Teaching Online. The good. The bad…and the different.
“If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” It’s safe to say that 2020 has been a year like no other and not much has gone to according to plan. So, what happens when things don’t go according to plan? Well, you make a new plan.
TALK’s new plan? Teach English online for the time being. It’s now been just over four months since we moved to online teaching. Our diligent staff has been teaching online course across all levels of our General English Course. (We’ve also started a Saturday morning kid’s online program! Contact us here to receive more detail).
So we thought it would be great to speak to Roberto Quintans, TALK’s Academic Coordinator, and Shaun Setzler, VP of Operations to get an update on jow the new plan is doing.
The bad…sort of.
One of the biggest draws of all our TALK programs is the chance for immersive learning. At TALK we believe that the best way to learn a language is to immerse yourself within the culture and life of communities that speak the language, and to surround yourself with others equally engaged in the same learning process. However with the restrictions on travelling and the necessity of social distancing, that aspect of learning has obviously been curtailed. Teaching online is fine, but it’s not our TALK team ideal.
But, fortunately with a little bit of creativity teachers and students alike have found a middle ground. Roberto says, ‘Students, generally, have responded very well to the limitations imposed by the pandemic. They are conscious that these times are not appropriate for immersive learning per se, but with the help and advice of their teachers and school directors they are doing other activities like Zoom/Facetime meetings and hangouts to discuss a movie they have seen, cooking ides and other interesting topics.’
Shaun adds that the teachers have been equally responsive and utilised technology to create new ways of engaging with students on a day-to-day basis. He says teachers have put in place, ‘Things such as increased email communication, get-to-know-the-TALK-team engagement emails, Zoom office hours for students to meet with Staff and WhatsApp groups are some of the ways staff has adapted.’
Challenges when seen with a different perspective can also be opportunities. Our TALK locations have always been well equipped with the facilities and technology to provide safe and dynamic learning environments. With the lack of in person contact we’ve had to mobilize these resources differently. This change in utilization and pace has actually resulted in an added benefit to the TALK team, specifically a diversified teaching experience.
According to Roberto, ‘these new tough conditions helped us to build new team working skills and specially to prioritize multi-tasking with a limited staff…TALK has 29 seasoned teachers now with more than 300 hours of IDL teaching accumulated and counting.’
Indeed this new experience for our teachers will only improve the quality and delivery of the teaching we offer. So while in the long term we hope to return to onsite teaching, Shaun, about teaching online, notes that some ‘activities and online office hours might continue into the future as students have found them helpful and convenient.’
With all this said, it would seem that for now online learning and teaching will be with us for the next few weeks if not months, in some shape or form. While many of us may be tired of hearing that these are ‘unprecedented times’, that fact remains that most of us have never lived through or experienced anything like this. This is different. One constant feature of the difference is the uncertainty which has forced the team at TALK to continually assess and reassess conditions. On the one hand we’ve had to ensure that we’re ready to continue teaching online, while at the same time being prepared to quickly transition back when it’s safe to do so. On this Roberto says, ‘we have to follow the regulations established by our accrediting agency and immigration. If the conditions changed, we would be more than ready for such a scenario as we have the expertise and know-how.’
But for Shaun one thing is certain, ‘we look forward to the day when we can reunite our students, teachers and staff with live classes safely.’