Updated: Apr 5, 2020
We are practically online 24/7. Even if we sleep, our gadgets are busy keeping us up-to-date so by the time we wake up, we have already received a number of notifications. You might love it or hate it, but in this post I’m going to show you how you can use the internet for your advantage.
As our internet is getting better and better and we are getting busier but also more motivated to acquire new knowledge to be able to step forward on the career ladder and stay ahead of competition, online courses and course providers (such as Coursera or Udemy, Open Univeristy, Khan Academy) have started to sprout up. People would like to improve their already existing knowledge or gain new skills, and luckily, there are so many courses now to choose from that you might just call in sick for the rest of the coming few years if you wished to go through everything.
Language learning is also taking part in this trend; however, it’s done a little differently. Although you can find courses on the previously listed course provider sites, students most likely would like to get individual attention and communication practice, which is a little more complicated to do on these sites. That’s why, there are teachers teaching classes online from all over the world to students who are also all around the globe. What’s amazing about this is that nobody’s attached to the physical space of the classroom any longer, we are all free to be anywhere anytime.
Practicing your job interview skills by the beach before taking a quick swim? Sure, why not? Teaching a class on the other side of the world before going on a hike in the mountains? Absolutely!
Just as “distance work” and “home office” are becoming more and more accepted forms of doing your everyday job, these options are becoming easier to choose as well. Let’s see how it can be done!
Choosing a platform for teaching
Online teaching has come a long way since the beginning, and there are new players appearing on the market day after day. But what should a teacher/student be looking for when selecting a virtual platform?
audio and video, of course
can take more people
record your talk
sharing from other devices
I tried to list these functions in order of complexity. And we're going to look at Facebook Messenger, Facetime, Google Hangouts, Loom, Skype, Microsoft Teams, Webex, Zoom, and Webroom.
Messenger, Hangouts and Facetime can be good for the first three functions but can't really do more. Facebook LIVE can already share your screen and a lot of people can join in too (but they can only reply to you by commenting). Loom is practically a screen sharing/screencasting tool (so you can record whatever you want with it) but can be used for video calls too.
For more functions, we need to go forward on the list. Scheduling meetings is easy with Skype, Teams, Webex, Zoom, and Webroom. However, only Webex, Zoom and Webroom offer whiteboards (Teams goes as far as whiteboards and an early phase of breakout rooms), give you breakout rooms (which means you can have pair- or smaller group work), remote functions (students can remotely write on your shared whiteboard, for example), and sharing more things from more devices (from tablets or phones, or sharing all sorts of files).
There are always some limitations though, so bear these in mind...
The free version of Zoom gives you 40 mins for group meetings, but you can easily break the call/webinar/meeting up into 40-minute sections.
Webroom can only take 8 people.
Webex is NOW FREE to host 100 people max and you can use many many of its functions! :)
Previously, I collected some of the platforms in a table format, so take a look at that too.
There are a couple of other practicalities to keep in mind if you’re considering teaching or studying online:
Make sure you check with your teacher/student how you’re going to pay or get paid. It’s a good idea to have a trial lesson at first to check if the other party’s reliable and trustworthy. The word “trial” can also indicate the risk you’re taking if you’re the teacher and your student doesn’t pay after the class. You lost one lesson’s fee but at least you know that student wasn’t trustworthy.
Later on, you can agree on your terms. This is also crucial. Do have clear rules and guidelines about paying in advance or after, cancellations, what to do when the connection is bad, disturbances, homework, and preparation.
If you’re a student and you don’t really like your teacher’s style, be honest about it. Don’t just disappear if your teacher’s counting on you for their next lesson. Write them an email saying this wasn’t really what you expected and hope they understand. It’s OK to be looking for the teacher that suits your learning style the best.
Consider setting up/asking for a VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) or LMS (Learning Management System). These are mostly online platforms where you can keep track of what’s happening in your online course. As a teacher, you can upload and share materials, tasks, and tests. As a student, you can ask questions, submit homework and get continuous feedback. These are great tools if you wish to make your online life more organised.
Flipped tools can also be extremely useful if you wish to give more interesting homework tasks. Flipped learning means students do most of the "studying" at home (with interactive videos, for example), while they can have discussions, project work or role plays with their teacher during the lesson. There are more and more such interactive learning tools and websites that are either pre-made or the teacher can create them from scratch. Take a look at these websites, and try the sample “lessons:”
https://api.playposit.com/go/share/13938/1268116/0/0/Its-Not-About-The-Nail (For a more detailed review on Playposit, check our blog post here!)
For even more tools and websites, check out and subscribe to my link collection on distance teaching tools, which is always updated.