A TALE OF TWO STUDENTS

I’ve been a teacher for nearly 30 years so if there’s anything I can tell you with some authority is this: Every student is different.

Yes, some of the mistakes will be the same, some of the old jokes too, but regarding personality and traits of character they will be as different as the colors of the rainbow.

One thing we always are reminded of as teachers as to have empathy for our students. And we learn to respect and love them as our students. Unfortunately quite often it is a one way street with some of them.

Now, let me tell you about two students in particular – let’s call them Gilberto and Manuel (not their real names).

Gilberto is a very hard working student and has been with me for some years climbing from B1 to C1 level and in the process developing his skills and confidence in using English as a foreign language. He tries to do all his homework and despite the fact he has classes only once a week (60 minutes) his progress is quite visible. We’ve covered two advanced business books: Market Leader – (a quite good book but it got dated quickly) and Intelligent Business – (not a very intelligent book, by the way, really poorly edited including even some typos).

Gilberto sees the teacher as a simple provider of input without any relevant feelings. I must be available to reschedule his cancelled classes. He refuses to pay for the times he goes on vacation or for any missed class. Every payment he makes it sound as if he would be doing me a favor. Mind you, he likes me – otherwise he would have stopped years ago – but I’m simply a language source to him. Gilberto expects the teacher to be flexible and change class day and time on a whim, sometimes morning, other times afternoon or evening.

[An update] But he also showed professional politeness and empathy – he needed a 5 day grace period to pay for his classes and he first asked me earlier in the month if it would be ok, and if I had any objections to let him know and he’d find another way to pay on time. Of course, I agreed to the 5 day delay.

education online student boy using computer course virtual 2658780 Vector  Art at Vecteezy
The teacher is more than just a source of information

Manuel has also been with me for some years – highly committed and focused – rarely did his homework though, with the exception of some texts for translation. We’ve never used a course book – he’s C1 – he likes to read – so he is often reading all sorts of business, science and philosophy books. Manuel also sees the teacher as a provider of input but this past week he showed he sees me as a professional who can be given appreciation through a day off or some additional pay. He has a problem of “forgetting” to pay me (every month) but to offset that he always pays an additional amount (some R$ 50 extra to cover for any inconveniences caused by the payment delay). On the other hand, Manuel apologizes when he can’t make it to his scheduled class and if I have no other available time he understands and moves on.

[An update] But regarding payment, Manuel never pays on time and always “forgets” it… sometimes he pays over 1 month late … and every time I bring it up he says “Oh I will pay you right after our class tonight” – and it never happens. To be fair, he usually throws in an additional R$ 50 for the delay… but that’s not the agreement.

DISTANCE LEARNING CLIP ART in 2021 | Distance learning, Gym games for kids,  Teacher cartoon
When pricked teachers also bleed

Now paraphrasing what Shakespeare so skillfully wrote in the Merchant of Venice -“If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? and if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?”. – (Act III, scene I).” Yes, teachers and students need a real and respectful relationship even if separated by a screen.

Happy teachings,

Mo

13 PODCASTS FOR EVERY LEARNER OF ENGLISH AS A SECOND OR FOREIGN LANGUAGE

Using podcasts to learn

Dear students,

A few years ago I listed some of the podcasts I think students should be using to practice English listening and other skills. With the ebb and flow of technology  new podcasts have come up with new ideas and new presenters, so here’s an updated list of the podcasts

Please, remember:

Download the podcasts you enjoy

LISTEN TO THEM. Dammit!

So… without much ado, here’s my list of English Learning Podcasts (it’s not a comprehensive list, but it’s a good starting point):

  1. Believes Unasp Sabbath School Podcast – I had to start with my own podcast, of course. After all, I am the compiler of this list. A combination of bible study and English tips such as pronunciation and vocabulary delivered on a daily basis – available on any podcast platform. The motto is English and the Bible = Information and Transformation https://www.spreaker.com/show/believes-unasp-sabbath-school
English and the Bible = Information and Transformation

2.  6-Minute English podcast – produced by the BBC with 2 hosts always asking some challenging questions found in the news. It always presents some new vocabulary and context for its use.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/learningenglish/general/sixminute/

3. All Ears English podcast – 2 chicks always teaching some cultural and language point in the English spoken in the US. Beware: one of them slurs and speakstoofastasifshecouldntbotherwhethershesunderstoodornot.
http://allearsenglish.com/

