Avoiding Assumptions with Online Language Learning

by | Language Training

There are few things as vivid in my memory as the first five minutes of my first class as a university student. I was sitting in an auditorium with about 150 fellow classmates when the professor walked in like the opening act of a concert and silently wrote his name, office hours and email address on the chalkboard. I immediately felt a sense of anxiety as I looked at that somewhat familiar string of words with the funny @ symbol that was becoming ubiquitous. I suddenly didn’t know if I was ready for this world. I felt ashamed. The year was 1997, and, yes, I had never written an email!

That professor made a mistake that I have forever kept on my mind throughout my career: He assumed that because we possessed the technology he wanted to utilize, we were all comfortable using it. To this day, I am convinced that my thoughts and feelings that day were of the majority.  I look back and think how beneficial it would have been for him to put himself in our shoes and walked us through and explained the benefits of contacting him electronically.

Fast forward to 2020, I am establishing online language learning courses with students from a wide range of backgrounds, often learning through a computer for the first time. It’s common for students to lack access to a PC. I usually have to confirm  that the lesson can be carried out through a smartphone. However, assuming that a high powered computer with artificial intelligence that fits into the palm of a hand is used for anything more than Facebook, pictures and texts will lead to problems before the lesson even starts.

We can optimize our interactions with language learning clients and students by assessing their skills with a given piece of technology, and then walking them through how we foresee it being utilized. For example, let’s say we want to have online language learning instruction through Zoom. Taking the time to introduce or review how to save a chat box, make annotations, raise a hand, mute, etc. optimizes our efforts, greatly reduces anxiety and avoids possible hangups. Beginning an online learning course with a technology assessment and walk-through moves us towards our goals more effectively and efficiently. It may also build a rapport between technology and the individual that hadn’t previously existed.

Ryan is an onsite and online English instructor for Workplace Languages. Ryan has been in the field of English language instruction since 2006 teaching, developing, creating and leading in a variety of settings including public school systems, universities and private institutions.  In addition to language classes, Workplace Languages offers full-service translationvoice-over services, off-the shelf language learning products, and a wide range of customized language programs to help you close the communication gap at your company.

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