‘Beaming in’ to physical classrooms - more ways to flip and blend online language learning
Over the past couple of years, many teachers have been adapting to new ways of teaching online - through Zoom and Skype, working with groups of students in their homes, who connect to the online classroom individually. They use breakout rooms, shared screens, chats and documents… the usual online mode that we have become familiar with to teach at a distance.
However, now that the world is opening up in different ways in different countries, international education faces yet another challenge. In some countries, teachers can move in, but students can’t move out, or students are moving to study in their own country, but restrictions still exist for visiting teachers. As a result, a new mode of online teaching is developing: delivering online lessons to groups of students working in their physical classrooms where they study.
The ‘beamed in’ teacher works from a large screen at the front of the room, with students sitting in their regular places at desks in the classroom. In China especially, this seems to be a common solution, with at least 2 universities that I know of using this method to connect students in classrooms with teachers who can’t travel for various reasons.
Beaming in at first, it can feel like you are in the room, but not in the room… unable to move around and see what students were doing from minute to minute, but there to see, if not clearly hear, how they are working on tasks. This is something which is not such an issue when you can focus on small groups in breakout rooms. Another issue is sound quality (the central microphone in the room doesn’t always pick up students speaking from different tables). Connectivity can also cause issues, especially if students are using their own internet connections in the same room.
The solution? Put all the flipped methodologies from more traditional online modes into practice, with the added bonus of being able to speak directly to the class through the screen in person and see the group’s reactions. A platform which allows for updates through email, storing and sharing documents allows for pre- and post-lesson activity which opens up interaction in broader ways.
A lot of time can be saved by giving vocabulary work to students before class, for students to complete in preparation for more independent, skills-focused work in class time. Uploading class texts, and images to a class whiteboard gives students the opportunity to engage again with the content they learn about in class, and the ability to share class PowerPoints can also provide extra after-class support.
Setting up a self-access group online, with the documents stored and released lesson to lesson in preparation for in-class work can give students further opportunities to work independently, without relying on constant contact with the teacher. Written work done in class can either be written on paper and shared through an uploaded photo, or copied and pasted into chat or storage area for students. This makes for more asynchronous work, which in turn allows students to submit work after class in a more polished form than would be produced towards the end of a lesson. Finishing a task for homework, from experience, becomes more likely if there is somewhere to submit it online, shortly after class and in a personalised class area where student work is built up over time.
As with all online teaching modes, the beamed-in teacher has some issues to face, but these can be overcome with the application of different teaching tools, and some consideration of what can and cannot be achieved in the reality of this challenging setting.
Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.
If you are interested to know more about these qualifications, or you want take your teaching to a new level with our teacher education courses, contact us or visit our CertTESOL FAQ and CertPT FAQ pages for details.