The lesson we learnt after the pandemic was that, as teachers, we should be prepared for anything to happen at any time. Most teachers had to become “remote learning experts” overnight. In this post, George Kokolas analyses the “lessons taught” after the Emergency Remote Learning era and urges you to share yours.
In March 2020, the global teaching community went online, literally, overnight! The impact of the restrictions caused by the Covid-19 pandemic was profound. The idea of the expert ELT online teacher was also powerfully transformed. The frontline of ELT online teaching became a long frontier across the world with many untrained soldiers who had to struggle for their online-classroom survival.
As a result of this disruptive event, the DNA of traditional teaching and ELT professions altered. Many of these inexperienced online teachers not only managed to survive but also returned from the aforementioned frontline as winners. They learned the hard way by adapting face-to-face language learning curricula into online versions and by fighting new diseases, such as “zoom fatigue” or “online burnout”. Finally, they faced significant psychological pressure, put on them by themselves, their students and, in many cases, students’ families. Teaching online appeared to be a dirty job that someone had to do.
For the teachers to come through these daily adaptability requirements for effective online sessions, they had no other way but to strengthen their resilience levels. There wasn’t any other option anyway. Lessons needed to continue and teachers had to deliver online. That was the exact reason why many scholars referred to this situation as “emergency remote learning” and not as a standard “online remote learning”. Of course, in this process, there were problems, disruptions, lack of resources and motivation.
A Brief SWOT Analysis of Online Teaching as a Business Opportunity for ELT
The prevalence of online learning forced teachers to go online and teach but also gave new ideas on how to expand their business as teachers in a continuously demanding market. Even before the forced shift to online teaching, the teacher had an introverted attitude and could never think of themselves as someone who could offer their services to the world or even increase the marketing value of their lessons. Proof of this is that many online private marketing companies have increased their clientele by setting up online teaching businesses for teachers from all over the world like the Balkan countries, Ukraine, Spain and even North Africa. Some points that could be considered as strengths for expanding business with online teaching could be the following:
- Flexibility in schedules and number of students – Restrictions that may refer to limited spaces or matching schedules to accommodate people in the same classroom may not exist. Teachers may spend more time teaching online but this automatically increases their flexibility regarding the number of slots they have available and the number of students they can teach.
- Cheaper than running a physical school – Even by having your school or working at a physical school, the cost of running classes online is cheaper. This allows teachers with a smaller budget to still be able to create a viable online teaching business and with the right promotion to increase their profit.
- Presents different opportunities for collaboration and creativity for digital natives – Following Mark Prensky’s definition of digital natives, we should not be excluding the possibility that the majority of the students, during COVID, did enjoy the experience of having a lesson with the assistance of technology. Teachers who perceived technology as a vehicle for knowledge experienced moments of collaboration and creativity at a large scale and literally from distance.
- The teaching community has discovered the benefits of asynchronous learning. It looks as though we completely neglected the power of asynchronous learning but COVID-19 could have been a wonderful opportunity to revive it. It was the combination of synchronous and asynchronous learning that may have given a different dimension to our online classes. Teachers re-discoveredd how they could expand their learning time outside the classroom with techniques like project-based learning, flipped classroom, online presentations etc.
On the other hand, students rediscovered the comfort of studying at their own time and pace, outside of the strict timeline of a classroom session.
Precious feedback from recorded lessons. Findings from recent research point out that “…recording sessions is much easier online than face to face and this can provide useful opportunities for assessment and reflection on the teaching experience“.
Online learning tips: Preparing for your online lesson
- Choose the right tools and keep looking for better ones. The market has a very wide range of hardware tools that can suit any need, any subjective convenience or even financial status. Teachers can make their research and discover the hardware that suits them. It does not matter if it will be cheap or expensive. What matters is if it will work for them and if it can ensure a technical flow for their lessons. This can only be established by a non-stop trial and error period and the openness to testing new devices.
- Prepare and Practice in Advance. In the same way that a teacher needs to be thoroughly prepared before entering a physical class, the same stands for the teacher delivering an online class. This goes both ways regarding lesson planning and testing of hardware/software programs. Compatibility between different software/hardware programs may be an issue that can only be cured with procurement and testing.
- Prepare to Troubleshoot. There is no guarantee that things will run smoothly during an online lesson. No matter how many rehearsals or tests one might do, the possibility of a technical glitch, while greatly diminished, will never be fully eliminated. That is why it is always recommended that teachers have different troubleshooting scenarios for various problems that may arise. Usual problems that may occur are internet connectivity problems, connectivity with a low Wi-Fi signal, incompatibility of software or simply a computer crash. Have your troubleshooting manual ready for any of these scenarios.
- Reset your Students’ Timeline. Even though now students might be quite accustomed to the practice of online learning, one of the main complaints from teachers during the pandemic, was that the whole lesson flow was slowed down, which sounds like a very reasonable cause to consider. By default, during the pandemic everyone was unprepared and by nature, it takes more time to finish certain tasks online compared to a face-to-face setting.
Online learning tips: What to do during the lesson
- Break materials into chunks – Students may be less receptive to sessions with many learning objectives. Try to teach materials in small chunks.
- Generate frequent interactivity – Integrate many interactive tasks to generate attention and participation.
- Offer frequent feedback – According to Prensky “digital natives” love frequent, on-the-spot feedback. Thus, their learning process becomes more meaningful.
- Assessment should be digitalized as much as possible. Maybe remote learning environments can stand as an opportunity to check alternatives to testing assessment techniques like for example, project-based learning, flipped classrooms, and video presentations. The use of gamified assessment has proved to be very successful in online learning environments
- Teachers should have a more than decent screen presence – It is highly recommended that teachers make a lot of eye contact during the delivery of the lesson, use a lot of body language, maintain an upright posture, use their voice differently, be offscreen during intervals and have a rather professional outfit or look (something that won’t provoke students’ negative comments and distract them from their lesson).
Online learning tips: What to do once your online lesson has finished
- Try to give students an off-camera hook connecting the online lesson to activities outside the online classroom. “Flipchallenges” refer to flipped classrooms, project-based learning or even connecting certain online activities to physical books.
- Involve the Parents by keeping them fully up to date with the activities and the work you deliver online. Have regular updates regarding the performance of their children. Invite them to attend, in the background, any online class of yours to see how the whole online learning environment works and make them part of this process.
- Do individual check-ins with the students either for encouraging them on this whole process or to discuss particularities that may refer to any difficulties they face.
First published as ISBN 979-12-80225-42-9,ISSN 2384-9509 ,DOI: 10.26352/GY10_2384-950, Conference Proceedings of Innovation in Language Learning 2022,https://www.filodiritto.com/proceedings