4. Aprende Inglés con la Mansión del Inglés – 2 dudes (one from Belfast and another from London) host the show with good humor and focus on a teaching point. Emphasis on Spanish speakers http://www.inglespodcast.com

5. English Experts Podcast – Produced by non-native English speakers focuses on the common needs of Brazilian English learners.
https://archive.org/details/EnglishExperts-Podcast

6. ESL Podcast – The host for the podcast is Dr. Jeff McQuillan, directly from sunny Los Angeles, and he helps read the scripts and provides explanations for them.

https://www.eslpod.com/website/

7. Inglés en la oficina -it’s a podcast series produced in Spain by Sandra and Colby with situations related to the office and work world. https://www.acast.com/inglsenlaoficina/english-podcast-36-problem-pairs

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ingles-en-la-oficina/id1074690749?mt=2

8.  Inglês Online Podcast – a podcast produced and hosted by Ana Luiza Bergamini, a Brazilian now living in London, with tips of idioms and phrasal verbs for Brazilian English learners – intermediate to advanced.

http://www.inglesonline.com.br/category/podcast-inglesonline/

9. Inglês Todos os Dias – it’s a podcast produced by an American family based in Brazil.  Tim and Tammy produce weekly short mini-podcasts with expressions and idioms that his students frequently confuse or ask about.

http://www.domineingles.com.br

10. Luke’s English Podcast – produced and hosted by Luke from England – it’s a very good way to expose yourself to British English. But it requires a little patience usually no shorter than 45 minutes.
http://teacherluke.co.uk/

11. Real Life English Podcast – Founded by three young passionate, world traveling, native speaking English teachers, RealLife is a community based learning portal whose mission is to inspire, empower, and connect the world through English, both online and in-person.  Oh Yeah!

http://reallifeglobal.com/radio-podcast/

12. Richard Vaughan Live podcast – controversial Texas-born Richard Vaughan has painstakingly been trying to teach English to Spaniards. His ramblings are quite entertaining. I love the episodes when he loses his temper with some of his on-air students.

http://www.ivoox.com/podcast-richard-vaughan-live_sq_f180769_1.html

13. VOA’s Learning English Podcast –
dating back to their shortwave transmissions even before the Internet, VOA has been my companion with good quality of listening content on American history, words and news.

http://learningenglish.voanews.com/podcast/0.html

Podcast Icons Stock Illustrations – 2,990 Podcast Icons Stock  Illustrations, Vectors & Clipart - Dreamstime
Podcasts as learning tools

Happy Listening,

Mo

Teaching Online, Revisited

After 18 months teaching exclusively online what pieces of advice, if any, would I have to share with my fellow language teachers? Here are some of the things I already knew and needed to put into practice and others I had to learn the hard way:

  1. Equipment is key – a decent notebook or computer with a good camera and microphone. My older computer had a lousy camera – six months into the pandemic with a grainy image I had to upgrade it. Add to the equipment the necessary microphone and headset (preferably with a cord to avoid interference and power surges). Also a ring light helps your professional image. Initially I thought it was just one extra unnecessary fluffy item, … but after my sweetheart gave me one, I can’t imagine going online without proper lighting. A second screen also helps a lot. Bear in mind, I didn’t say top of the line equipment – decent quality is good enough. No need to break the bank for the top brands.
  2. Camera positioning – try to show yourself from the shoulders up, prop up the notebook with one or two dictionaries (they’re the perfect size), a box, or a proper laptop stand but the right height will make the difference on how you will be seen. Since we’re talking about cameras – remember to look into the camera – don’t focus on the screen – the camera will give you eye contact with your audience.
  3. Dress properly – no top hat and tuxedo are necessary but sleeveless shirts are a ‘no-no’ for men (and women in some cultures). No need to hide your tattoos, if any, but keep a clean look … very few people can get away with a disheveled appearance and you probably are not one of them. Heard many times of people connecting wearing their pajama bottoms or none (chuckles) but my advice is: put on some pants, please. Getting dressed will help you feel like you’re doing something other than eating cereal for dinner in bed.
  4. Check your internet connection – Wifi is ok if the only option available (but preferably connect through your cable – more stable connection). Check your camera, microphone and headset before the session begins. I use Zoom for 95% of my sessions and occasionally it automatically changes my default settings for microphone and headset. Lovely, huh? More than once I’ve found myself without voice or hearing. So… once again… check it BEFORE the session starts.
  5. Prepare and Improvise – have your lesson and presentation ready, but be aware that things may change, remember that “student-centered lessons” are not just a cliché.
  6. Be careful when you share your screen – close all tabs and apps you don’t think your students would like to see or know about. TMI is still applicable online. That will make you look and sound more professional. Hey, I’m human, too. Sometimes I forget to close my tabs on the browser and there’s Twitter, and Facebook, and YouTube open – nothing wrong with that – but none of my students’ business. Do I need to say anything about porn tabs?
Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Teaching online can be a rewarding experience or a nightmare depending much on how you prepare for it.

