Experiences for English Language Teaching

Category: Remote Teaching

Online Teaching Tip: The Webcam

In my last online teaching tip post, I looked at the use of Wheel of Names for developing student conversation skills. In this post, I will be looking at webcams and how best to make the use of it with your online lessons.

Step 1: Buying An External Webcam

If you are using a laptop, then chances are you have a built-in webcam included with it. However, the quality of the webcam is likely to be rather questionable and I would always recommend that you consider purchasing a dedicated webcam that connects to your laptop or desktop for use with your online lessons. Here are my suggestions:

  • Logitech C920 HD Pro Webcam: this is a good quality webcam at 1080p that can be doubled as a microphone, and it is priced at £59.99
  • Logitech Brio Stream Webcam: although the C920 webcam is at 1080p, the Brio webcam is at 4k but is currently priced at £159.04
  • Razer Kiyo: this is a budget webcam which combines the use of a ring light and offering a resolution of 1080p, being priced at £54.99
  • Sony ZV-1 and Canon G7 X MIII: for those that wish to combine video making and use the dedicated camera as a webcam, then the solution is to purchase the Sony ZV-1 or Canon G7 X MIII, each with a price tag of £694.61 and £649.00 respectively. Each camera could be used if you are keen on photography or taking those holiday snaps or videos too

Step 2: Using A Ring Light

If you purchase a webcam which does not include a ring light (much like the Razer Kiyo), then you will discover that during darker periods of the year will impact the quality of the webcam footage. Should you wish to improve the quality of your webcam footage, a ring light would be ideal. These are some suggested investments for your home office:

  • Gskaiwen 18″ Ring Light: this is an affordable ring light for those that wish to improve the lighting with their webcam and is priced at £44.99
  • UBeesize 10″ LED Ring Light: this is one alternative ring light that you could purchase which could be used in conjunction with your webcam and is priced at £95.67
  • Elgato Ring Light: this is the more expensive alternative of ring light that is available for those that wish to improve the overall quality with a dedicated webcam or camera, but it is currently priced at £176.48

If you don’t wish to invest in a ring light, then the alternative is to get a lamp or portable light and place it behind your computer monitor or webcam.

Step 3: Look at the Webcam

When you start teaching it is natural to look at the computer monitor when talking to others, but people will notice that your sight will be focused either below the embedded webcam or away from the external webcam. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you remind yourself to look at the camera as much as possible when speaking, as listeners will feel that you are talking to them. It is natural to look at yourself on screen when teaching remotely, but the more you train yourself to keep your eye level at the camera, the more you will improve engagement with students.

Step 4: Remote Gestures

Using gestures need not be difficult

If you are standing in the classroom, it makes sense to use a variety of gestures when providing instructions or responding to students. Thus, it is important to maintain these when teaching remotely. If the connection drops a little and you do not hear exactly what the student uttered, then respond naturally and ask them to repeat but using a variety of gestures to accompany such a request. If you cannot hear what someone is saying or they are on mute gesture to your ear and explain you are unable to hear them. Just because you are not in the classroom does not mean you do not have to drop such gestures.


Thank you for reading today’s brief blog post and I hope it was helpful. If you have any ideas about using the webcam effectively in your classroom, please do not hesitate to share in the comments.

Online Teaching Tip: Conversation Questions

Getting students to communicate and practise speaking in English remotely can be quite a challenge. Here is a quick idea for getting students speaking and using questions as prompts.

Step 1: Create the prompts

Go to the website Wheel of Names and type in some questions which could be used as prompts.

You could use some prompts to get students speaking

Step 2: Share the questions

Share the question prompts with your students using the shareable function on the website, and place students into breakout rooms on Zoom. Tell students that they have a ten minutes to discuss the questions and report back when they return to the main room.

Sharing the question prompts is pretty simple

Step 3: Review questions and scaffold

Nominate students to summarise their discussions and possibly select students to share the questions that they asked. It would be a good idea to review question formation and scaffold language where required.

Elicit possible full question forms from students and scaffold language where necessary

I hope that this blog post was useful for your online classes and gives you some idea for future conversation prompts for your students. If you have ideas that you would like to suggest, please share in the comments.

Making Online Lessons More Interactive and Engaging

So many other professionals responded with some great tips. Thank you all!

A number of days ago, I asked on Twitter a question about how to go about a task within an online environment. I received a number of practical suggestions including Pete from ELT Planning and Leo Selivan of Leoxicon. This prompted me to record a video (available below) about the suggested applications and review some which I had used in the past.

The task that I was trying to organise within a remote environment required placing headings in order and then matching the descriptions to the headings. A simple enough idea, yeah? In a physical classroom this would work fine, but in an online environment how does one achieve it? Thank you to all who contributed their suggestions.

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In this post, I will be sharing a few of the applications that were recommended as well as some of the others that I have used to ensure that lessons are interactive, engaging and memorable.

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Five Games For Your Online English Classes

When teaching online, it is difficult to replicate different aspects of a physical lesson: classroom management, responding to visual clues from students or incorporating classroom games. In today’s post and video, I share five games you can use for your online English classes.

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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.

Six Steps To Prepare for Remote Teaching

I will now be using my laptop to start delivering lessons remotely to my students who I usually teach face-to-face

When it comes down to responding to the CORVID-19 as a teacher, many are being required to deliver lessons and content remotely to their students. In fact, today I was informed that all teaching would be suspended until the following week with all courses being delivered online. Obviously, the amount of teachers that I have been in touch with via Twitter and Facebook have faced similar situations – even the PM, Boris Johnson, has recommended that all people who are able to teach online, where possible. It is drastic action, but it is necessary.

When teaching remotely, it is important to prepare and have the necessary equipment, skills and environment suitable to deliver remote lessons. In this blog post, I am sharing some things that need teachers should consider before delivering a lesson or input for a course.

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