Although students can and do learn English online and have an enjoyable learning experience – these are not ‘equal’ experiences.
In the traditional Classroom
In a traditional classroom, all activities are being constantly monitored by the teacher.
The amount of time spent in whole-class discussion is low as students are mainly working with partners, groups or individually while being monitored by the teacher.
Whole class activities are usually confined to teacher input, feedback on an exercise, setting goals and introducing the topic and final reviews. This is to maximise the time the student can spend communicating with other students, as well as with the teacher.
In groups/pairs work the teacher is aware of what is happening in all groups, all the time. They can listen to the different conversations and identify common errors or individual weaknesses and step in and intervene when necessary.
When a student is doing individual work, the teacher can be monitoring individuals – stop by to offer guidance or point out a mistake or misunderstanding. An English class can be silent for a period while students are thinking.
Also, activity types are also utilised to control energy levels. Sitting too long can lead to lethargy and make it harder to learn. Asking the students to physically move to different groups, to do a class mingle or to do an activity like running dictation – raises the energy levels and helps students engage in their studies as a group.
In an online English class
There are tools that teachers can use to replicate some of the classroom interactions, but interaction patterns need to be altered for the online learning setting.
Break out rooms allow students to work in small groups and pairs, but while a teacher can pop in and out of a breakout room, they only allow teachers to listen to one small group of students at a time. It is, therefore, harder for a teacher to pick up on all that is happening in the class.
Silence is awkward – teachers and students will rush to fill it. This means that students can lack thinking time.
Quizzes can be great for creating competition and engaging learners, however, it is easy for students to hide and not participate. If they are working in groups it is not possible to identify individual needs.
Shared screens allow a teacher to replicate the business end of a whiteboard, but when you share your screen your view of your class is less, it is harder to see who is understanding the lesson point and who is not. It is much more difficult to see who is engaged and who is fiddling with their phone.
And finally, watching a screen of 15 faces is not the same as watching 15 people in a class. Body language is much more difficult to read, and understanding can be much more difficult to see. Every student assumes the teacher is focused only on them – as that is how it appears on the screen.
So, at EC English we have divided classroom time into 2.
In our online English face to face lessons, our classroom size is smaller, increasing the teacher to student interaction time, facilitating closer monitoring of speaking and listening and allowing teachers to provide personalised feedback.
All the collaborative work you do in class, you will still do. In Microsoft Teams you are able to text, video call and share documents and replicate the pair and group activities in class. As this collaborative work mirrors how we work in real life – there is an extra value to the tasks.
Your teacher is not looking over your shoulder, but they can look in and see what you are doing.
‘The good thing is post-lesson when we can think a lot’ Takashi EC London
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