Digital and online adult learning
21st century is definitely going to be remembered as an era of great IT and digital improvement. One of the results of such great improvement is not only the improved quality of life but also better and easier way to communicate. Thus I will leave the matter of technology to those who are masters in that field. I would like to talk about communication in English language learning and share my opinion and experience.
During my almost 20 years long career as an English language teacher, I’ve had an opportunity to work with the students of different age: from kindergarten to elementary and high school students to adults. The greatest obstacle for the last category (adults) was to speak up, communicate, use in practice what they have once learned in the classroom. Although some of them were faced with the poor knowledge of grammar and the lack of vocabulary, still the biggest problem for all of them was – to communicate.
One of the reasons was that they were afraid of making a mistake and being laughed at. Also, during classes they stuck to the lesson material, so most attempts to make them share their opinion and ideas resulted in failure. The only way of learning English language was to attend different courses. As far as I know, the concept of all of them is similar if not the same: there is a classroom, a white board, maybe a projector, a book or some printed material and a group of students at similar level. As it usually happens, one of the students is more communicative than others which frustrates others and make them even more silent.
A year and a half ago I had an opportunity to become an international online teacher for a foreign company. It was an experience that completely changed my attitude towards teaching and studying. First of all, students stay at home in a familiar and cozy surrounding where they feel safe and protected. Most of my students were bothered with going out of after getting back home from work or when the weather was bad. Since the classes are held via Skype, all they need is a stable internet connection and a PC or laptop (some of them also used tablets or smartphones). Another great thing is that if students don’t feel comfortable, they can turn off their cameras. What is important in this case is that they can see and hear the teacher clearly. The classes are held one on one – no one to be ashamed of, no distractions, no opportunities to be laughed at.
The classes last for 25 minutes. There is a wide range of lesson materials of different levels to choose from, from beginners to proficient. It is up to a student which one he will chose: communication, grammar, vocabulary, Daily News or something else or just have a free talk with the teacher on some random topics. All in all the purpose is to communicate with the teacher. It is up to a teacher when he will open the classes (the teacher masters his own schedule). The student can book his class whenever he wants, there are always a lot of teachers available from all parts of the world including natives. There is also a possibility to book double or triple class.
What is also important is that there is no age limit: I had students aged 6 but also 83. All types of students can find a material that is suitable for his level. I think that this type of classes would be a good opportunity for adults in my country to improve their existing knowledge or even learn a new language. What is needed is a good platform to be made with carefully prepared and chosen materials and, of course, teachers for a completely different form of learning. What we need to understand here is that the concept of teaching and learning is changing. Online teaching and learning is far away from traditional classroom that we are used to.