Experiences for English Language Teaching

Category: Pre-Sessional Course

Week Two of an Online Pre-Sessional Course

Last week, I blogged about my first week with the online pre-sessional course that I am involved with, and this post continues with my second week of remote teaching.

I started the first day by emailing students of all necessary schedules for their course, highlighting important deadlines and times of live Zoom sessions. I also scheduled individual students for an allocated time of their one-to-one tutorial, spread over two days. One reason I wanted to spread the tutorial over two days was that when I decided to have the tutorials over one day, I felt exhausted and had little time to respond to issues as they emerged. The benefit I found of holding half the tutorials over a day was that I were able to spend time responding to issues by emailing students or providing further information.

Anyhow, the first day I prepared the necessary PPT for the following day, listened to the student self-study input sessions, and also reminded students to submit their newspaper article in preparation for this week’s tutorial. I find myself having to motivate students to complete and engage with tasks, when particular students are not so intrinsically motivated to complete their autonomous self-study tasks. Perhaps I over-analyse or expect too much from my students but I do understand that the course is very similar to what students encounter when they undertake their courses at university.

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Preparing for an Online Pre-Sessional Course: The Technology

Over the past week or so, I have been attending some Zoom meetings to prepare and induct for the newly arranged eight week Online Pre-Sessional course, which is to start next Monday. It is very much a new venture for all involved in the online course: students, teachers, convenors and admin staff. 

Last week, all those involved attended a meeting to introduce all technology involved with the course. We were expected to become aware of all functions related to Zoom: breakout rooms, polls, chat, etc. This became quite an interesting experience for all end users. The person who organised this is technology and remote learning professional at our University. 

The first part of this session looked at the hopes, fears and expectations of the Online Pre-Sessional course. Fears seemed to outweigh many other aspects: “Will I get used to the technology?”, “Will I embarrass myself to the students?”, “What will happen if I can’t use the technology?”. Some of the hopes focused more on being establishing rapport with students, noticing a development with student competency or being available for students during course hours. It was obvious that significant challenges faced by all tutors and students are related to technology and the ‘remoteness’ in relation to the course. We then looked at technological challenges and benefits and this was discussed in breakout rooms via Zoom. Much of what was discussed was demonstrated below.

On top of Zoom meetings, which focus on synchronous lessons, there is also an emphasis on asynchronous learning for students. With our institute, we have started to incorporate Canvas and were encouraged during the initial meeting to record self-introductions and post on the discussion board to students. Then, to encourage students to self-introduce themselves once the course starts. Furthermore, we were recommended to personalise the self-introduction – with the inclusion of hobbies, the place where we live or other aspects about our lives – so that rapport could be established. It appears to be quite invaluable suggestion, but obviously it is most dependent on how much a tutor wishes to share with their cohort of students. Other aspects on Canvas include the Announcements and Inbox, which I have not really used much in the past but I look forward to seeing how much this is integrated during the summer course.

Finally, there were a few considerations for tutors such as not organising a private WhatsApp/WeChat discussion group with the students (I guess there are some privacy-related issues). It was recommended that if students have any issues, that they use the formal channels of communication so that it is transparent and open. Obviously, it was possibly suggested that students could arrange their own private online social groups to help each other or share their own reflections and experiences. There is an assumption that providing learners with a private space would be of benefit and that they are able to liaise among themselves.

Some questions that I have going forward (and I hope to answer in future blog posts) include:

  1. What is the ratio of face-to-face synchronous teaching/learning to asynchronous teaching/learning?
  2. How much work ‘behind the scenes’ will go into synchronous teaching?
  3. How will students respond to this new environment of teaching and learning?
  4. What sort of EAP-related issues will emerge during the course?

This is my only second year as a Pre-Sessional Tutor and I am looking forward to this course as I feel much like a beginner teacher again. I also hope to share another update in the near future about my most recent inductions this week and my plans for next week’s course.

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