Coaching over teaching

Looking at what is going on in here in our forum, a question emerges: What is the difference between learning English online and learning English in a conventional classroom? In a forum like ours, the users (learners/students) have more freedom as to what they want to ask. There is a wide range of topics we can cover here at the same time. Also, forum participants show an interest in learning by asking questions. Once you come across a particular phrase you can turn to this forum and post your question and usually you will get a qualified answer within a couple of hours. If you are not satisified with the answer, you can ask another question starting a discussion - a so called thread. It takes a certain level of motivation and effort to express your thoughts in English and create message here on the forum. As we have been discussing here in a convenational classroom that is organized and sponsored by a state agency course participants often lack motivation. They are not in the mood to learn. So, I’m trying to use some of the experiences we have been gathering online to apply them in face-to-face training sessions - state funded and private. Is anyone in a similar situation? What do you think could be done to make English language training more effective and profitable?[YSaerTTEW443543]

TOEIC listening, question-response: Most of the books in this library are very old, aren’t they?[YSaerTTEW443543]

What I like about online resources is that you can get advice and information whenever you want from the comfort of your home or office. No travel expenses and fixed times.

In my opinion it does not matter whether you choose a conventional course or decide to learn on your own using self-study courses and all the help accessible on the Internet.
The point is to choose the method and the way of learning which suits you best.

Some people like regular hours of learning and feel good even in big classes, some people don’t. A couple of my students used to say they were too lazy to sit at home and learn on their own. They found it boring. They enjoyed studying with other people because they had an opportunity to speak and exchange their opinions. I think a lot depends on a teacher. A good teacher - of course I have myself on my mind;) - tries to get his class interested and involved in a ‘real’ situation taking advantage of students’ imagination. That is why I think studying English in a group may be efficient particularly with teenagers and students.
Elder people start learning because they usually MUST to keep their job or to get any job. They don’t believe in themselves, think they have bad memory and that they will die before they learn (that is my own opinion about myself too) ;). When they break first ice, everything is OK. But forcing them doesn’t make any good, and it doesn’t matter if the course is paid by the employer, a foundation or by the student himself. Learning must be a pleasure.

Learning in the class is not a good idea for busy people who have little free time and not regular working hours. Some persons of high standing find learning in a class very stressful too because they are not used to being corrected and making mistakes in public :).

Even though I have nothing against studying in a class, I personally prefer studying on my own. I have never used any course books but if I had been born later I would have :). There are so many interesting English courses nowadays and everyone can choose one which suits him. The only point I’m aware of is that most of the courses are so much concentrated on communication skills. That is OK and the most important thing, but their authors sometimes do not take under consideration that you need writing skills as well as clear grammatical information. You never know if it will not be necessary in future, when you decide to take any examinations and get a job of a ‘letter writer’ with a company.
When I started learning English– fortunately it was in the States, where I went not knowing English at all - I had only two good grammar books and two good dictionaries: one monolingual and one English-Polish. At the beginning I simply translated some sentences which were necessary for me to talk with a boss and my Irish friend at work. She agreed after years that it had been a great fun for her learning at the end of my monologues that I had been talking about the past event in the present continuous tense :). So maybe it is the best idea to go to an English-speaking country for a year or two? Start with a job which doesn’t require any qualifications and then change it for a better one, already knowing English.

What I personally like about this forum is that I have an opportunity to check my vocabulary, learn more of it in a pleasant way and at the same time have a contact with other people from all around the world. Shortly saying it is much more enjoyable than studying from a course book or writing essays which no one is going to read.

Summing up, I got used to studying on my own but … I sometimes lack a teacher to correct my mistakes and assess my progress. I would greatly appreciate if you did it here for me taking under consideration that no teacher likes being corrected ;).

Forgive me the length of my monologues and ‘productivity’ but I’m just practising writing 700 words in two hours for my exams ;). I think I could write a book on this subject but I promise not to do it here…

I do think that there are differences between a conventional course and an online/e-learning program when it comes to the following criteria:

  • motivation (both trainers and learners)
  • level of control the trainer has over what is going during the trainer
  • transparency
  • flexibility (time and location)
  • transferability
  • intensity
  • effectiveness
I could elaborate on each of the above mentioned criteria but let me just pick one - [b]transparency[/b]. When you use a digital medium like the Internet you can make your course transparent. For example, if you are running a company with thousands of employees and you are conducting conventional training courses, it is very difficult for you as the person in charge to keep track of what is going on in each classroom. What exactly are your trainers/teachers doing? How is every single learner responding? Who is absent? What progress are the group(s) making? Both methods certainly have advantages and disadvantages and as Katarzyna said, it depends on various factors which should be chosen. In many cases it might make sense to combine both and create a system that is often referred to as blended learning (wasn't there a thread about buzz words here?).

Other important factors are the source of funding and the specific purpose of the course. If the government pays for the program then the main purpose might be to keep the participants disciplined and somehow mentally active. Whether or not the learners achieve a clearly defined level of competence is only secondary. The situation is different if the course is organized and funded/co-funded by a company. In most cases there is an immediate need for a particular course and usually the learning progress can be measured which results in a higher level of motivation from both the trainers as well as the learners. There is lot more to this topic and I’m looking forward to discussing all possible aspects.
Have a good Tuesday.