Technologically and linguistically adventurous EFL teacher, trainer, writer and manager

Followers of my blog may have noticed that November was a bit quiet. Then again, they may not 🙂 Either way: here’s an explanation of why.

For the four weeks between October 22nd and November 20th 2011, every free hour I had when I was not in Paris or marking my FCE students’ work, I spent doing the International House Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT). These are the objectives of the course, according to the IH Online Teacher Training Institute (OTTI) website:

To train experienced English Language / Modern Language teachers and trainers in techniques and approaches to online tutoring for language education and to provide them with the skills required to become tutors for student-oriented and teacher-oriented courses on the IH VLE (Platform).

To raise awareness of opportunities for skills transfer and the need to acquire new skills in online tutoring as opposed to face to face tutoring.

This was quite a new area for me, though I had participated in a few webinars, including one run by IH OTTI, and a short introduction to dogme moderated by Ania Rolinska, one of my tutors on the COLT course.

There were nine course participants (CPs), including myself, and Paula de Nagy was the other tutor with Ania. Together they guided us through a series of modules, beginning with a week of ‘getting to know you’, designed to help us develop a group dynamic and get used to the online environment. This was very successful, and really helped to make us a cohesive group, despite the fact that we were living in 11 different countries and all logged on at different times. We also attempted to use a virtual classroom at the end of the week, although there were connection issues which meant it wasn’t as successful as it could have been. At the end of the course, we managed a very successful session in the same virtual classroom.

Week one eased us in to the course, ‘eased’ being the operative word, as the course seemed to increase in intensity as we went through. In the other four weeks, we covered areas like:

  • creating a group dynamic;
  • encouraging reluctant CPs to participate (more) in online courses;
  • using text effectively to communicate, without the support of body language and intonation;
  • transferring face-to-face teaching skills to the online environment;
  • planning effective activities for the online environment;
  • creating and moderating wikis;
  • choosing the right tools for online courses;
  • creating an outline for an online course.

One tip: Don’t go on holiday while you’re doing the course, and if you do, make sure you have wifi. I was lucky enough to have an hour or more a day on the hotel wifi and understanding travel companions to keep up! (This may be obvious to some people, but I completely forgot the dates of the course when booking my trip to Paris)

On that note, it’s better to log in as often as you can, if only for a few minutes, as it can be very easy to feel like you’re losing track of all of the threads if you don’t.

Overall, there was a lot of information to take in, and I’m still digesting it now, but the support from the tutors and the other group members meant that I learnt a lot, and online tutoring is definitely something I would like to experiment more with in the future. The course was well worth the investment of money and time, and even though I am not currently teaching online, it was very useful.

I would definitely recommend it to others.


Comments on: "IH Certificate in Online Tutoring (COLT)" (11)

  1. I wholeheartedly endorse your recommendation, Sandy 🙂
    a great learning experience in a very welcoming learning environment!


  2. As one of the participants, I completely agree with what Sandy said. What was also very interesting was the diversity of participants – not only from different countries, but also different generations and types of experience.
    I have been in this business for the best part of 30 years and I found the course stimulating and refreshing.


  3. Sandy!
    Your professional development seems to be taking of in a miliion directions! Paris, Glasgow, online courses… And you work so hard too!
    Way to go girl!
    P.s – try to get some sleep from time to time!


  4. I will try hope it’s good for me.


  5. […] a curator for ELTpics on Flickr and completed the IH Certificate in Advanced Methodology and Certificate in Online Tutoring. I have presented training seminars for the first time and won a scholarship to go to IATEFL […]


  6. HI Sandy,

    Thanks for the information about the course. I’m planning on taking the course as well.
    Do you think there is much difference teaching online and teaching f2f according to the course you took ? I’m a Celta teacher, so I’m not sure if the skills that I have apply to the online teaching methods.
    Thanks a bunch.


    • There is some difference in terms of the way you interact with the student, which is why a course like COLT is useful. However, you’ll still be using similar principles to structure your lessons and provide support and feedback, so it’s not completely different to the classroom.
      Good luck with the course!


  7. Brahim Idbendriss said:

    Thanks Sandy. Can you please recommend some pre-course reading (book, …). I am starting the IH COLT in a week.


    • Dear Brahim,
      I did the course 8 years ago, so I’m not sure how similar it is now – I’d guess it has changed a lot! I think the best thing to do for now is to relax and enjoy yourself, then participate as actively as you can in conversations during the course to make the most of it. A lot of people start the course and don’t really participate much, and don’t get as much out of it. They will recommend a lot of reading for you during the course, which is probably the best thing for you to do. Good luck!


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