The Convenience of Teaching ESL/EFL Online
I was extremely overjoyed when I saw this as one of the options for the “Summative Task”, because I have been teaching EFL online for about a year and a half, and EFL in general for about two years.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Nelson A. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
The reason why I started online teaching
I had already been teaching EFL classes for about one year when a friend of mine introduced me to the company he worked for which specialized in online teaching. Before then, I had heard very little about online teaching. The way he explained it sounded intriguing and I was eager to see what teaching online was all about. Fast forward a couple of weeks and I had already done and passed the interview and I was ready to begin teaching.
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One week into teaching, I had already realized so many unique advantages of online teaching compared to its IRL counterpart.
Firstly, the commute was gone, practically non-existent.
Usually when I had to teach IRL classes, I always had to wake up really early, get dressed, make sure I had all the proper materials before leaving the house, commute to distances of up to 10-20 kilometers just for a single class, teach the class and then make the same commute when coming back. It might not sound like much, but during this whole process, you can expect three hours that you’re never getting back to have vanished. And that’s the best-case scenario. What if you accidentally wake up late? What if you forget some of the needed materials before leaving the house? What if there is a traffic jam on the road? What if there is a weather hazard? And so many more questions about things that could go wrong during the process. However, with teaching EFL online, you don’t have to worry about any of these things. There is no need to travel tens of kilometers for a single class. If you forget to upload a single material, they can be accessed easily from your computer with the click of a button. You could wake up as late as 15 or 20 minutes before a class and still be good to go. Last week, there was a typhoon in the eastern part of China and pretty much all school activities had to be canceled for safety purposes. I stayed at home and taught my EFL classes just like any other day.
Secondly, one on one attention is given to every student.
A common challenge when teaching IRL EFL classes is managing a classroom of sometimes 15-20 students. This can be extremely challenging especially if the students are still very young. How do you make sure every student gets the proper attention and understands the content of the class at the end of the day? With online EFL classes, you can be assured that every student gets enough attention because a huge number of classes are structured to be one on one where the students get proper attention and questions can be asked at regular intervals to make sure the student is understanding the class’s contents.
Thirdly and finally, online classes are extremely flexible.
It is often challenging whenever parents sign their kids up for an EFL class and discover shortly after, that the schedule at some point or another interfere with other extra-curricular or household activities. At this point, they would either cancel for the day or start to look for other classes with schedules that align with theirs. With online teaching, however, it is as easy as communicating with the teacher and determining which schedule works best for both parties at that period in time.
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Like all things, online EFL teaching doesn’t come without its challenges.
Firstly, maintaining student focus levels.
For the first time online EFL teachers, it might seem hard or even flat-out impossible to maintain the focus level of a student during class time. Particularly young students, between ages 4-7. If they logged onto the platform by themselves or their parents logged them on and left to perform some other activity and they are not being supervised, prepare to have an online EFL class nightmare.
They might play with their toys while their smartphone/iPad fails to capture their faces because they are now out of frame. Any attempt to issue instruction falls on deaf ears because they are too young to comprehend complex vocabulary. You might seem stranded at this point but fear not, there are some easy ways to overcome this problem. If you notice that the student often plays in class and is not attentive, you could communicate with the parents/guardian after class to have someone monitor them while the class is going on. This usually helps. Another way to restore student focus is by playing some cartoons or fun music on screen. When the student hears or sees this, their attention seems to magically spring to life as they are now looking at the fun cartoon playing.
Secondly, not enough physical activity.
In regular EFL classes, if the teacher notices that the atmosphere in the classroom has become dull or somewhat boring, the teacher can always stop at some point to play a fun game where the students move around and play for a while to recharge their focus levels. This usually gets the students laughing about again, energized and ready to learn once more. In online EFL classes, however, this might not be so easy. It is very easy to assume that the teacher is a talking head with arms. And in terms of physical activity, there is a limit to what a talking head can do. If you ever find yourself in this position, outsourced material is the way to go. The student might have become bored with the original class content, but if you introduce outsourced material such as fun cartoons, funny pictures or silly music, their interest in the class could be resurrected once more.
My final words
I think online teaching has improved over the years. More and more people are now realizing that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and have discovered that it is a convenient way to learn English. I believe that in the future, it will improve even more and more.
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