Happy teaching.

Cheers,

Mo

SAYING GOODBYE

Letting Go | Hoffman Institute
Letting go is bittersweet

The act of saying goodbye has bittersweet notes. There’s always the excitement, the glad anticipation of a new student starting and that strange feeling when it’s time for you to say goodbye to a student.

Teachers and students traditionally say goodbye at the end of the term. That’s expected and part of the program. In the case of the relationship between private teacher and student the situation is rather different. The duration of a language coaching program has no pre-fixed termination date and it quite often flourishes and goes on for years. It’s like a therapy process (it sure feels that way). It’s an amazing feeling to observe how students grow in the process. But all good things must come to an end.

Saying Goodbye to a Client. – Florida CAM Courses
A bittersweet feeling

This week I’m saying goodbye to two long-time students. Student A is leaving because the bank he works for has acquired an “automated platform” for English learning where staff may do exercises and in case of questions consult with an online “teacher”. NO NEED FOR REGULAR CLASSES WITH ANOTHER HUMAN. Student A had been having classes for over 3 years and was successfully developing his listening skills. But it was slower than he would have expected or wanted – it took him all this time to go through level A2 – next semester he would be starting his B1 level. His progress would have been faster had he been fully committed to the program – but at times, no homework, no practice and having classes only 1 hour a week – will take its toll. Very optimistically after 140 hours he finished his pre-intermediate level. Not bad. Of course, he still has a long way ahead, he still mispronounces “son” and soon” , for example and thinks when I ask him “Who won the game?” He replies that Juan was not there. LOL.

The second student to leave is Student R. Initially she hated English, she was B1 and was terrified about the prospect of speaking in English and considered herself unable to understand anything. Having 1-hour classes only once a week -but as they like to say, better one hour than nothing – slowly I started to introduce audio files with English conversations, reading aloud helped her overcome the speaking barrier, role playing also had a positive impact. Student R started to attend meetings without suffering from anxious stomach pains and could increasingly state her points and understand what her colleagues and clients would be saying. With some information gaps, of course. We persistently worked her listening skills with lots of fill-in-the-gap activities, which really helped her immensely. In her case, she is leaving because she has been let go by her firm and now she needs to cut expenses.

In July two new students will be starting their programs with me but the feeling of ” it’s out of my hands circumstances” still bugs me. I always require a 30-day minimum notice for the suspension of classes which protects both me and the student from unpleasant situations and that allows me to wrap up that student’s program, provide some feedback and advice.

Do You Know the Chautauqua Salute? – Isabella Alden
Waving them goodbye with a white handkerchief

I wish them all the luck and all the best in their pursuits. Despite that nagging feeling of “I wish I could have helped them more” I also know that I am growing in my resolution to learn from their experiences and incorporate them into my own teaching career.

Cheers,

Mo

REMOTE LEARNING IS EASIER?

This year ( 15 months, 7 days, 9 hours and 46 minutes into the covid-19 pandemic – yes, I refuse to capitalize you) I went back to the classroom (remotely, how else?). I needed to brush up my conference interpreting skills in this brave new world (no pun intended) of remote simultaneous interpreting (RSI – as it is professionally abbreviated by those in the know).

I knew that Zoom and other video conferencing services had an add-on feature that would/might allow for simultaneous interpreting, but now I’ve discovered that there are whole sets of platforms operating along with them. In other words, the challenge to the interpreter has risen from just knowing the vocab and terminology and having mind agility to listening in one language and blurting out in a second or third language to becoming an IT and Sound engineer – more than doubling our checklist before even uttering the first sound.

