I was approached by Chris Rush, Content Marketing, from Off2Class to see if I would be able to review their website. I felt that this would not do their website justice, so we agreed to an interview. However, before we dive into the interview, I thought I would take this time to introduce Off2Class.
Looking at their website, they offer online teaching as well as student self-study materials. This is very similar to BreakingNewsEnglish or other teacher or student study material. Perhaps the difference between BreakingNewsEnglish and Off2Class is that the former website is free while the latter is accessible for a small fee. Obviously, I am unable ascertain whether the small monthly fee is value for money as I have been unable to review lessons that are incorporated for online or face-to-face lesson provision. Off2Class also upload English study and teaching related videos on their YouTube Channel but the number of subscribers are hidden from view. Nevertheless, when you visit their website, they offer a free account. Hopefully, this free account offered when registering helps guide possible readers on whether it is a suitable service.
Notwithstanding, the opportunity of online language learning and synchronous lesson provision has grown exponentially this year and some inexperienced teachers may feel more secure with the services that Off2Class is able to offer. I do hope that readers are able to make an informed decision with Off2Class and if you have used their lessons and service, then it would great to let other readers know in the comments.
- How did Off2Class come about?
Five years ago, three partners had an online English teaching business and were frustrated at the lack of quality lesson materials specifically intended for online lesson delivery. They started making their own lessons for their own students. When they started sharing the lessons they made with other online teachers, they knew they were on to something. Eventually, they got so busy making lesson materials that they decided to focus exclusively on online ESL content.
- There are many free resources online where teachers and students can access. What makes your platform different?
What sets Off2Class apart is that that is made to empower teachers, not replace them. There are dozens of apps and asynchronous self-study tools for students to use, but nothing can replace the relationship between a teacher and a student. Off2Class lesson materials are designed to be used for live lessons with students over any video conferencing platform without the need to share screens. In addition to over 1,000 lessons in the library, teachers also take advantage of homework assignments to reinforce classroom activities and a placement test that gives teachers a precise snapshot of a student’s strengths and weaknesses.
- Where do you see the future of online English teaching and learning?
Online English teaching as an industry has been growing steadily, but things have accelerated in 2020. As we move into the future, I think online learning (for ESL and many other subjects) will start to become the norm.
- Do you see Off2Class material as a supplement or as a replacement of the English coursebook?
One of the key strengths of Off2Class is its flexibility. There is enough material to completely replace a coursebook (and many schools use Off2Class to do just that), but there are also schools and individuals that use Off2Class as a supplement. That could mean using the Placement Test, or specific grammar lessons, or IELTS/TOEFL prep.
- Since the start of the global pandemic, there has been a growing emphasis towards online education with many physical schools now offering a remote option since the lockdown. Should English schools prepare to deliver all future content remotely or will schools return to normal soon?
I think the part of the difficulty of present circumstances is that we can’t say with any certainty how things will play out even in the short-term future. A lot of institutions have been hesitant to offer an online component, but the pandemic forced them to adopt one in a hurry to keep teaching. Whenever “back to normal” eventually arrives, they will already have experience and infrastructure for online teaching, so it may be easy to continue to offer alongside traditional in-person teaching models.
- How is your material authored and developed?
We create all of our material ourselves, completely in-house. Because it’s been this way since the very beginning, all of our lessons are consistent. For the first few years, the content “team” consisted of a single linguist. As we’ve grown, the process has remained largely unchanged, but we have more help with proofreading and diverse subject matter.
- How extensively is teacher and student feedback incorporated into lessons?
Feedback is extremely important to us. Beneath every lesson slide there is a large “give feedback” button, and teacher and student requests are still the largest driver of new content we create and features we add to the platform. In our experience, teachers tend to not be shy with requests, and we’re in near-constant communication with our users via our site, email, and social media.
- How often are new materials added to your platform?
Constantly. Adding pedagogical materials is the content team’s only job, and they’ve released lessons every week for the past 4+ years. Now that the Step-by-Step curriculum is finished, a lesson series that took over two years to create, they’re working on assessment modules so that students can complete a review every few lessons.
- What are the different options available for teachers who wish to use your platform?
Off2Class offers free as well as paid options. Any teacher interested in exploring our lessons and platform is encouraged to sign up for a free account, which will give them access to 150 core lessons, up to 20 students, as well as the homework activities and the Placement Test.
- How does your platform compete with the Great Firewall of China?
There are no specific issues with site usage in China, and we have many teachers (and even more students) who are based there. As with all internet services, however, your mileage may vary, and we recommend the use of a VPN.
- Where are the majority of your teachers and students based?
Everywhere! There are individual teachers and language institutions of all types using Off2Class all over the world. It’s truly a global product, and we’re proud to have created something that’s used by such a plurality of audiences.
- Will we ever need classrooms after COVID-19?
I don’t think the need for classrooms will go away anytime soon. Though online learning may remain widespread and continue to expand post-COVID, I don’t think anything can ever truly replace face to face learning. Off2Class is also used in hundreds of brick and mortar institutions with projectors, so we try to be backward-compatible as well!