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Skip to 0 minutes and 9 seconds Should we talk about key skills that you need as an online tutor? Yeah, and I think actually a lot of the skills are the same for being an online tutor and a face-to-face tutor. And I think the most important thing, really, is that you have an objective and you have a clear aim for your lesson. I think it’s very easy to fall into the trap of online learning, equals online chatting. And so you and the learner sit and chat for an hour and we don’t really know why we’re doing it, or what the learner is going to get out of it.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds So I think clear planning, clear objectives, and clear learning goals at the beginning of every session is really important. Yeah, I agree. The ability to really plan well. When you start the lesson, you need to know exactly what you’re going to be doing at every step. You don’t want any dead time when you’re online. And also I think that it’s the teaching techniques that you use in a face-to-face lesson. Actually you can use them in an online context too. In fact, you need to use them in online context. So not forgetting to give clear instructions to demonstrate activities by eliciting an answer first or eliciting an example first to demonstrate what you want them to do.

Skip to 1 minute and 20 seconds Those are key things that help the lesson to go smoothly. And it’s much more difficult, isn’t it, online to make sure that you’ve understood what is being presented to you. So those checking skills are really important. I think so, yes. So all the kind of techniques you use in the face-to-face environment, you might need to adapt them slightly but you still need to be doing them online. And I think that’s really key. And using again, the front gestures can really break it down, so counting the numbers of syllables with my hands, using this type of gesture to show, I want you to speak, or you need to pronounce it differently. Using this to say, I’m still listening.

Skip to 1 minute and 56 seconds I’m still waiting for you. So these types of things to make sure that they are successful. When we teach face-to-face, we need to establish rapport and build rapport. But online I think that can be a harder job. It can be more difficult for the teacher because the learners are in a different country. Everything seems so distant, so I think teachers maybe have to work a little bit harder at establishing rapport. Building rapport with certain students, sometimes it’s very easy and you have someone that you just click [with]. Other times, it does require more work. It may be that you have people coming together from all different places.

Skip to 2 minutes and 32 seconds So for example, in one class I taught, it was, the people were in the same country, but they all came from different places in that country. So they never saw each other face-to-face, and they didn’t build the same relationships. So that’s another thing to think about is how you get people to form relationships where they feel safe and confident speaking to the other people in their group. And that rapport, building that report is probably the most essential thing you really need to work on when you’re starting out with an online class. The key skills I would say you need to have are really, really bringing a lot of energy to every single class.

Skip to 3 minutes and 6 seconds So I always thought I had a really good rapport with my students, and that I was always a really friendly person. But sometimes after giving these classes, my face almost hurts from smiling so much and from using so many different expressions with the students. But it’s really, really necessary.

An overview of key skills

While the principles of teaching and learning remain the same across different teaching contexts, teaching online requires some new skills, as well as the adaptation of existing skills to suit the digital environment.

So what key skills and techniques do online teachers need to employ when teaching online? For example, being able to work with technology is a key skill.

Task 1

In the video, our teachers talk about key skills and techniques. What do you think they’re going to say? Which skills and techniques used in face-to-face teaching can teachers adapt for the digital classroom? Make a list of your ideas before you watch the video.

Task 2

Now, watch the video and check your predictions. Which skills and techniques do the teachers in the video mention?

Check your answers

To find out more about the key skills an online teacher needs, read Cecilia Nobre’s article here on the differences between teaching online and teaching face-to-face. As an experienced online teacher, Cecilia examines six key teaching skills and suggests useful online tools to help put them into practice.

Reflect and share

One of the key skills for online teachers mentioned in the video is establishing and building rapport. How do you think an online teacher of English can develop good rapport with their learners and maintain motivation throughout a lesson? Share at least one idea in the comments. Read other participants’ comments and like the ideas that you want to try.

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This video is from the free online course:

Teaching English Online: China and Beyond

Cambridge Assessment English