Today’s Simultaneous Interpreter is expected to know way more than 2 languages

I’ll write later about interpreting – now the focus is on remote learning.

Again the very respected interpreting and translation institution, Alumni, like make other educational structures, just transferred the onsite sessions to the online environment – same teachers, same methods, same length of sessions, same coffee breaks. Any changes necessary?

The flipped classroom format is ubiquitous – the school will send you an email with your assignments and agenda for the forthcoming class and woe is you if you don’t go over them carefully. Fine.

But they take some things for granted. In yesterday’s session, our very good trainer said – “Ok – during the interpreting practice remember to record your voices”.

Ok. Questions in my mind: “Did he tell us which app to use? how should we proceed?” It’s not intuitive.

I asked a boothmate and she told me she was using the Windows recorder. Ah ok.

Instructor: “After today’s session send me your recorded audio”.

My brain: “how? email? WhatsApp? a web platform? I don’t have his number or email address. Did I miss his instructions again?”

These are just simple examples for us teachers. We can’t just assume our students know what to do on their own (you know the old saying, right? “When you assume you make an ass of you and me”). Whatever happened to show and tell? Show me how you do it and then tell me to do it.

Pin on LOLZ
Assumptions must be kept in check

TAKEAWAY: If simple and clear instructions and directions were essential in the in-person environment they are crucial now in the remote classroom.

VIRTUAL TEACHING TIPS

Most of us have been teaching exclusively online for over a year by now and it’s always good to review and refresh our personal approach when teaching on a virtual platform:

Positioning: Try to position yourself in the center of the screen, unless you’re showing a “whiteboard” or some other image. Keep the camera at your eye level so that students won’t be looking up your nostrils or down your balding spots 😉 . Remember to maintain eye contact – don’t be looking at your own image or your students’, rather, look into the camera (usually that little dot on top of your screen).

Look into the camera when speaking not at the screen
  • Appearance: make sure you’re dressed professionally – I’m not telling you to wear a tuxedo or a dress fit for a night at the opera. Just keep it neat and as wrinkle free as possible. Remember students can’t smell you but they do expect to see you. Pants are optional as long as you’re not planning to stand up. Should I wear a shirt or t-shirt? In my in-person classes I mostly wore shirts (and a jacket in colder weather) and on casual Fridays a polo shirt. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve gone down a notch by mostly wearing T-shirts , but trying to avoid brand logos and indiscreet messages on them. I know I’m going on a limb, but count on your common sense and anything with F*** would be deemed inappropriate. Of course check your teeth – nobody likes the embarrassment of seeing “a deer in the garden” or something else stuck in one’s teeth.
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything - YouTube
When You Have Food In Your Teeth But No One Says Anything
dishevelled hair - Brandingby Pixels
You’re not expected to look like Brad Pitt post-Covid19 but check your hair before and overall appearance before switching on your camera.
  • Background: Choose something neutral – a white wall or whiteboard would be perfect. A bookcase is fine but the simpler the better – a tv monitor switched on behind you could be very distracting, for example, as well as your pet(s) and toddlers. they’re lovely once or twice but they’re not included in your agreement pack with your students. Keep them away whenever possible.
Self-Adhesive Magnetic Permanent Whiteboard Wall – Myndflo.com
Keep your background neutral as much as possible
  • Timing and Pacing: Some studies have showed that group response rates can be up to 20% lower online than in person, especially in a group setting. Remember that your voice is important but students’ talk time must be higher than yours. Don’t go lecturing when your students could be using that time to practice THEIR communication skills. Keep track of your class activities and always have one or two activities up your sleeve in case you go over all tasks and there are still 10 mins left. But that’s quite unusual. Usually it’s too much for such a little time. I have a student who has two 45-minute classes per week – and I always go overtime with her… that’s not good business sense or academically and I have to cut back on the activities and focus on key points. Remember that sometimes students (or yourself) might be having connection issues. Don’t lose your temper and be accommodating to the situation as it presents itself.

Reflect on your courses from the first session on a regular basis, make sure you’re delivering content that is useful and attractive to your students while keeping them satisfied. After all they’re your customers.

