Online language classes: time to bust some myths and expose facts
We already know that online and face-to-face courses are equally effective, as concluded by many studies. A lot is discussed about the benefits of face-to-face over online language courses. Nevertheless, this does not mean that both work in the same way and obtain the same results.
Watch out! The question here is not whether you should take up Spanish online or face to face, but what are their respective salient attributes and what you should expect.
Before we dive into the matter of listening and conversation skills, there are some myths about Online Learning that you should dispel right away:
“Attention span is shorter online”
There is no empirical evidence to suggest that. The most pertinent factors that determine the adaptability of online learning are readiness to study online, motivation and planning of online lessons to capture and retain students’ attention. The attention span is certainly a concern but it affects both online and face-to-face lessons. The key is how lessons are planned and delivered to maintain students’ attention and motivation.
“Online learning makes social interaction impossible”
Live online lessons are highly interactive which require students to talk to each other and to the teacher, exchange opinions, form teams to collaborate on tasks, etc. just like a normal face-to-face class. Paradoxically, live online lessons are immensely beneficial to shy people who tend to be reluctant while facing a group of people in person. In our school, we have even observed that students belonging to reserved cultural backgrounds or conservative societies exhibit more confidence and participate more in an online class than in a face-to-face class. Moreover, studying a foreign language online with classmates from other countries is a great opportunity to broaden one’s social network and embrace cultural diversity without having to travel.
“Online courses are of questionable quality and not valid”
What? Unfair prejudice!
It may have been correct in the past before technology could deliver interactive and real-time content or accurately gauge and assess the students’ progress. Nowadays, applications such as zoom, google classroom and the likes are efficient tools to guarantee an excellent and constantly updated syllabus and content. Reputed online course providers such as Google Academy, Coursera or top-ranking Universities of the world have started delivering prestigious degrees and masters online. On the contrary, online learning has made highly reputed degrees more accessible to anyone, anytime, any age.
Now, let’s dive a bit into how and why online language lessons boost your conversation and listening skills.
Live online lessons are purposely planned to make you practice and… practice
A well-planned and well-defined online course gives priority to language practice during the live lessons since the explanation of theory and application of theory happens within the lesson time. Grammar rules and concepts are easily accessible through the google classroom content, PDF or forums available for students and nurtured by the teacher. It is simple: no one should squander money while learning a language. Why pay for something you can get for free? You do not need a teacher for theory. In addition, teachers plan a productive live online lesson thoughtfully to have an accelerated pace and more varied content. Online learning requires a higher level of attention. It also facilitates learning through apps such as quizzes and games that students can sync with their smartphones.
Online lessons are strategically designed to enhance your speaking and listening skills
Teachers focus exclusively on practice by planning online lessons in small groups so that every activity is an opportunity for the students to listen and speak. Let us take an example of past tenses: during a live online lesson, each student will have a chance to orally practice past tenses by sharing with the teachers and with classmates personal things such as: what they feared when they were kids, which food they hated, which cartoon were their favourite, etc. As a result, not only do they express themselves but also have a chance to know other students’ life experiences. Before the activity, the teacher gives students a series of verbs and vocabulary to help them. When online lessons are conducted in small groups, several benefits emanate from the interaction between students since one learns from the others through correction or even through their mistakes.
Your favourite environment and no frivolous disruptions contribute to higher concentration
In an online language class, disruptions are seldom: no window to look at the clouds and birds, no weird or unknown noise with the headphones on, high-quality audio and no echo. You can choose a place where you feel more comfortable and have privacy: your bedroom, your office, anywhere convenient. These trivial things are concentration boosters. Online lessons are extremely productive provided the student makes sure that no element could disrupt him: the mobile phone should be silenced, for example, and a nice old “No trespassing “ sign could be posted on the room door.
Your sense of hearing sharpens resulting in boosting your listening comprehension and memorisation
Learning online requires developing hearing skills since there are fewer gestural clues to understand. Lack of body language visibility, which may appear as a problem at first, enhances the attention towards phonetics and intonation. This increased attention to hearing also results in the memorisation of vocabulary and the structure of the sentences. This is paramount since language is primarily a communication tool that human beings use and learn orally and aurally.
If you tend to be shy and reserved: Online language classes will turn you into an extrovert.
Silence is never a good indicator in an online language class; for the teacher and the student. Teachers often observe that surprisingly lack of physical proximity helps break the ice, especially for those students who don’t open up in the first instance. Since there is so much interaction and exchange of ideas, particularly the interchange of intercultural differences in an online class, even the shyest people shed their inhibitions and tend to become chatty eventually.
In addition, the possibility for the teacher to alternatively turn on or silence the microphone helps to better manage the speaking time of participants, thereby avoiding excess participation by overenthusiastic students or total silence by reserved students. The ability of the teacher to balance the participation of students in an online class leads the teacher to carry the group as a whole towards realizing shared learning outcomes.
Comparison are unfair: Why not simply consider that face-to-face and online language courses can live in perfect harmony.
All right, sometimes comparisons can help measure and make decisions. Nevertheless, in case of online versus face-to-face language classes, both have different advantages and disadvantages and ideally can be combined depending on the situation, the availability, the resources and time available. It may be time to consider both as a perfect couple that complements each other and live amicably.