By Ken, Teacher in Warsaw
Teaching online has become much more popular since the start of the pandemic, with many students taking necessary precautions and avoiding human contact as much as possible. At my current school, we teach online lessons on Zoom and Microsoft Teams. Personally, I’ve always preferred face to face lessons, but I know that many teachers prefer doing lessons from the comfort of their own homes. In this blog post we will compare the differences between the two teaching methods (and of course I’ll be sharing my thoughts!). First of all let’s look at……
Teaching online lessons
It goes without saying, but of course one of the biggest advantages of teaching online is that you don’t have to move from the comfort of your own warm home in order to teach your students. So no travelling, no getting up earlier to travel to a school, no travel costs and so on. Great! You’ll also be glad to hear (If you didn’t know already) that Zoom and Microsoft Teams both work in essentially the same way where you can share your screen and audio with your students. With Teams, you can have lessons input into your calendar and you can join/start the meeting from there. With Zoom, all you need to do is start a new meeting and you will be notified when participants enter your room. Easy!
As much as online lessons are convenient and save a lot of time and travel costs, the biggest reason I prefer F2F lessons are….technology! As we say, technology is fantastic when it works, but an absolute pain when it doesn’t work. Of course, online lessons depend on a stable internet connection and your student being able to connect to your meeting room. No Internet, no dice! Whereas if you’re face-to-face then you can still teach a lesson even if technology fails you.
Also, in my opinion, it is easier to explain things in person and to get a feeling of how the student is doing. It’s difficult to read a person over the internet so sometimes it can be difficult to fully know how the student is finding the lesson. Also, if you’re teaching kids online it can sometimes be very difficult to hold their attention especially if a lot of things are happening in their surroundings. I once taught a kid online whilst his family were having a barbecue in the background! Needless to say, it wasn’t the smoothest lesson ever and he was super distracted by the food.
Moving hungrily on…….
Teaching lessons F2F
As you’ve probably guessed, F2F lessons are where you teach people in a physical location. You will generally be the centre of attention and so having a calm and controlled demeanour is a must. It can be quite intimidating when you have a lot of eyes on you, so feeling nervous and anxious is a very natural reaction. Heck, I teach groups of 8 at a national bank and I can tell you, it can take some getting used to depending on your personality! During F2F lessons there isn’t really a hiding place, whereas at least if you’re doing online lessons you can switch off your camera and panic behind a screen if you really need to! (still not recommended!)
The good news is that it does get a lot easier the more you do it, but yes F2F lessons are more intimidating than online lessons. A lot of teachers hate standing up in front of groups of people and speaking and so prefer the comfort of speaking from their homes online. Personally I don’t feel pressure talking to groups of people, and like I said previously, it’s a lot easier to read a student’s body language and to really get an idea on how they are finding the lesson and whether any of my teachings need to be changed or adapted. It’s also easier to carry out group activities and speaking performances F2F and gives you extra flexibility to do other types of activities that you wouldn’t be able to do online. Quite a few of the activities in the textbooks I use can only be done F2F.
One other thing with F2F lessons is that you really have to be quick-witted and be able to improvise quickly in order to deliver a great lesson. We’ve all heard about these awkward silences, and especially when you might have a shy/unconfident group that doesn’t speak much it can be VERY off-putting. Of codurse, awkward silences can happen during online lessons, but awkward silences are MUCH more intense in person!
So….which is better?
I would say that this depends a lot on your personality.
If you’re quite outgoing, find it easy to connect with people and are quite extroverted, I would definitely say F2F. If you’re a little more introverted, perhaps a bit quieter I would say teaching online is better. To be an effective F2F teacher you need a relatively big and clear voice, arguably even more so than online as your voice has to fill the room.
From a financial point of view of course online lessons are better and if you’re just teaching online you can do back-to-back lessons and earn more money rather than using up your time and resources travelling to and from clients. Of course if it’s Winter, online lessons are a godsend too!
Personally however, I’ve always found it easier to connect with students F2F and are my much preferred lessons. My background is teaching kids of 30-40 children in a classroom in Tokyo so this might be why!
Both methods of teaching have their pros and cons, but both can be very enjoyable even if you haven’t done it previously. Before I moved to Warsaw I had never ever even heard of Zoom let alone taught a lesson online! And now, online lessons have become second nature and I could do them in my sleep. Of course, both methods aren’t for everyone.