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.