As our world gets busier, many students are choosing the less “traditional” route of online courses to fulfill their dreams. This includes BA’s, MA’s, hobbies, special interests, and now more than ever, foreign languages. A quick google search of “ESL Online” will bring up a lengthy list of websites, both for students to learn English, and teachers to learn how to teach ESL. The comfort of never having to get out of our PJs or leave the house is such a tempting way to learn something new! Let’s focus on learning ESL, as you may be asked to teach online courses in the future.
Evolving technology now allows us to teach online using a variety of methods. These range from Skype video conference calls where you are “face-to-face” with the students, to virtual worlds where the teacher and students “meet” in a virtual classroom as avatars who interact with each other just like in a real classroom. The possibilities seem endless.
However, online teaching can be challenging, and there are a few things to remember.
- Often humor, tone, gestures and other facets of verbal communication are lost on the internet or in emails. We need to remember that how we say something may be interpreted differently than how we intended it.
- “Online” is often synonymous with “informal.” However, classes still need to begin and end on time, and follow the agreed-upon “rules” of the classroom. Curriculum and texts need to be chosen with care, and specific objectives should be set, just like in the traditional classroom.
- Communication should still be the focus of the class, and students need to practice using the language you are teaching them, not just the rules.
The internet opens up possibilities for millions of students who live in small cities around the world that may not have good English programs. This is an exciting time to be an ESL teacher!