English Academy Online
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What it takes to teach English Online!

I am going to talk to you about some of the tools I use to do my classes so you get an idea of how I set up the classroom to give you the utmost quality. I have spent a lot of time investigating on the internet to find the best products I can to be able to give you a fulfilling experience when you are in one of my classes. 

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Why should you know about this.

When I first started with the idea of doing online courses I thought it would be a simple task and that there were not many things to take into account, apart from a webcam and a microphone and of course, internet connection. But when I got into the subject in a bit more depth I realized it was not as easy and simple as I had thought. There are many things to take into consideration but here are some of the most important components that compose the setup.

To start off I will break it down into a series of big groups so you get an overall picture and then I will tell you a little about each product and what it implies to handle the situation well for an online class.

Summary

  • Going over all the main points.
  • Having great ideas.
  • Investigating and researching.
  • Creating quality service and content.

The essential tools to teach online.


These are the major groups I take into consideration:

Personal computer: first of all, as is expected, a computer is the foundation of the setup. Of course, I realised I needed to have a good PC in order to give quality to my students. I can’t have the computer freezing up or being slow because it cannot handle the load it must take at certain moments within the class.

Audio: obviously this is the next most important factor to be able to teach a language online. A good microphone and some way of getting it connected to the computer.

Video: I broke this up into two categories. The first being the video side of the setup, in order to make videos to give  tutorials, and the second, streaming video (webcam) to make the classes more lifelike and more personal, as well as getting rid of that “cold” feeling of just looking at a presentation and listening to the explanation.

Lighting and background: This was an immediate thought after the video equipment. I realised I would not only be teaching during the day, and that many winter months are very gloomy and cloudy and the days shorter so daylight would not be enough. Some form of artificial lighting is required if I don’t want to be streaming or making videos that look dramatic at the least, and thus give the impression of poor quality and therefore, lack of interest and investment. A background setup allows me to create chroma key editing which is an extra asset to be able to crop out the background and use my video image as an overlay.

I.W.B. (Interactive White Board): many of my fellow colleagues disagree that this is a necessity in online teaching, but after so many years of teaching in academies and doing private tuition, I feel the need to have somewhere to quickly write down notes, examples or anything of the kind which is normally jotted down on a whiteboard or even just a simple notebook. After going through a vast amount of web pages and spending hours, if not days searching for a solution I decided a tablet with a digital pen was going to be the most suitable solution, as opposed to larger solutions such as big boards or even really fancy interactive panels, which all seemed incredibly large and cumbersome to handle.

Software: this is probably one of the most complex of all the points to take into consideration. Obviously, in the line of work we are talking about here, even though I have left it for the end, it is probably the second after the PC. But anyway, the order is not too important, and I suppose you could consider this to be another part of the foundation of the work we are doing here. This step opens up into many different “sub-groups”.

  • Office software: for word processing and editing, databases, publishing flyers, setting up presentations and many more normal writing and publishing tasks.
  • Logo and banner software: in order to create pleasant and professional “icons” that will make my company stand out and become well known for its branding.
  • Speech recognition software: having to input thousands of words on the computer can be tedious and very time-consuming. Technology nowadays allows me to speak into a microphone a see my spoken words reflected on the screen of my computer at the same rate as I speak. It allows me to input as many as 5000 words an hour onto my computer. As you can imagine this would take many hours of sitting down at my desk punching away at the keyboard. This also enables me to record ideas on my mobile as I go along and about my daily life routines. If I have a moment of inspiration or a thought I want to take a quick note of, all I have to do is record it on my mobile, and when I get home I just input the recording to my speech recognition program and, as work of art, in a question of seconds I have it on my PC ready to edit and use in my word processor.
  • Video editing software: never having done any serious video work, in the beginning, I believed I did not even need to edit my videos at all. After recording my first video I realised how bland and poor it was and decided that I did, after all, need to edit my videos, not only to introduce fancy introductions and video banners but to be able to put  videos of myself in presentations, do intros and outros, use chroma key and make my videos look professional and up to present-day standards if I intended to give my students excellent quality and earn myself some prestige and a good name.
  • Teaching Platform software: in order to hand out all the lessons and assignments and do so in an organised manner I have checked quite a few teaching platforms and opted for using one in particular. This will enable the students to access all their course resources in a simple and effective manner and help us all to keep an order and organization which I believe is one of the main pillars when you are studying any subject. Of course, I have thought of my students above all and this has pushed me to find a simple platform and that is freely available to everyone.
  • Videoconferencing: this is also important and I have ensured that I have a few options to choose from. Different people are used to different programs so I think I have a little bit of everything for everyone. As well as this, it also depends on what the circumstances are and what the connection is like, that one or another option must be chosen from. The important thing is to be able to have various options open.
  • Social network programs: I am taking care to be available and visible in all the most renowned social networks in order to be fully active and public. This also makes me easier to find and I hope it makes my students feel more at ease. My students comfort and security is very important to me. I wish to make them feel fully supported and my intention is to narrow the bond teacher/student to a minimum and attend to their needs as fast as possible.
  • Miscellaneous: there are a few more programs that I use which help me “glue” all the above together. Audio editing, chroma-key broadcasting, resources of all types and many more comprise this group.


Summary

  • Setting out the plan to follow.
  • Organizing and putting everything in order.
  • Taking care not to leave anything out.
  • Thinking about my students and their needs.

Conclusion

This post is the first in this category. I will go into more depth into each of the above points and give full detail of the steps that I have taken to achieve the stage where I am now.

This is a very long path and it is not simple. I am writing this post to inform you of all the work and effort that is being put on this site and my online classes.

I feel very positive about it and it motivates me to continue teaching. I am very passionate about my work and I really enjoy giving you all a bit of my inspiration and my motivation to carry on, and of course, and above all, to transmit to you a language which I consider to be a key to universal communication.

I hope you enjoyed this post and I will soon continue with this series……

All the best for now

Julian

About the Author Julian Tobin

Cambridge CELTA qualified Teacher. A professional teacher with many years of experience.

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