Teaching News – Daniela, a local ESL teacher from Chicago, was in the middle of her lesson on the present perfect when one of her students, German, raised his hand to ask a question. Having trouble comprehending the query, Daniela kindly asked the student to repeat the question. After repeating the question, and with Daniela still unable to understand exactly what the student was asking, she sought help from the other students in the class. Similar to their teacher, none of the other students had understood the question either.
The problem originated from German’s computer. The other three students in the class, located in Guatemala, Ecuador and Panamá, were having no issues with their internet connection. German in Costa Rica, though, was having all sorts of issues with his.
This problem has become commonplace across the ESL community as the design of a traditional classroom continues to evolve. With technological advancements and the ease in which the internet can be accessed, learning and teaching are no longer confined to a physical room.
Virtual rooms are now filled with ESL students. Virtual room is a term many online providers, such as Blackboard Collaborate, use to name the individual rooms that students and teachers connect to online in order to have the class. With the convenience of having their classes from the comfort of their own home and online classes generally representing a minimized financial commitment, many students are now choosing the virtual classroom over the physical.
As a result, it’s important that ESL teachers take note.
The setting of teaching online is obviously vastly different than that of a physical classroom. Likewise, the skills, tactics and class approach that a teacher uses when teaching online is also different. Things like pronunciation correction, student weaving and role plays prove much more challenging or even impossible due to connectivity delays and the parameters of a virtual classroom.
On the other hand, teaching online opens up many other opportunities that might not be available in any given physical room. Access to online resources and teaching aids can be displayed with a simple click. Blackboard Collaborate and similar applications also allow for video, PDF files, MP3s and other materials to be uploaded directly into the virtual classroom, allowing for a fresh dynamic to ESL teaching.
While still a relatively new idea in ESL circles, the phenomenon that has seen great success at the university level is expanding and is slowly reaching Costa Rica. While still not commonplace here, some schools are starting to implement it on a trial basis to test the market. Thus far, the reviews have been mixed.
Positives for students are convenience, price and mobility. The negative aspects are less personal classes, less interaction with classmates, a feeling (by some) of a drop in class quality and, the big one in Costa Rica, a constant uncertainty over internet quality.
From a teaching perspective, the positives seem to outweigh the negatives. With low wages being the main deterrent, if a teacher can fathom being in front of their computer for hours at a time, the financial element can be negated. Obvious positive factors include working from home, only getting dressed from the waist up, and still being able to do what you love.
Situations like Daniela’s epitomize the positives and negatives of the online teaching world. That still evolving ESL sphere contains great opportunity for students and teachers, but it’s important that both parties brace themselves for the inherent differences that exist between the physical and virtual platforms. Teaching online for the first time, even for an experienced teacher, can be a challenge. With the way the market is expanding, online teaching will soon be a skill that many ESL instructors will need to possess.
If you want more information about teaching English in Costa Rica or getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate in Costa Rica feel free to contact Andrew at the Global TESOL College or email [email protected]
Originally from Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is the academic director of Global TESOL College Costa Rica , a contributor to radio program This Week in Costa Rica (http://thisweekincostarica.com/), and an independent writer based in Costa Rica.