The statistics are impressive: online learning is on a dramatically upward trend (165 billion dollars in 2015 and is likely to grow by 5% between 2016 – 2023, exceeding 240 billion dollars). Bearing this in mind, teachers have a need to embrace this relatively new method of teaching and take on both the challenges and rewards it brings.
To help with this, The Language Pod has explored this subject below. It will hopefully encourage more people to throw caution to the wind and grab this fantastic opportunity to develop new teaching methods and skills within the fascinating world of technology! Please note that the challenges and benefits below are based on either 1:1 classes or lessons with a very small number of students. They are not related to large classes which are more in tune with webinars.
Top 5 Challenges
- Teachers will need to adapt their teaching style slightly to optimise the teacher/learner environment. This may mean choosing different materials to those used in an offline classroom. This could be particularly relevant when teaching children. Games cannot always be adapted to work in both online and offline situations.
- Technical glitches – they happen, even when using Apple technology! If problems with electricity occur or the student’s wifi is slow, the teacher will always need to have a back up system. Some software used for teaching online is more sophisticated than others and therefore might need faster wifi. If this happens, the teacher could switch to Skype or something similar until the problem is solved.
- Lack of confidence in using technology to teach. This is very common as it is fear of the unknown. However, it is normally quite easily overcome. The best policy is for the teacher to practise on a family member or friend before teaching a ‘real’ student. The teacher needs to feel confident in order to deliver top rate lessons and also put the student at ease.
- Most lessons will probably be 1:1 or small groups. Again, this could be challenging for a teacher who is used to teaching large groups of students. Becoming used to the different pace of the lessons could take a little time; the trick is to always have more than enough material on hand. It’s better to have in excess of what you need rather than to drain your resources.
- Teaching online can be quite a solitary job and the teacher may feel a little isolated if they are used to being part of a team. It’s very important to have colleagues and friends close by so that teachers can pop out and have some real live interaction with people from time to time. There are also more and more seminars/conferences/networking meetings (many are free of charge too) around. This makes it easier to meet other people who, although may not be teaching online, might be working alone.
- One of the top positives about teaching online is the fact that the teacher can do it from home. This means that spending time and energy on travelling from one place to another is a thing of the past.
- As well as teaching from home, teachers can also choose to work from other places with good wifi, such as a hotel, office, quiet café, conference room – to name but a few.
- Teaching online offers the opportunity to learn new skills and techniques, which can only benefit both the teacher and students. Tools for teaching online such as an interactive whiteboard and screenshare are not only useful but also fun to work with, involving the students all the way. Learning how to navigate teaching platforms and understanding the best ways in which to exploit materials in a virtual classroom enhance any teacher’s skills in this tech-savvy 21st century.
- Flexibility is one of the key aspects of this type of teaching. The teacher can schedule lessons around his or her lifestyle, which means no more 9-5 days!
- Being part of the sharp rise in online education in itself indicates that teachers are current and ahead of the game in their profession.
Whether or not teachers are ready and willing to embrace the fact that technology now plays a major part in education, the trend is here to stay. Although at first the thought of teaching online may be a little daunting, with practice it can actually open up exciting opportunities to learn how to teach effectively using tools of the future.