Cheers,

Mo

Teaching online is easy but requires preparation and equipment

Recounting a teaching-related “Unsuccessful Event”

After 1 year of the Covid-19 Pandemic with companies and individuals cutting down on their expenses and labeling “language learning” as non-essential, I feel that my network of prospective students has been shrinking. New potential students don’t know me and are more focused on price than experience and great qualifications. And there is no shame in saying I need help to find new students.

Nothing better than counting on the support of an international organization with students and teachers from all over the world with expertise in student prospecting. I am sure we can both benefit from this synergy.

Part of their vetting is based on an online grammar test and writing test. Here’s my writing test:

Recount an endeavor, personal or work-related, that was unsuccessful. Provide as many details as possible. If you were to do things over, what would you do differently to ensure the success of the endeavor? *

The following will be assessed: grammar, vocabulary, and sentence construction/organization.

I have always felt that learners and teacher are partners, collaborators in the exquisite adventure of learning. The teacher will create opportunities for learners to grow and, in the case of learning a second or foreign language, to improve their listening, speaking, reading and writing skills. To learn to be comfortable in their own skin with their acquired language.

One side cannot be held responsible for everything. The student must show interest, commitment, dedicate time, money and effort towards their goal. Likewise, the teacher must be fully interested in their students’ progress.

A few years ago I had a student who was often cancelling her classes, never did any homework or any reading/writing assignments and she came up to me asking why she couldn’t feel she was making any progress.

I looked at her, took a deep breath, and said that her progress depended on her commitment and effort. She needed to, at least, try to do some of her homework and make an extra effort to show up in class.

She got furious, fuming through her eyes and nose, and said my job was to teach her. That’s why she was paying me for. I said apologetically that maybe I didn’t have the right profile for her. I expect my students to be committed.

She stormed out of the room and told her assistant that from then on I was banned from her company.  Weeks later she contacted me and apologized for her attitude, she said she was going through rough personal times and my comments had been the last straw.

That just confirmed my purpose to have students as my partners and if the partnership is suffering I cannot sugarcoat it. Only that way, shall we have cooperation and growth. 

May our efforts be rewarded,

Cheers,

Mo

Questions You Should Ask Yourself as an ELT Solopreneur

You must have already heard it many times: “There are no stupid questions” – and I always add: “Only stupid people”. Joking apart, the idea is that questions can help you come up with answers that you’ve never considered before, and those never before considered answers have the potential to transform you and your business.

Buzzwords: Solopreneur | Comstock's magazine
The Solopreneur

The focus of today’s post is found in Aaron Nelson’s podcast series (unfortunately now ended)- The Freelance ESL Teacher Podcast – Episode 15 (2018) (https://www.listennotes.com/podcasts/the-freelance-esl/episode-15-questions-youve-0OebVTgHC4U/) some powerful questions to ask yourself as you get your freelance teaching business started or developed – or to help you grow it well in 2021 and beyond! My gratitude to Aaron who provided these great questions to help me be more mindful of my business growth:

Sometimes the best questions are ones you never knew you should be asking!
Aaron came up with 4 questions that have really helped him which were found in a fantastic book that he had just finished reading called: 
Do It! Marketing: 77 Instant-Action Ideas to Boost Sales, Maximize Profits, and Crush Your Competition by David Newman (Here’s a link to the book: https://tinyurl.com/4chkr57k )

Question 1: What’s Your Model of Business – or How do you want your business to look in the future?

I am keeping it a a ‘solopreneur’ .- That’s been my idea over the past 25 years. Before that I wanted a language school but I hated the administrative side of the business. I’m only interested in building my business to the point of keeping my schedule alone full and guarantee a reasonable income.

Question 2: How will I make money?
Active Income: Selling services, classes, expertise: short (1 month); medium(1-3 months); long term (3 months – a year or more.); projects.
Passive Income: e-books, course materials that you create, development of an language learning app? How will I sell my services?

Question 3: How will I deliver my services?
Face to face classes?
Online classes?
Both?
Workshops?
In my own location? Location of my client?
Will I focus on a country, city, neighborhood? Well, I guess that the Pandemic has answered this question. All classes are online – how long? God only knows.

Teaching online is the answer for now

Question 4: Who is my ideal student?
Vital – It’s so important to know who you do your best work with.
The wrong students in your business, and not because they are bad people, but because you don’t remain in your strengths’ zone when you serve them – it will make your work seem harder, will drain you, and can run the risk of retarding your business’ growth!
Fill your business with your IDEAL students. Do you know who they are?

