and that can be achieved by thorough planning and continuous reflection on teaching experience.

Memory is a tricky thing so integrating recycling activities is crucial.

Can CELTA can be useful for those who are teaching online? Why (not)?

CELTA is an initial teaching qualification which you can get on completion of the course.

The course is designed to help teachers acquire a great deal of useful techniques like how to give instructions and set tasks or how to stage a lesson on developing speaking skills. To my mind, it is hard to find reasons why it might not be useful. See my post about CELTA.

Some platforms and online tools

I’m keen on using different LMS, which stands for Learning Management System. For example, I often use Schoology or Edmodo. They allow me create online component for either my regular classes or for those who are studying only online. There will be an element of asynchronous interaction, which is great as our students don’t always live in the country where English is a native language so they are not exposed to English on a daily basis.

I usually upload my slides from the lessons, provide some links to useful online resources, videos and add quizzes so that students can recycle and extend what they have learnt. I also open online discussions on the topics we have already worked on to help them practise outside our lessons.

I also help my students practice vocabulary by creating sets on Quizlet. I’m fond of different modes that are available right now, e.g. labelling a diagram or just using electronic flashcards, which students can create on their own.

an example of a Quizlet set

There is another tool that I want to comment on. When I give presentations or webinars, I sometimes arrange a padlet for sharing ideas. This can be used for students of different levels too, for example, you can ask them share their opinion or brainstorm the topic you’ve just introduced in the lesson.

QR code to share my padlet on different online resources

Some possible ways for CPD

Teachers who work at home are likely to feel more comfortable and independent but they still want to develop professionally so they may well arrange meetings with colleagues, find books and articles for teachers, follow some bloggers and take part in a variety of conferences.

At the moment I’m trying to watch some of the talks from IATEFL, which is a conference that I try to attend every year. It seems reasonable to use the links that are available for free for getting ideas and inspiration from experienced colleagues. If you want to read more about the conference, here is my post on it.

There are many other ideas on how to develop your teaching skills, which I described in another post of mine. You can find some useful links and compare your attitude to professional development with mine.

All in all, teaching online looks appealing and it is worth trying using platforms like Skype or Zoom for delivering lessons along with other online tools that can help our learners develop their language skills and their learning strategies. If you want to know more about the peculiarities of teaching online, have a look at the videos from ‘Teach online like a pro‘ conference, which I took part in.

References and useful links