This summer I’m delving deeper into two very different areas – Teaching Chinese and Online Tutoring. Both of these courses are exciting for very different reasons – and if you can understand basic Chinese – which is all I can say (!) – then check out recent posts labelled 瑞娜说中文 and 对外汉语.
The online course comes courtesy of International House, the school I did my CELTA with in London, way back when. I don’t want to give away too much – but here are my key take-aways and reflections on the first of four modules:
What I learnt
- First impressions count – make access and use of online tools as easy and simple as possible
- Use the same features within an online course to help students familiarise themselves quickly with the environment
- Spend time on getting to know you activities to build rapport between students, reduce any possible anxiety and create a positive working atmosphere.
- Provide clear information about how to get support (I.T. and content-related)
- Make expectations clear (how to complete task ‘x’ and why that skill would be useful in the future)
- Feedback is important, to ensure students are on track, to help those that are not, and highlight areas of the course/tasks that may need to be adapted in future.
- Make tasks fun and enjoyable. Throw in something unexpected to engage students.
It looks like a lot of organisation is involved. No doubt it’s best to plan it all out first, before the initial set-up of any online course/collection of activities. (This sounds obvious, but I have a tendancy to dive-in, without looking, or in this case, without extensive planning!).
It’s all about time. I think that I would have to set everything up over the summer, now, so that it would run smoothly over the academic year. I think it may be too ambitious to set-up an entire course that runs exactly parallel with the content of my textbook. I think it more realisitic to begin to introduce a few alternative, ‘extra’, activities to them, in random intervals, and reflect on how effective they are, instead. I don’t think my students have much exposure to online learning, so I think a softly, softly approach would be best.
One would assume that online learners are quite motivated and independent, but like I said, my students will be quite new to this, and will require a lot of support in simply accessing and navigating a tool in another language. More support, means more time, more clear instructions, and more patience!
In a nutshell, online tutoring looks attractive from afar, all shiny and new, but on closer inspection there’s a lot of planning and organisation involved, in order for it to actually be successful!
clear, clear instructions, easy, easy access, reduce anxiety, create rapport, support, feedback, organisation, planning