If I had been asked about online learning a few years ago, I would have responded with the view of a skeptic.
Similar to many teachers, I thrive on the feeling of being in control. I always arrived to my classroom a few minutes before the students to ensure that I was fully prepared. There was nothing I feared more than relying on something I couldn’t control, so the idea of using technology in the classroom intimidated me. I wasn’t the most technologically savvy person. What if a cord wasn’t plugged in properly, or the Internet connection was down? What would I do?
As any teacher would agree, one of the best parts of teaching is the human interaction. The ability to work directly with people and see firsthand the “aha” moments, the times when an idea they have been struggling with finally makes sense. In the past I viewed technology as interfering with this human interaction.
A little over two years ago, a student of mine asked me if I would be able to continue lessons with her when she returned to her native country of Russia. A busy businesswoman, she was convinced that online lessons were the best option for her. Despite my initial hesitation, she was able to persuade me to give Skype lessons a try. It wasn’t long before I was addicted. The ability to give lessons from the comfort of my home allowed me to teach more each day (in my pajamas, if I wanted...) With time, I began to incorporate more and more online resources into my lessons. I began designing YouTube videos to explain grammar concepts using techniques I found effective.
The Internet opened up many new doors and ways of teaching that I was excited to give a try. Nowadays, I have my own business teaching English on Skype. I use a tablet and screen sharing technology to create a virtual whiteboard where I can visualize grammar examples and work through tenses with students. I use Google docs to share and edit worksheets together with my students. I use video chat to ensure that the personalization aspect isn’t lost along the way.
I am still able to witness the “aha” moments, and directly see the impact of my lessons. My beginner students use free online learning resources like for additional grammar practice on their own in combination with my lessons. My advanced students watch videos and read articles on every topic imaginable and our lessons are spent chatting about the videos and articles. I have taught students online from over thirty countries in the world, and I continue to learn more each day about the new possibilities online.
Blogs, podcasts, webcasts, platforms for teachers to create their own courses, phone applications that remember words students have looked up, interactive games allowing students to compete against friends, everything easily accessible and adjustable to meet individual student needs.
And now I’m not scared. I’m excited. The possibilities are endless.