At the beginning of March 2020 I wouldn’t have been qualified to write about teaching (English) online but with grim thanks to a pandemic I was forced into becoming au fait with the online world a lot quicker than I might have wanted to. Is there much of a difference?
As an experienced teacher of English as a foreign language, I can now see that there need not be much of a difference at all between an online English lesson and a classroom English lesson. In both I can use a variety of task types, a variety of interaction patterns and focus on both skills practice and teaching new language. However, this does depend on which online platform being used. I have decided that Zoom offers everything I need to do the above. I have used Webex, Microsoft Teams, Jitsi.meet, Skype and Whereby as well but none of these were really satisfactory for my teaching style. I’ve decided it’s worth paying for the version of Zoom which allows you unlimited meeting length rather than the free version which cuts off after 40 minutes (unless you’re teaching 1:1) as my lessons are often longer but maybe 40 minutes is long enough to suit your needs.
My online teaching at the beginning of the pandemic was mainly with students who already knew each other from face-to-face lessons, so building a rapport and a good classroom atmosphere was not an issue. As lockdown continued and some of my new classes went straight online I found that it is possible to still ensure the online classroom atmosphere is good even when students have not met each other before in person. Just as in the real world it is very important that the first session in the virtual world includes plenty of ice-breakers so that the students get to know each other and the teacher well. In the face-to-face classroom, this atmosphere created in the first lesson tends to then continue on throughout the course whereas I have found when teaching online, there is a need to continue integrating getting to know you activities into each class to build on this rapport with and among the learners.
If you are considering whether to do an Online CELTA course you should still think about what your goal is once you have finished, if your aim is to teach online then it would make sense to do the online version, however, if your aim is to teach in physical classrooms I would advise you to find a centre which offers the face-to-face course or at least find a post-CELTA teacher training workshop which will give you at least some in-class teaching practice.
What have your experiences of online teaching been? Which do you prefer?