Many of us have used language learning apps like Babble, Duolingo or Rosetta Stone. While they have proven to help students build a good foundation in vocabulary and basic skills, they cannot replace the intensity of learning that takes place in a face-to-face language course. But "face-to-face" does not necessarily have to mean "in-person". Online lessons with a live instructor can be just as effective and intensive as in-person training, but there are a few things to keep in mind. Below is a list of 8 tips, and 8 myths to consider for your online training:
- Use a dry erase board
Not every instructor has a massive dry erase board hanging in their room, and that's OK! Small boards are just as effective, are very practical and relatively cheap. Both the student and the instructor should have one, so they can be used for writing and spelling exercises.
- Use your regular material
What do we mean by that? Literally, you can still use books, exercises, forms, videos, etc. in your online lessons. Through the power of the internet, we can read from the same book, or watch the same video, regardless of where we are in the world.
- Make sure you have ample lighting
Creating a "light" atmosphere is important, and we mean that quite literally. Make sure you can clearly see each other, as well the material that you are using in class. Test your "visual" and camera settings before class, and add an extra floor light if necessary. The lighter the better.
- Make sure your internet connection is stable
It may sound too obvious, but do make sure your internet is fast and stable enough to conduct the class with as little interruption as possible.
- Make sure you are using a headset
Yes, a lot of laptops have built in microphones and speakers, but for the sake of pronunciation and speaking, it is best to have crystal clear audio. Headsets will help with that.
- Test your settings before class
You want to make sure that audio, camera and light is all set up before class, so you don't have to spend time adjusting things during the lesson, and can focus solely on learning instead.
- Make sure automatic updates are turned off
Apps get updated frequently. Some are kind enough to ask whether you like to update now, but some are not. Windows, for example, likes to remind you a few times and then just do it. You can adjust your computer settings to make sure your computer does not automatically update windows at certain times of the day.
- Be aware of firewall settings
If you are taking online lessons at work, you may have trouble using external apps. If you can, bring your own laptop, or make sure your firewall settings are compatible with the app your are using for class.
Don't think online lessons can be as effective as in person training? Studies may disagree with you. If you are unsure, consider this:
- I can only learn from an in-person instructor
Our online lessons are still with a live instructor, and classes are just as effective and intensive as in-person training. Using the video feature, you can still see each other and communicate with each other directly and efficiently.
- I need a big board for class
Small, hand-held dry erase boards are just as effective, and probably more practical. If both students and teachers have one, they can do writing and spelling exercises, the same way they would in a classroom.
- Group courses do not work online
The beauty of online courses is that a group can sit in the same room and learn from an instructor (by use of a big laptop or projector and speakers), or multiple individuals can call in for a video conference call and screen sharing.
- Online training doesn't work/is not appropriate for kids
Online learning platforms for children have proven tremendously successful for children as young as 5 years old. While we cannot advise you how to raise your own children, we do believe that there is a qualitative difference between watching a recorded video on a screen, and actively engaging with an instructor on screen.
- Online instructors aren't the same as in-person instructors
Our instructors are all the same. We use the same enthusiastic, dedicated instructors that teach in-person classes for online lessons. The energy and pace will be the same as it would be for in-person training.
- I cannot use the same content
You absolutely can use books, exercise sheets and videos, as long as you both have access to the same material. You can still read from the same book, or watch the same video at the same time.
- I won't be able to have "quiet time" for online training
The same way that you would need to "block off" time for an in-person course, you will need to find a quiet space at home to help you focus on teaching/learning.
- If it's online, it won't be as effective
Throughout your learning path, you will need to practice using your language skills in a variety of different situation, and with different media. Eventually you will have to make a phone call, or a Skype call in your target language, and online training is a wonderful tool to practice just that. Using the same material and tools, online training is just as effective and engaging.
For another perspective on tips for Zoom & Skype, check out the renowned marketing guru, Seth Godin, and his thoughts on the matter here.
Ultimately, each student will need to find what works best for them. If you are still on the fence, you can always give it a try. You may be positively surprised, and, you are definitely choosing the greener option!