Online teaching is teaching that takes place over the Internet in a virtual classroom and not in the traditional one. Online teaching is not something new. Lots of universities around the world have adopted this way of teaching at a BA or at an MA level. Ιn adult education it is a common approach and lots of adults seem to have adopted the idea of online education.
By Tanya Livarda, EFL teacher
The advantages of online teaching are that it is flexible, more comfortable, it is cost effective and it is an innovative way of teaching. It is flexible and comfortable because educators deliver their lessons from the comfort of their own house whenever they want. It is also cost effective because the online platforms are either free or teachers can pay a small amount of money to have all the rights to use them. Last but not least, it is a new way of teaching any subject due to the development of the Internet.
On the downside, there are lots of health issues related to online teaching such as bad body posture or eyesight problems. Time is something that both teachers and students have to decide beforehand, since certain students can attend a lesson at a specific time. It also takes time for the teachers to be fully prepared and it is more tiring than a face- to -face teaching because I assume we have to put more effort to listen and simultaneously watch through a computer screen. Another disadvantage is that the bad Internet connection causes audio or visual problems which cannot be solved instantly.
Can the disadvantages outnumber the advantages?
Despite the disadvantages, it is indeed a common belief that online teaching is a growing trend. But why? Perhaps for the above reasons. Or because it is relatively new for our Greek teaching reality. However, not until these days did we have the opportunity to seriously consider teaching online. Again, why? Maybe because we were not forced to, or because we have managed to rely on the traditional face-to-face teaching and learning (either in our schools or in universities).
I disagree to a great extent. I prefer enrolling in online courses offered by various universities worldwide, I prefer attending webinars and I have also attended and completed a Distance MA programme. I guess I am not the only case. Schools around the world have incorporated online teaching up to a certain point and they have introduced blended learning. Universities have also adopted this teaching method. As mentioned above, distance teaching and learning is the most common approach in adult education. Therefore, why are we so confused right now? Why do we hesitate trying and offering online lessons to our students?
Hopefully, more and more teachers have introduced blended learning. Despite having face-to-face instruction, learning continues through online platforms and students have the opportunity to revise or take part in online projects. Nevertheless, most of our students are children and teenagers and we are thinking about the negative effects this might have in our future career (e.g. parents complaining or teachers complaining that we will be replaced by machines and videos). Most of us also believe that online teaching is not teaching and as a result it is difficult for the students to learn something via the Internet.
However, do you think that children do not use online platforms or their social media daily? Children are more computer literate than we were in their age. They are also flexible and they can adapt better in such circumstances. Don’t be afraid of letting your students experience this kind of learning or at least try it once. You will be impressed how positively children and perhaps their parents react to online teaching.
How about the teachers? Are we supposed to know every single platform?
I agree that we need to be officially trained for this new era of teaching. Universities that have already used this type of teaching, individuals or even the Minister of Education can organize such trainings in order to help teachers gain all the knowledge they need to feel comfortable with online teaching.
However, for the time being, if we simply type ‘online platforms for teaching’ on Google search, lots of online tools will appear, such as Zoom, Webex, Big blue button, Google classroom and so on and so forth. There are also online videos that ‘teach’ you how to use them. It is never too late to start and experiment with small classes. Colleagues that have tried it are also there to help you.
Some final thoughts…
We live in a strange period of time. We are working in circumstances that are changing every hour. We have to keep the most precious gifts safe; our health and life. We are forced to make a long pause to our lives in order to ensure that we will be together with our beloved ones again soon. It is now time to move out of our comfort zone and try something new.
To me, online teaching is the future. Unfortunately, we had to understand it quickly and through the hardest way. Given the challenging circumstances, from now on, it is inevitable that we use or choose online teaching in order to continue supporting our students and help them reach their full potential. Nowadays, it is because of a virus, but from September? What will happen? Who can tell?
To me, adaptability and flexibility is always the key to open the door of learning. It can be difficult at the beginning but it is worth. Perhaps this long pause that we are forced to take is a pause that will allow us to think our lives again.
*Tanya Livarda (BA/ MA in TESOL, CELTA) has been teaching English as a second language for the past nine years and she has worked in summer schools for the past two years. She is also an oral examiner. She has completed several CPD courses conducted by various organizations and universities and she has attended a plethora of workshops in teaching methodology. She has been a member of TESOL Macedonia Thrace Northern Greece and of IATEFL.