The online teaching or learning process does not just take place in pre-arranged sessions. In the traditional classroom model, the teacher and students spend most of their time in the physical classroom engaging in language input, activities, communication, and assessment.

The online teaching environment takes many forms. For example, in some cases it will be a complete self-paced study environment which requires the teacher to deliver all of the learning materials with clear instructions within the learning management system. In other cases, the teaching or learning process is established as a “synchronous + asynchronous session,” in which the teachers must not only provide clear expectations for student participation, products, and pacing in the Learning Management System (LMS), but also consider the logic connecting the two sessions.

Furthermore, the organisation of the teaching materials is different. The online teaching materials found on the LMS are delivered with a combination of text-based materials and multimedia content. The instructor needs to identify supplementary resources and enhance the course with appropriate web-based materials. When designing the online course, online instructors should also be prepared to support the different needs of different students, in another words, to apply individualised instruction to a general course.

In order to make virtual meeting sessions as effective as face-to-face sessions, teachers should firstly be aware that the pace of online discussion is slower than face-to-face discussion. For example, a 50-minute face-to-face teaching session cannot necessarily be directly transferred into a 50-minute online session. The time should be well-designed to meet both online requirements and the needs of the students. Secondly, the content delivered in the meeting should be both communication-based and task-based, in order to involve students in meaningful natural language output that can make up for the lack of “real language communication” in the virtual environment.

I believe that there are two important factors in the transition from face-to-face to online teaching. The first is the design method. When giving face-to-face lessons, I mainly valued the “meeting moment”, meaning I paid attention to the process and details of how to transition from the previous teaching activity to the next. I didn’t pay much attention to how the students practice or show evidence of practice outside of the classroom. However, online teaching requires equal focus on “on-air” and “in life”. It has been and will be a trend that learning has crossed the boundary from classroom to real life. In order to make teaching successful and efficient, teachers should broaden the scope of their teaching by focusing on both. In addition to considering the design of their “on-air”, they should also consider how well the self-study activities may help with the meeting activities.

Secondly, we must change our way of thinking. Questions like “can we use the same activities from the traditional classroom in the online classroom?” and “how can we modify this activity to fit the online framework?” make me annoyed. Even if you adjust one step of the activity, it doesn’t mean that you can use the rest of the steps in an online activity. Instead, we should consider it this way: instead of modifying everything in the traditional classroom activities to meet the new requirements, we should instead create a made to measure solution. Just like a bespoke suit fits the body perfectly, a solution for online teaching should perfectly fit the online setting.

By Jiang Zilu, OUC