Here we are, well into the new millennium and computers are officially and forever a thing. With the current tech climate, it’s no wonder people are taking their learning online. But what if you’ve never done it before? How do you know if learning online is even for you? I’ve done my share of learning both on and off the computer and have been able to find what works for me.
This month I want to help you all add working with online teachers to your study regimen. Thus the Learning Online series is born. Tadah! Part one will be all about making a game plan so you know what you’re looking for once you start researching your teachers. Make sure to grab your worksheets below!
Set Your Goals
First off, know your level. Are you a beginner? Do you have a few months or years of previous study under your belt? Your goals as an absolute beginner are not going to be the same as when you’re upper intermediate. However, don’t be afraid to push yourself.
A major problem people have when first starting out is having main goals that are too broad; they should be bite-sized and attainable. Your long term goal should be general because it’s the end, not the means. It can be anything from passing a proficiency test to being able to hold a 10-minute conversation. From this, you’ll break things down into smaller steps.
For instance, that conversation. What is it you’d like to talk about? What kind of vocabulary will you need for that subject? Maybe there’s a specific grammar point you’ll want to know, such as the future tense. These steps are going to be your main goals. It’s a lot easier to visualize and work toward learning 20 vocabulary words or a grammar concept than “I want to be able to talk to a native speaker for 10 minutes.”
You have to have clear-cut goals before you go looking around for teachers. How are you going to know which one is right for you if you don’t know what you want in the first place?
It also helps your future instructor. If you’re able to tell them upfront what it is you expect from the class, it’s easier to tailor the learning experience to you. Showing up and saying “I really want to learn Arabic” isn’t much to work with. “I want to focus on passing the writing portion of the German B2 exam” gives a much more concise picture of where you want to end up.
Platform: Online Marketplace vs Independent Teacher
There are two main ways to find online language teachers; an online marketplace or on an individuals teaching website. Both have their pros and cons.
These have become increasingly popular in the last few years. Online marketplaces employ thousands of different teachers in an easily searchable database. Prices and course options are listed up front. Many teachers will offer free or reduce priced trial classes in order to bring in more students. Examples include sites like italki and Verbling.
PROS: Teachers are easier to find as they are all in a central location; there are more instructor options to choose from, teachers tend to take on more clients, easier to find teachers with specializations
CONS: Lessons may be less personalized, the number of options can seem overwhelming
These are instructors who, while they may still be on larger platforms, also have their own websites where they offer their services. They may work alone or along with a small network of other instructors. These teachers may have instructed in physical locations before moving online.
PROS: Teachers are likely to have fewer clients at once, allowing for more personalized lessons; teachers may have a greater ability to tailor to your schedule
CONS: Not as easy to shop around for the perfect fit; because of market websites’ popularity, it can be more time consuming to find compatible teachers that work independently.
You know what you want to do and where you want to do it. But how much time are you willing and able to put in? Having an idea of the frequency of your online studies will help when looking for a teacher to work with. The first questions to ask yourself is if online learning will be the bulk of your language study regimen, or if it’s just a supplement to offline classroom/self-study.
If you want to do the bulk of your studying online, you’ll likely need a teacher who can produce a curriculum for you. They can provide you with customer textbook/study materials, or they may suggest you go and purchase one of the more popular textbooks for your target language. You and your teacher would work through the textbook layout and they would provide you with homework and feedback. It mimics traditional classroom learning, you just do it from the comfort of your own home instead!
If studying online is just a smaller piece of your overall plan, then you likely don’t need a full-on curriculum. Perhaps you’re part of a classroom learning environment already or have even been learning on your own through various other methods. Working with a teacher online is just a way to reinforce what you’ve already been learning offline and you likely don’t need it to be as rigid in structure. As a supplement, working with a teacher online can also help you focus on specific areas such as pronunciation or reaching a certain level of proficiency for an exam.
Don’t forget to grab your worksheets!