Providing tips for both learners and fellow teachers

My ideal students are adults, professional, business oriented people, who won’t be a drain on my energy. Let me tell you, I’ve already had some students that were toxic to my professional persona and I had to terminate their contract to save my sanity. Of course, ideal is what is desirable not always attainable. Quite honestly, i am taking any paying students willing to learn.

Cheers,

Mo

In-Company Teaching in the Age of Covid-19

First I would like to define in-company teaching: teaching of a specific course or program inside a company. It can be fully paid for and sponsored by the company itself. In my case, usually one VP or senior director would get in touch with HR and request English languages courses for himself or someone in their team. Then other VPs or directors would start requesting the same benefit and it would become part of a company’s benefit policies.

English In Company | Canadian Language Institute
Companies need people who can speak English

Other times, the company would allow teaching within its premises but the costs would be paid partly or in full by the students themselves.

Ideally a company would hire a language consultant/language school to assess the language level of the students and set up a language program with frequent evaluations in order to gauge the progress and the return on the investment.

In practical terms, many companies, for different reasons, would start the language teaching program in a more serious way, but gradually they would flex up their controls, and language classes would be considered one more benefit like lunch vouchers, for instance – the company does not want to know how or what the employees use their vouchers for. Are they eating healthily or only eating junk food? Are they selling their vouchers out for cash at a discounted price or passing them on to someone they know?

In order to give students a sense of control, companies would set a time limit. For example, those selected to attend English classes will have, let us say, a 2 year limit for English lessons. After that they would automatically lose their benefit so that another team member could start with classes.

Of course, there have been students who applied themselves and would make progress in their language learning process, I had students who started at intermediate level (B1) and ended up at C1/C2 levels.

But quite often there would be those students who would not take their learning seriously. They wanted the “benefit” but wouldn’t benefit from it. Lots of class cancellations (work-related or not); no commitment to studying outside the classroom; no motivation to have a class but rather a moment to chit chat and shoot the breeze in the midst of their busy schedule.

In-Company Language Classes - Expath
Face to face training inside a company has all but vanished.

The material mostly included a business English course book. I personally liked Business Class and Market Leader especially Upper-Intermediate and Advanced programs. Intelligent Business is pathetic with typos in almost every unit. Shoddy quality. In the late 1980s and early 1990s I enjoyed using We Mean Business.

We Mean Business: Students' bk.: Elementary Course in Business English |  Amazon.com.br
We Mean Business was my first teaching textbook in Business English – it had short dialogues with photographs of real office scenes where the characters spoke through speech balloons and key vocabulary -I love the cover’s dated Artwork.

Of course, if the teacher had some business experience – he had lived across an office building, for example (just kidding – sort of) he or she would be a plus in the school’s in-company teaching program.

Now with Covid-19 and the Pandemic, in-company teaching has all, but disappeared, at least physically. None of my corporate clients in IT, Manufacturing, Banking or Law Firms are open to service providers. The requirements and expenses of frequently testing their staff wouldn’t warrant additional costs testing teachers as well. I half-heartedly joke with my now online students that “pigs will be flying wearing masks” before I get access to their companies’ facilities. So, online we stay.

Will it prosper online? Will companies prefer local language schools or schools located anywhere cheaper? Will language progress be effectively assessed? Will employees be allowed to have their lessons during their working hours? Will they be held accountable for their learning and the investment the company has placed on them?

Let us wait for the new developments in 2021.

Cheers,

Mo

The 10 eTeaching Commandments

We tend to like lists so I decided to present my adapted commandments (from https://www.shiftelearning.com/blog/bid/297719/The-Ten-eLearning-Commandments-Infographic) from what I’ve been learning as an online/remote teacher of English as a Foreign Language. Until 3 years ago, my wife and I used to travel a lot (she on business and I as a great travel companion) so I got used early on to teaching online using especially FaceTime – let’s say 5 or 6 years ago. Now with the pandemic, of course, both teacher and learners lost their choice of face to face or online classes. Of course, choice is still out there. One student moved from face to face to telephone-only classes. A few others decided that to pay for online classes would be a waste of time and money – like paying for a virtual sandwich – you can see it, even see its creation step by step, but not taste it, chuckles) – and they had Netflix and YouTube. Dump the teacher.

