The Problems of Teaching English Online
At its core, teaching students online offers positive and negative consequences. Children are often at home when they take these classes. It means that they do not have to travel to a specific location to learn English. They can learn in an environment that is already comfortable for them, perhaps mitigating some of the anxieties they might feel. While its convenience is the main appeal for most people, it offers challenges that can detract from a student’s potential to learn and fully understand the English language. It is important that when a teacher decides to begin teaching online classes, he or she be aware of these problems as well as ways to combat them to ensure that the students have the highest chance of learning English free and clear of issues so that they will retain and understand the information they are learning.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Gayla M. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
One problem that may arise is the distraction of other things going on in the child’s home.
They may not have the distraction of other peers in a classroom, but there might be a parent who whispers answers or a loud dog barking in the background. There could be homework that the child needs to complete so they need to multitask and complete both their English class and their homework simultaneously. The key here is maintaining a fun and exciting atmosphere where students are engaged and know that they may be called on to answer questions and participate in activities. Online classes often tend to be on the smaller size, so it is easy for teachers to continually check in with the students that are starting to disengage. Ask questions followed by a student's name to make sure they are staying engaged with the lesson and not focused on some other task. Give help to students where necessary so that they don’t lose interest because they don’t understand what is going on.
Another issue with teaching English online comes when teaching younger children.
Some companies will begin teaching students as young as three or four years old. These children are still learning things about their own native language, so learning a new language so young can present a problem. However, it is also the time where their minds are similar to sponges so they will soak up the new information and be better equipped with the knowledge of a second language later on in life. It is not uncommon for them to become bored, easily distracted, or to not be interested in the lesson in the first place as it is usually not the child’s choice to begin taking English lessons. To keep younger students engaged, teachers must be prepared to make a fool of themselves. Young children like seeing a silly, non-threatening person teaching them, and they are more likely to respond and remain engaged if the atmosphere is one of fun and excitement. Often companies will plan out entirely the activities and material teachers are expected to cover in a given lesson. This means there isn’t a lot of accommodating that teachers can do while teaching the lesson, but if they feel a child is in a class that is too advanced or them, it is important the teacher reaches out to an administrator to let them know. It is important that at the forefront of teachers’ minds is the age and level of skill of their students.
Some companies assign teachers to classes randomly.
This means a teacher sees a new group of students at a new level in the course every time they teach a class. This can mean that there is no real sure way to know the true level of a student’s English skills. We don’t know the extent of methods with which they’ve been taught in the past by other random English teachers in the company. This is why the to engage phase of the lesson is very important. Either before the lesson starts or during some allotted time within the lesson, teachers must decide how well the students will be able to accomplish the tasks in that lesson. Logging into a classroom late can damage our ability to effectively teach the class because we aren’t able to make a quick assessment of areas where the student may struggle, or about whether we need to spend more time on vocab or sentence structure in the lesson we are about to teach.
The final issue is just simply the fact that it is online.
It is always a gamble when relying this heavily on technology. Teachers should always run diagnostic checks on their equipment to make sure they have a stable internet connection, that volume controls and the microphone are working well, and that the device they use is charged so that it does not die in the middle of class. There also may be technical difficulties on the child’s end that a teacher does not have control over. In these cases, it is best to let the child know that you can not hear them or you can not see them and reach out to an administrator via a messaging platform if it is available to you.
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Overall, teaching English online is a new and exciting way for learners to gain mastery of a new language. It is appealing to learners of all ages, for people who have busy schedules or even for people who are not in a location where English is taught in a classroom setting. Variables will change depending on the company and its policies for teaching, but it is not uncommon for teachers to encounter the problems illustrated above at some point in their online English teaching career. However, these problems can be mitigated significantly if a teacher can anticipate issues and find solutions to ensure that the teaching environment is fun and engaging and that the needs and abilities of the students are known and met.
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