Teaching a foreign language online shares many common features with traditional teaching. However, there are some activities that prove easier and more effective when using an online teaching platform, in addition to the fact that there is a third type of activity that isn’t possible at all in a traditional context.
Modern concepts in foreign language teaching involve creating close to real-life situations where the students can apply and practice the knowledge that they have acquired. Teaching a foreign language nowadays is seen as a process in which basic components serve as building blocks for students to perform simulations for real-life tasks. The closer the simulation is to real life, the more effective the learning process becomes. In this respect, an e-learning platform can bring many benefits to a foreign language teaching and learning classroom. It can facilitate the teacher’s work and create some entirely new types of activities.
All foreign language teachers follow some principles in their work. Some of us focus on fluency, others on general competence and skills, some on knowledge, etc. Here are some easy-to-use activities that can prove very helpful in an online teaching platform.
One of the many benefits of an online teaching platform is the possibility to create personalized content and share it easily with students. Is there a foreign language teacher that hasn’t come across an online resource that looks great, but doesn’t work in the precise context of the course? Creating, storing, transferring, and sharing resources has never been easier. Once you design some digital content for you class, such as posters or handouts, you can save it for future use, organize it the way you want, make it visible for students, and keep it for future reference when not in use. This is very useful whenever you need to keep a chart, diagram, infographic, or any other time-consuming piece of information for future reference.
Exercises and resources in an online teaching environment
The benefits of an online teaching platform are also apparent when creating quizzes. These may be used for checking student progress, as well as for testing previously covered material through the use of multiple choice questions, cloze tests, and other methods. Exercises can be done by embedding already existing online resources into the classroom management software. A very interesting feature in online teaching is the use of videos. They convey the feeling of a real-life situation, and students can be invited to create videos of their own as an exercise when working on a given situation.
Passive activities in the virtual classroom
Of course, the well-known activities of reading and listening are easily performed in this context. Students can be given an article to read, or, as mentioned above, a video to watch. Thanks to the eye-to-eye contact established with cameras in the virtual classroom, the teacher can monitor the students’ reactions. This is true for written text, and even more so with audio and video files. In this way, the students experience emotions at the same time, and the teacher can follow their reactions in order to diversify or enrich comprehension questions.
Writing, speaking, and interaction in the virtual classroom
Production-related activities in foreign language teaching are writing, speaking, and interacting. Writing is an asynchronous activity, meaning that it happens at different times for the writer and the reader. An online teaching environment provides an immediate benefit to writing, which is often given as homework. Here, the teacher receives the students’ assignments as soon as they finish and is able to show everyone what they did right and which parts can be improved. To do this in a traditional classroom would require scanning in the already corrected assignments that were written by hand.
Another time-consuming activity in a traditional classroom is speaking. Students are hard to supervise when doing a speaking activity in groups. This involves a lot of attention from the teacher. In addition, when delivering the result, the other groups tend to lose interest or not pay attention to their fellow students. However, in an online teaching environment this problem is nonexistent. Every time a student’s attention wanders, everybody else can see it, which creates peer pressure on everyone to follow the course. The sound quality is also improved through the use of headphones and microphones. And, if the students allow it, they can be recorded so that their oral delivery is then put to use as a learning material.
Interaction-related activities, as well as projects, also benefit from this immediate contact, awareness, and readiness to cooperate. Students and teachers can share files, participate in different activity groups, and organize themselves in a much more accessible and horizontal way of communicating.