These commandments are nothing new but still relevant and mean to remind my students and I of what we are doing, the benefits of following them and the risks of breaking a single one of them.

See the source image

Commandment #1: Thou Shalt NOT Put the Learner On a Pedestal

Now, that doesn’t mean learners are not important – without them – you cannot teach, right?

Ensure that your learner feels in control and well-oriented. The learner has to know what, why, and where learning is taking place.

So this is commandment #1. Make sure the learner experience is put first and foremost, but remember they’re paying you to be a teacher not their pal or confidant. For that they’d have to pay much, much more.

Commandment #2:  Thou shalt not multitask

Thou shalt not multitask. Modern technology makes it easy to do many things at once, but that doesn’t always mean you should. If you’re communicating with others, focus on them, and them alone. Minimize the other tabs on your screen, silence your phone, and never eat or go to the bathroom during a call (unless it’s an emergency). Being on mute or having your camera turned off is not an excuse. You can wait. If you’re desperate or the meeting is running long, ask for a 5-minute break.

Commandment #3: Thou Shalt Plan, Plan, and be ready to throw the plan out of the window

Behind every successful man there is a woman, or so the saying goes. And behind every successful eLearning project, is a well-devised and detailed plan.

Beautiful idea but in practical terms the learner is not interested in whatever time and plans you have. It is THEIR agenda. Have your plan but rest assured that more often than not you won’t be able to implement it.

Commandment #4: Thou Shalt Respect Thy Learner and Thy Teacher

“R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Don’t know what it means to me” – Aretha Franklin

Ms. Franklin was right. Relationships require respect.

You’ve got to respect your learner’s intelligence and respond to their needs. Make sure you understand their background, how they like to learn, and what style of learning appeals to them. If you hit the wrong tone, your learners may feel demeaned and even insulted.

Commandment #5: Thou Shalt Not Rely Only On Technology

Yes, you read it right. You’re working with another human being. Focus on their needs not the equipment and tricks.

In today’s multi-screen world, it’s easy to think of learning in different platforms, with desktops, tablets, and smartphones each with different compatibilities and operating systems. Elearning has to change. It has to be responsive, multi-format, and look good on whatever device it’s used on.

Commandment #6: Thou Shalt Use an Agenda

When hosting or participating in a meeting, respect the attendees’ time and other obligations as much as possible.

eLearning is a practice of restraint and balance. Remember to use useful design, not decoration, and give breathing room. Just like in photography, negative space can sometimes make all the difference; there’s no need to fill every little space.

Commandment #7: Thou Shalt Focus on Competence, Not Grades

Competency-based learning lets learners move through a course at their own pace. This is a more valuable approach; the focus isn’t on completing a training program within a specific time, it’s about doing it slow, and doing it right. Competency-based training doesn’t randomly “dump” tons of knowledge on the learner, it lets the learner choose. They know when to move on, and when they’ve absorbed the material. This makes learning more effective than the “dump and run” model and the learner feels more satisfied and leaves no gaps in their skill set.

Commandment #8: Thou Shalt Show, Not Tell.

We’ve all been there. Bored in a presentation or taking an eLearning course. Checking the time every few seconds, wondering when it’s going to end.

Why do we feel this way? Usually because eLearning is designed as just conveying information, just telling. Just being spoken at.

This is one of the least effective ways to share information. If you want your audience to remember your content, you need to show, not tell. This means you should tell more stories in your course, give examples, create scenarios, you have to give the audience something they can relate to, and help them find connections between the learning content and their roles.

In a nutshell, this is how to do it: less exposition, more action. You’ll see how your learners react in a completely different way.

Commandment #9: Thou Shalt Be Respectful of Time   

eLearning has to be more sociable, but Never assume you are anyone’s highest priority. Be flexible when possible but always remember that TIME IS MONEY. When you’re remote, you must be intentional about keeping a time frame.

Commandment #10: Thou Shalt Plan for Sprints, Not marathons.

I know, this sounds counter-intuitive. But hear me out. Nowadays, learners struggle with information overload. We have stuff coming at us from mobile phones, email, the web, and good ol’ fashioned verbal communication.

Learners have too much going on already – if you bombard them with information they’re going to tune out quickly. They might retain scraps, a key word here and there, or they might retain nothing. Don’t risk it. Organize your content into small, bite-sized ‘sprints’.