Challenges of teaching Business English onlineI have been teaching business English online for some time now, and thought it was about time I wrote a few posts on some of the challenges of teaching online and how I deal with them. Today, I will focus on challenges connected to technology and make some suggestions regarding how they can be dealt with. Before I move on though, I will explain what teaching online is for me. The learning platform I use is Adobe Connect and a phone line/Skype. So, what are some of the technology related problems that may lead to anxiety on your or your learners behalf (anxiety is a very soft term , may I just say)
- Connection problems.
- Problems accessing the virtual classroom+technology related web notifications popping up.
Example of document with guidance for learners (Pic of Adobe Connect)
- Recording sessions
- Time management
- Group sessions
How do all these challenges affect my business English students?Good question. Well, time is of the essence for your BE students so you really need to eliminate or at least try to minimize any connectivity problems that may waste your learners time. They are at work and dealing with connectivity issues may even make them want to cancel sessions. You do not want your learners cancelling sessions. Especially when their schedule is already tight!
You definitely do not want your learners to be passive. Interactivity is core to online teaching and using a webcam is a good idea. Another reason why webcams are necessary when delivering BE sessions is because business communication does require the teaching of paralinguistic features and this is when a camera can be useful. You can show your learner what gestures and facial expressions are appropriate/inappropriate/not so appropriate in different cultures etc. Of course, this does mean that as a teacher, you do need to feel comfortable sticking your face in front of a camera and focusing on facial expressions. Well, if you do not, you could also use videos from YouTube : ) which you can send as a link when teaching online. Yay! Another advantage of teaching online-immediate access of online material, websites etc.
Dealing with distractions your BE students may have, is not a piece of cake. You could incorporate them into your session though (if you realize your learner is doing something else instead of paying attention to the lesson) and they could be a great learning experience for your BE student as you may help him/her with a real email he/she may need to send. Bottom line is that distractions do occur and I am still wondering about what the best way to deal with them is.
Dealing with the problems that arise during group sessions is easy. Just discourage group sessions. Group sessions in my experience are more easily cancelled so if possible stick to one to one lessons when delivering business English sessions online.
My final thoughts....
I only touched a few of the problems related to teaching online and how they may affect the delivery of a business English session. Of course, these challenges apply to any online session. I am really interested in what you think so do feel free to comment or make other suggestions. I will be back with more posts on teaching BE online.
Till next time...
Hannover Research council (2009) Best Practices in Online Teaching. [pdf]: Washington. Available at <http://www.uwec.edu/AcadAff/resources/edtech/upload/Best-Practices-in-Online-Teaching-Strategies-Membership.pdf> [Accessed 27 February 2014].