Thursday, February 28, 2013

Effective lessons in a virtual classroom?

When one starts to consider teaching live online, the decision as to how one will effectively teach has to be made.  Is Skype enough?  Is live online teaching really only good for conversation lessons or can one do more?  How does one present teaching material to students who aren't in the same classroom?  How can one engage the students in the virtual classroom?  These are all great questions and I will try to answer each question systematically.

Is Skype enough?
For the most part, this question really depends on the learner and the specific goals that the learner has.  If the learner only wants to practice speaking and does not want to engage in other areas of language learning, I would say YES, Skype is enough.  There are a lot of learners out there that just need and want conversation and so this venue would be good enough.

Is live online teaching really only good for conversation lessons or can one do more?
If a teacher is using a virtual classroom, the lessons can be richer than just straight conversation because of the tools that are available in the classroom.  I will go into detail about these tools in future posts and I already briefly mentioned these tools in the post Skype vs. the virtual classroom. If a teacher utilizes the tools correctly, the teacher can teach grammar, writing, pronunciation as well as other areas effectively.

How does one present teaching material to students who aren't in the same classroom?  The tools that are available in the classroom allows the students and teachers to be engaged in the material so one does not need to consider paper or books if the teacher is able to use the tools correctly.  Screensharing, Whiteboarding, Webtouring are just some of the tools available to the live online language teacher.

How does one engage the students in the virtual classroom?  Personally, I have found the best way to get the students engaged is to use the whiteboard as a tool for them to speak and actually use the language.  The chat function serves as a great feedback tool.

If you haven't already figured out, each of these questions point to the effective use of virtual classroom tools.  In subsequent posts, I will be systematically introducing the different tools in various virtual classrooms and how the effective live online language teacher can use these tools for language teaching.  Check back soon!
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