Tariq Harris reflects on the challenges and lessons learnt from the latest run of the ELTons-winning course: Teaching English Online, developed by Cambridge Assessment English and FutureLearn
The global online tutoring market for English language teaching is exploding, with thousands of teachers delivering online lessons. Although there are some really great examples out there, many online lessons have no obvious focus on language development.
This places a huge responsibility on the role of professional development and it is something that we took into consideration when developing Teaching English Online. Here are a few lessons we’ve learnt from developing the course.
Firstly, it’s important to get the focus right. Development should focus on helping teachers build and transfer skills into the online environment. Online lessons should consider the needs of learners, have clear aims and focus, and incorporate best practice in methodology.
It’s essential that teachers see concrete examples of how online teaching can work in practice, so they can try out new ideas. It’s also really important to empower teachers to use the technology available to them effectively, and highlight the differences and similarities between face-to-face and online environments.
Secondly, because teachers can miss speaking and sharing with colleagues when teaching online, social learning platforms, such as FutureLearn, can help fill the gap. Over the previous runs of the course, the rich discussions between teachers, both experienced and new, have been one of the most important factors in its success, and have led to teachers on the course creating communities on other platforms to continue their discussions.
Thirdly, it’s important to listen to feedback from participants and iterate each course based on their feedback. Over three runs, the course has changed dramatically and included more lessons, an increased course length and a new section on setting up your business as an online tutor. The technology and needs of teachers are constantly changing, so any professional development in this area needs to be updated frequently.
The course, which to date has helped tens of thousands of participants, has been a huge success and we were delighted to win an ELTons Innovation Award earlier this year.