I started experimenting with online teaching way back in 2006 but that was way before elearning as we now know today have made a tremendous impact on the way collaborative education is being conducted far away from the schools with portable smart gadgets and tablets. Back then, Yahoo messenger was the ‘thing’ for majority of English online teachers. It was cool! You earn $15 bucks for an hour of teaching English to Korean students. With just a webcam, a headset, PC and stable internet, you are good to go. We were an industry in itself. With good pay, own time, and flexibility, many English teachers were hopping into the bandwagon. But what is really distance education? It is often defined as the process of transferring knowledge to learners separated from the instructor by physical distance through the use of telecom technology for real-time classroom instruction. A basic concept of elearning is illustrated below:
Yahoo messenger is a video conferencing program but has several limitations. Sharing lesson files, lesson images and presentations would take a long time with the high bandwidth requirement. Attachments were another problem. With the prevalence of web bugs and viruses, students were wary to open file attachments. The classes were long and boring with little activity except talk and talk and talk. On the part of the teachers, these classes burned them out. Was I? You bet. With many setbacks in the system, many students eventually quit. I switched back to traditional teaching after two years. But in 2013, my interest in distance education heightened again after several video conferencing solutions came out. With many features than the standard Skype or Yahoo, it was exponentially revolutionary. I also met a friend who engineered a similar system. We then launched a pilot program on distance education, offering it as a free program to pioneering English schools. The results were very promising. The system was not just a marvel in itself but it was dynamic with many functions. However, it is not without its challenges. Some countries where we have launched our pilot project have unstable internet connectivity. And some of our teachers were still sporting old PC models. But over and above, I am convinced that many schools will have many uses for this platform in the near future. As the student market expands, and as the academic disciplines widen in scope, a niche market is being created who sureltheould prefer to study online in the comfort of their homes or offices.
The current version we are running has notable functions which I will explain in detail:
Whiteboard – A useful tool not available in normal video conferencing applications. The teacher can write on the virtual whiteboard, draw colored pastels and lines, write texts, and highlight sentences. You could even give control to the student to perform these functions as well.
File sharing – One need not export huge files to be used in class by the students. With the share screen function, literally what you present at your desktop or tablet will be visually seen by the students. Be it powerpoint, the latest movie, notepad or picture, the sky is the limit!
Recording – You can record your classes automatically into your disk drive or cloud service which can be easily retrieved later on for lesson reviews.
Multi-screen – Bored in a one-on-one class? This software solution takes it to the next level. Join a class of four or a class of five or a class of six sharing the same virtual screen. Talk to them until the teacher says shut up. Cool eh?
Say you want to teach students who live far away from you or from another country, with the video conferencing solutions, such will be the thing of the past. If you want to know more about how to set-up an online school, feel free to shoot me an email. I would be glad to teach you my system. Happy teaching!
See yah around!