I have been teaching remotely for around a year now since the most educational language institutes and higher educational providers responded to COVID-19 by getting everyone to work from home. Who knew we would be still be teaching remotely a year later. In the video below, I share what a usual quiet day of teaching is like.
I must say as a proviso that I currently have a very quiet teaching schedule and I am fortunate to have time to focus on other things. Perhaps I could share an update when things are a little busier once I am teaching remotely full-time. Anyhow, I do hope you like the video and please feel free to share your current ‘day in the life’ experience in the comments.
I was watching a recent YouTube video by Cambridge University Press ELT about the ‘great reset’ with regards to online teaching. What struck me was the fact that more credence is being given towards ‘online teaching’ now, rather than before the pandemic. I remember chatting to some other English teachers and teacher trainers about ‘online teaching’ and enquiring why there could not be an input session about online teaching and language learning during an initial teacher certificate, such as the CELTA or the equivalent. Some reasons that were made included online teaching not being a true form of teaching or it being more a fad, with the majority of organisations – prior to the pandemic – being located in South East Asia. You only have to scroll through the various online teaching companies to notice that the vast majority are located in China, Taiwan or Korea.
A few years later, a number of physical institutions and organisations are having to catch up and compete with online institutions. As well as companies and institutes having to incorporate a change to redress the current emergency, many teachers, who were teaching face-to-face, now find themselves in the position to teach within an online environment. It is my assumption that the vast majority of English teachers and practitioners have had limited experience of teaching within an online environment, let alone learning online. This raises the question: “How can English teachers be qualified to teach English online if they have not been trained?”. Teachers who have completed various qualifications (CELTA, DELTA, etc.) have all focused within a physical classroom environment. Teachers themselves have also not develop the softskills to deliver lesson content online for students and those teachers who have years of experience of teaching synchronously for numerous organisations based in South East Asia, usually unqualified without a CELTA or equivalent, have not been consulted. I should point out now that I am not disregarding how organisations, institutes and professional teachers have responded to the emergency form of teaching, but I am merely wondering whether more can be done.
Nevertheless, the video that I watch (please see above), raised an important point about the difference between ‘remote teaching’ and ‘online teaching’. Ben Goldstein highlighted that there was a clear division both forms which is a good step forwards. However, I disagree with the division of terms above. Personally, ‘remote teaching’ is associated with the location, while ‘online teaching’ is related to the tools to deliver the lesson. You are ‘remote’ from the classroom yet using ‘online’ tools to teach the students. When you teach ‘online’, you are using a variety of both ‘synchronous’ and ‘asynchronous’ tools to deliver content – not everything is delivered synchronously when teaching ‘online’. When you teach remotely, you can be located anywhere – at home, in an institute or at a cafe. You are not restricted to teaching, unless you have a stable internet connection and suitable equipment. What I find Ben is describing above is how the industry is dealing with the pandemic (“Remote”) and what online organisations were operating prior to the pandemic (“Online”).
Anyhow, the video is well worth watching as it does raise important questions as well as opportunities that are available for educational institutes.
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:
What is the ratio of face-to-face synchronous teaching/learning to asynchronous teaching/learning?
How much work ‘behind the scenes’ will go into synchronous teaching?
How will students respond to this new environment of teaching and learning?
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.
Teaching remotely or teaching online is becoming more and more common, especially with the latest pandemic where teachers are finding their courses and classes being placed online. Since then, there has been a scramble for finding alternative and suitable applications to support teachers and students with their online lessons with Zoom being touted as the most appropriate.
In this blog post and video, I am sharing with you seven ways you can incorporate Zoom to help you with your synchronous remote teaching and to engage and interest learners with lessons.
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.