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May 4, 2020

Moving to a Virtual Learning Environment and Making it Work

Now, more than ever before, technology is a part of our everyday lives. The virtual environment for learning is an excellent move for organizations, as well as for personal use.

In the business world, many HR departments are encouraging online employee training. About one-third of corporate training programs are online*, and this number is sure to grow. At Language Advantage we provide both face-to-face and virtual programs or we blend them together to meet the needs of the professionals who are often on the move.

Why is Online Learning a Good Solution?

Whether your employees are learning a second language or something else entirely, the power of online learning is clear. The major benefits for the business of moving online for learning opportunities include spending less time spent on administrative tasks and reducing the costs of training large numbers of employees.

Furthermore, businesses that have offices and customers in more than one country can appreciate the use of technology in improving the efficiency of internal and external communications. Using web-based tools can help a team that is spread far apart by physical distance to feel closely connected, which improves the collaborative process.

Blending Online with In-Person Methods

Investing in virtual learning makes sense for businesses, especially those who work in international markets. Investing now in the tech-savvy future means employers can get ahead of their competition and strengthen relationships with customers by speaking their language, literally.

To be at their best, businesses can use online learning to supplement face-to-face classes. This blended method is one that Language Advantage uses, particularly when professionals travel, to achieve the best results.

Teaching Online During the COVID-19 Outbreak

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Language Advantage has transferred to online instruction to continue to support both existing and new clients. This situation has taught us to be flexible and respond quickly to the changing needs that our clients express to us.

Teaching our participants online, especially larger groups (maximum number of participants per group in a face-to-face program is 6) certainly comes with new challenges. We would typically not have more than 3 participants in one virtual class to allow everybody enough opportunities to speak. But some online platforms allow us to manage even larger groups effectively.

For instance, it is harder to do listening comprehension exercises remotely. So if the platform doesn’t provide a sharing audio function, we replace the comprehension practice with more speaking activities, or we send the students the recordings in advance. If we want our students to work in pairs or smaller groups, Zoom allows us to divide participants into breakout rooms so that they can work separately and successfully perform the activity. Practicing speaking in groups’ works nevertheless but the speaking time per person is slightly reduced.

We’re also often confronted to sound problems, slow Internet connections or microphone issues. Being on a video call also requires our participants to be more focused than in a face-to-face class. People need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language. And the fact that this is all happening in a foreign language consumes even more energy.

But we have adapted to the new normal and do our best so that the learners continue to get the most of their lessons.

Within two weeks, we shifted all our instructors online, training them in different platforms, and many clients have expressed to us that they enjoy the web-based sessions. For some, an online session will never replace the dynamics of a face-to-face class, the interactions and the “aha” moments they have, but the feedback from our instructors has helped us provide the best experience possible to our clients.

Tips for getting the most out of your virtual classes

Before the class

Be ready to go when your lesson starts. That includes having your material ready (material sent by the instructor before the lesson), your book etc. Occasional technical issues might cause us to lose a few seconds every now and then during the class. Being ready helps us gain valuable time to make the most out of your class.

Listen to the audio material beforehand. If you are working on a listening comprehension exercise and you receive the audio or video recording beforehand, make sure you watch/listen to it before the lesson starts. Not all online platforms provide an audio sharing function which makes it harder to watch the recording at the same time during the lesson.

Set up the space.  In virtual classes, people need to work harder to process non-verbal and verbal cues and doing it in a foreign language consumes even more energy. Find a quiet place to focus better and minimize interruptions and background noise.

During and after the class

Take notes. Taking notes helps with retention. With virtual classes you now have the option to also take them electronically. Our instructors often share editable electronic files (Google documents etc.) and you can make notes directly in them which makes it also easy to go back to the material you want to review. You can also request the sessions to be recorded and receive access to the recording after the class.

Share Feedback. We always encourage our students to provide feedback on their lessons to understand what works for them and what doesn’t. For many, switching to virtual classes is a new way of learning, and we want to make sure we’re providing you with the best experience possible.

We look forward to providing both online and in-person language training in the post COVID-19 environment. Contact us today to discuss how we can begin to help you.

*Source : EF Corporate

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