Teach English in BAhe Zhen - Huanggang Shi

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Online English teaching is relatively new in the field of EFL. As the joint product of technological advancement and globalization, it has gradually been taking over the market share of traditional EFL education. In my country, there has been an increasing number of students choosing to take online English classes because of its flexibility and convenience. Many students are actually adult learners who are busy working during the day and motivated to hone their English skills in their free time. I started to teach online adult English two years ago and have experienced the differences in teaching between online and traditional English classes and witnessed its rising popularity among adult English learners. This essay is a part of my self-reflection in which I discussed the advantages, disadvantages, and the challenges of online adult English education. As aforementioned, online English teaching has gained its popularity among adults for two obvious advantages: flexibility and convenience. While many adult English learners have strong intrinsic and extrinsic motivation to improve their English, they can hardly find time to go to physical classrooms and sit there for hours studying English. Online English courses resolve their dilemma and provide them with a different learning experience where they can sit comfortably at the desk, enjoy their coffee, and study English with qualified English teachers. Sharing global teaching resources is another advantage of many online English courses. For instance, the company that I work for has recruited both local and international English teachers so the students can take classes with teachers all over the world and experience diverse cultures. Such a learning experience cannot be achieved in a traditional English classroom where the same teacher teaches the same group of students for a long period. Despite the advantages, online English teaching also has several disadvantages. First is that it requires a highly stable wifi environment of both teachers and students. Due to the weak wifi signal at home, some of my students had to cancel their classes. As a matter of fact, wifi has become the number one reason for the students’ complaint in my company. Discontinuity is another disadvantage. Online English platforms indeed enable students to choose among different teachers at any time slot, but it also means they are unable to study English with their favorite teacher for a long-term. Moreover, this is why many adult students who are used to the traditional style of English teaching find it hard to adapt to a virtual classroom. It is hard for teachers, too, as building rapport with students become almost a mission impossible when teaching online classes. It took me half a year to eventually get used to this new form of teaching. Giving the advantages and disadvantage of adult online English courses, one may ask, “so what challenges are this new form of English teaching facing and what can be done to overcome these challenges?” In this part, I would like to share some of my thoughts. I think the first challenge is about the placement of students. In a traditional classroom, it is more natural and more effective for the teacher to evaluate the students’ English level because the teacher has more opportunity to interact with the students in a real-life setting. This can be challenging for online classes as the students are often too nervous to talk in a virtual setting to which they are seldom exposed. For this reason, many teachers find themselves teaching mixed-level classes because students are placed at a wrong level. I think to create a systemic placement and evaluation system suitable for online courses is the key to overcoming this challenging. The second challenge is regarding the control of the quality of teaching. Take my company as an example, it has recruited over 1500 teachers locally and globally. Having such a large teacher pool is good, but it also makes the teacher management exceptionally challenging. To control the quality of teaching, it is necessary to establish a collaborative online teaching training system where the experienced teachers can share their experiences with novice teachers. As a summary, adult online English teaching is still in its infancy, despite its popularity and advantages, there is still a lot to be done and improved.