I have been giving Skype based lessons for nearly a year now, when previously I hadn't even considered it to be a valid form of teaching. I couldn't quite understand how it would have been possible to teach effectively in a remote way. It really did seem to go against everything I had been taught as a teacher.
Over the many years that I have been teaching, I have been extremely successful with my students and many have passed exams and moved into jobs where their language skills were essential. I still teach face-to-face for individuals and small groups and most recently I was approached by my local Comune, who asked if I would consider teaching in the local school one day a week. I said yes. Why wouldn't I want to give something back to the community that wholeheartedly welcomed us here many years ago?
However, I have come to realise that Skype lessons can actually offer an advantage, in some circumstances, over traditional teaching scenarios.
What I have concluded over the past 12 months is that teaching English on Skype actually forces the student to speak. This may sound a little simplistic to some, but in class-based lessons there are many opportunities for a student to simply point to words and phrases in a book, or even to ask their teachers to pronounce a word before they try themselves. On Skype, a student has to speak if they want to communicate. In fact, a student on Skype is forced into speaking much more than a student in a traditional classroom, and I have seen first-hand evidence of how much progress my students have made in both classroom and Skype based lessons. The Skype students almost always appear to progress faster with their confidence and speaking abilities, when compared to a similar level of student who only undertakes classroom based lessons.
The reason behind this, I believe, is that once a student becomes active in online learning, they don't just practice speaking with their teacher. Going online actively encourages students from all around the globe to communicate in their chosen languages with each other, which gives them more practice and helps them to build their confidence levels. Although I try to encourage my class-based students to talk to other English speakers for practice, it is much harder to do if you are not online.
I am certainly not considering moving to a solely online service, as I can provide a much more personal service to individuals who I meet face-to-face. (Plus I don’t think my ears could take all that headphone wear, or my bottom would definitely suffer from sitting so long! I prefer to be up and active in the classroom, which is one definite drawback from online lessons!) However, I have found myself advocating Skype based lessons to some locals who need to speak English quickly. It's a funny old world, mine has certainly changed beyond recognition in the past year.