Updated: Dec 8, 2021
What ESL teaching will look like in the soon future
Before March 2020 the topic of online learning was usually one that was uttered in context of flexible study hours for students in remote locations, 9-5 workers looking to upskill for a better job, or maybe even those with alternative mobility requirements. Today, with almost 90,000 schools using Zoom as their preferred online teaching and learning platform for delivering online learning we have well and truly redefined what it means to ‘learn’ online. Many may ask: “What is the new model of teaching we’re all going to aspire to?”. Perhaps, a brief look at how three areas are affected: students, teachers, and the industry may give us the clarity we need to draw an outline that we can make sense of.
Learning online and students
Many students are digital natives, otherwise known as the younger generation of pupils who are fully immersed in digital technology and are familiar working with and using technology. These students would take to online learning like ducks to water wouldn’t they? In fact, the reality has a much larger mixed-bag of results than one might imagine.
Some students love learning online and take to it with great ease, while other students are more wary about the change. There are even those who struggle finding value or struggle to adjust to the different environment that is now online. Where they were once surrounded by peers and had a strenuous 8 or so hours on campus, they’re now at home. It’s a change that can massively impact young pupils and imbues them with a heightened sense of responsibility and discipline. At the same time, they have to balance being young and often missing the more social and interactive aspect that attending classes in a physical location with real people. We as educators of course, need to take all these factors into account and ensure our teaching and approach doesn’t neglect to engage all students to their best potential, as we did in the real classes.
Learning online and teachers
Teachers like students face challenges with online learning, yet to an extent their experiences may be just on the other end of the spectrum. Teachers often lament about the black squares which are when students turn off their cameras. This and other examples of disengagement or passivity are obstacles that educators in this new era have to learn to overcome in addition to all the conventional hurdles of engagement. It’s as if online learning amplifies things that can go wrong. On the plus side, online learning can also increase the chances to ‘right the wrongs’ if someone has the right recipe. For example, an enterprising Harvard instructor allowed her students to decide whether or not they want to attend class physically in person, or attend online, every day. This particular teacher monitored results over the course of this experiment and found that student scores actually increased! Other trainers like Sal Khan from the Khan Academy iterates that clear communication among all parties in a physical and online school needs to be a key focus for successful online classes. This is to ensure a healthy level of educational and surprisingly personal communication is present to support everyone’s mental health in addition to being able to nip any issues in the bud directly.
Learning online and the industry
Another player that faces massive shifts to how it operates is the entire industry of education, and the more specific English as a Second Language offshoot of this is not stranger. From our own friend or colleague pool we may already have heard multiple stories about the declining availability of hours, lay offs of casuals first and then even more permanent staff, the consequences of all this including legal action and involving unions, and then official news releases from institutes decrying their plight in the face of visa restrictions on international students. Summed up, it’s not a pretty picture but the musings behind these stories are that the state of the English language learning industry as we know it has changed and will never be the same. A few of the changes we see now may stay and some may go. The bottom line is that how we conceive teaching and learning 2.0 in 2021 is changing and will continue to do so until more of the tumultuous arrangements in response to the COVID environment settle, and we can clearly begin to reassess what is left of the teaching models we once knew, and where we all want to go after all this is done.
Amazing changes need to be observed carefully
No doubt these rifts in how lessons are delivered and the insertion of online learning with technology herald the way for seismic shifts further down the road. This means we’re at the threshold of a new era in instructional models and patterns that are being explored and pioneered as we speak. There’s no further doubt, that we’re ultimately very excited about all these changes, though we should be wise to carefully monitor what’s new and what requires us to challenge our conventional thinking and approaches for the demands of this new environment.
All in all, the outline of this situation that we draw will surely change many more times until we have something that we can all clearly see and understand. In the meantime, it is up to all of us to move forward and draw up our ideal future of teaching and learning as we all do with careful but informed and slightly inspired minds.
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