Guest Post: Why Off2Class Loves Zoom For ESL Instruction
A couple of years ago, my business partner (James) and I (Kris) launched an online English as a Second Language (ESL) school in Turkey. An integral part of any online lesson is which videoconferencing software you use. Skype is popular with independent online teachers, but it lacks a number of key features (such as annotation) that you need to make your lessons come alive.
While planning to launch our online school, we tested a number of different videoconferencing solutions. These included Skype, Google Hangouts, WebEx, Go To Meeting, and others. We came to the conclusion that Zoom was the best overall solution for our online ESL lessons.
Two years later, James is still teaching online ESL lessons using Zoom. He teaches between 20 and 30 hours a week, and he focuses on young learners from Turkey. We’ve since started a site called Off2Class, which provides ESL lesson plans and activity sheets to tutors and teachers that run their own online lessons. We are in contact with hundreds of online ESL teachers from all over the world. We often get asked which videoconferencing system best pairs with our library of ESL lesson content. We continually refer them to use our lesson content in combination with Zoom.
The Nature of an online ESL Lesson
When you are teaching an online ESL lesson, you need a videoconferencing system with the right combination of features for the classroom and performance in low bandwidth situations.
The latter point is especially important because you’ll often be teaching students in countries with poor Internet speeds. There is nothing like a spotty online classroom to ruin the flow of a lesson! Zoom performs incredibly well in low bandwidth environments. James even runs group lessons using Zoom (with all the participants connecting from Turkey). Internet speeds in Turkey are not always reliable, and when one of his students experiences a drop in bandwidth, it rarely interrupts the flow of the class.
You also need a host of other features to teach a successful online ESL lesson. Here’s a summary of the Zoom features we love for online ESL lessons:
- No heavy, complicated software for you or your participants to download. You don’t want to be fumbling around with technology on your first lesson with a student (it could easily kill half of your one-hour lesson)
- Extremely simple and intuitive class joining process (students just clicks a link to join the class). Again, joining the class needs to be easy and seamless.
- A great selection of annotation tools, so you can share your screen, and then write and draw on the screen like a real whiteboard. We love the Zoom annotation tools for teaching online, here’s a video of us using Zoom’s annotation tools to teach.
- Easy process to record classes. This is especially important if you are teaching children, but even adults like a record of their learning progress.
- Ability to teach up to 200 students in a class. Great for group lessons.
- A great chat function (send chats either to your entire class, or privately to one student at a time). It’s nice to be able to incorporate some writing into a conversation class.
All together, the combination of Off2Class and Zoom has been a great teaching tool. If you’d like to see for yourself, here is a video of us teaching using Off2Class + Zoom:
We hope that other online teachers enjoy using Zoom as much as we do! If you have any questions about using Zoom in your online lessons, or teaching online in general, feel free to leave a comment or get in touch with us here. And I strongly suggest signing up for your own free Zoom account today!
About our guest authors, Kris Jagasia and James Heywood:
After several years of teaching ESL (English as a Second Language) online, Kris & James founded a site called Off2Class. Off2Class is