Online English classes are a great way to prepare for exams and improve your language skills in general. Learning by Skype is quite a different experience to a language academy and you should understand the advantages of learning online as opposed to in a classroom.
Danni has been an online teacher for some years and was formerly Director of Studies at Desktop English. Today, I put some questions to her about why she thinks Skype classes are such a good way to learn and what makes a good online teacher.
What are the advantages of learning online by Skype over the traditional academy setting?
Danni:Firstly, as our online classes are individual (i.e. one teacher, one student) you can get the personal focus you need to address your learning needs. All teachers will tell you that, no matter how hard you try as a teacher, a group class tends to move at a pace close to that of the slowest student. Individual classes are dynamic and progress is determined by how hard the student tries and works which means that the students have much more control over their success and fewer excuses to fail.
Furthermore, Skype classes can be taken from the comfort of your home or office, negating the need to travel and ensuring your surroundings are comfortable. VOIP technology is truly excellent now too and you can share your screen with the other person to show examples of target language. We use the instant message function to clarify spelling and demonstrate written forms. It’s far quicker than writing on a whiteboard but just as effective.
What makes a good online teacher?
Danni:Experience is key. There are many people teaching online now and many, I’m sure, are excellent. However, some companies offering Skype classes simply act as agencies, finding teachers for students as demand for classes increases. Sometimes (especially when demand is high) this means that teachers are inexperienced, or even unqualified.
It’s wrong to think that anyone that speaks English can teach English. Languages are not “contagious”. You can’t expect an adult or even a teenager to learn English passively, just through being exposed to speakers of the language. Of course, exposure is part of the learning process but classes are essential to provide structure and clarity – things the developed adult brain requires to assimilate new information. Experienced language teachers understand this process and can carefully guide learners towards attaining their learning goals in a way that “conversation teachers” cannot.
At Desktop English, our philosophy is based on offering quality online teaching. We have a small number of teachers and demand that they are all qualified and have several years of post qualification experience. We also spend a lot of time and energy developing our teachers through ideas sharing and reviews of classes, all of which we record for quality control purposes. We strongly believe that our reputation is best enhanced by offering high-quality classes, and we rely heavily on word-of-mouth referrals to increase our client base rather than advertising. This is a model we can be truly proud of.
Aside from experience and, obviously, a recognised qualification, I think it helps for a language teacher to have learnt a language themselves. Understanding the process of language learning from the student’s perspective is invaluable for me. I studied French and Spanish at university and have since started learning Italian. The experience has taught me much about how we learn and what we need from our teachers.