The emerging post-Covid world is bringing about changes in the global education industry, with TESOL and English language provision changing more than most. The international nature of the global English teaching industry means that travel restrictions, lockdowns and closures are having significant effects at different times in different countries.
So how is the industry reacting? We have seen online learning surging in demand as schools close, and teachers are struggling and soaring in equal measure. The debate around whether online education can meet the needs of learners around the world rages on, and whether you agree with it or not, some amount of e-learning is going to be necessary for some time to come. Many teachers have been thrown in at the deep end, without sufficient guidance, support or methodological expertise to help them transition into their new roles as online facilitators. In response to this sad fact, TESOL training has adapted to the new needs that are arising in five key ways:
1) More online training and development opportunities for teachers
Where in the past, TESOL courses were typically held over 4 weeks in a physical centre, requiring trainees to travel, stay and live in the city where they were training, the growth of blended and online teacher training courses now means that you do not have to spend so much time, energy and stress on finding the course that you want.
Every level of training, from the level 5 Trinity CertTESOL or CELTA, through development qualifications such as the Trinity CertPT or TYLEC, are now available in 100% online modes, meaning that you can plan your course timing around the other commitments that you have, and from the comfort of your home. The Teaching Practice elements of these courses has been shifted to an online mode, either teaching through an online learning platform or recording lessons to be observed at a distance by course tutors.
In addition, Accessibility to training and development activity has increased, with new development courses such as the Trinity CertPT being open to teachers with a language level of CEFR B2 (IELTS 6), and initial training courses such as the CertTESOL being available to applicants from any country in the world, rather that in regions which were the main focus of the accrediting bodies concerned.
2) Online training modes have become more sophisticated
The growth in the online learning market has also forced the producers of online environments to develop their functionality. The level of services available for free on platforms such as Zoom and Google Classrooms has increased, meaning that it is more possible than ever to deliver effective online lessons.
Having a good understanding of the huge range of e-learning resources at your fingertips is essential for any teacher developing into the online mode, so with supplementary apps and environments used to good effect, students can be engaged in different ways and their performance will develop as a result.
These online resources are now embedded into the input delivered on initial TESOL training courses, and there are even specialist versions of courses for online teachers are gaining international recognition - the Trinity Certificate for Practising Teachers, for example, is accredited at level 6 on the Ofqual framework, and is tailored for e-learning methods and approaches.
3) e-Pedagogy has become a more comprehensive field within TESOL
You only need to look at the range of webinars, online courses and CPD events which are being delivered by organisations such as the British Council, NILE, EAQUALS and others, to see the level of activity surrounding e-learning at the moment. These sessions focus on new and useful ways of implementing online learning in every context, with new ways of doing things emerging every day.
More and more teachers are realising that it is impossible to replicate the methods they use in physical classrooms online - PDF worksheets and individual student responses simply don’t provide the development that learners need, so new methods and techniques are being developed to overcome the teething problems that many schools and teaches have faced over the last few weeks, to develop a needs-oriented approach which focuses on the specific contexts where teachers really work.
Developing online education in line with communicative, social-constructivist principles is essential in language education, and the roles of flipped classrooms, breakout rooms and collaborative learning are more clearly defined due to the diversity of online resources which are out there for us to use.
4) New courses are designed according to teachers’ working environments
This contextualised approach, combined with sound e-pedagogy and essential principles of online learning combine to form a type of training which aims to develop teachers’ skills in line with the communicative outcomes we all aim for in our classes. Training methodology can be designed to fit the specific needs of participant teachers, and everything that is done on the course mirrors the needs that you have when teaching in your own context.
For initial trainees, this means tailoring training activity for the working environment they are aiming to work in, and for experienced teachers, contextually-informed training analyses the teaching setting carefully before identifying needs and addressing them appropriately.
5) Online training methods are as diverse as online teaching methods
Online training courses are far from the point-and-click, screen-based tasks which used to be the main form of instruction a few years ago. Just because you are working through your computer does not mean you are isolated and have to work independently of your peers. The needs you are experiencing will be shared by thousands of teachers the world over, so this new breed of training courses takes the specific features of teachers’ learning and teaching environments into account and uses them to inform the training that happens on the course.
This is achieved through group collaborative tasks, peer evaluations and live group tutorials, where trainees can work together to discuss, reflect and apply what they learn to their own teaching work, making what they study more relevant to them and broadening the conversation that we are all having about online learning and the ‘new normal’.
These new, contextually-informed, online courses have been developed to meet the challenges that the current situation is throwing up, helping teachers to develop in the settings where they work best, and at the time when they need it. This in turn helps them to meet changes in the future with a wider range of skills to bring to their physical and online classrooms.
Tom Garside is Director of Teacher Training for Language Point Teacher Education, a training provider which is validated to deliver the internationally recognised Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the new Level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification for online and classroom language educators with a language proficiency of CEFR B2 and above.