Teaching Adult Learners: 5 Things Teachers Need to Know
Online courses have become very popular over the course of five short years. According to an article on Imo Education, they predict that by 2019, 50% of classes will be taken online. With education becoming more and more accessible to adults, teaching these courses will also become a lot more common. Here are five things teachers should know when working with adults online
Teaching Online Requires Time
If you are thinking of teaching a few courses on the side, or even for your primary job, you should be aware of the time and dedication required to teach in this setting successfully. You may not need to leave your home, but apart from the actual lesson time, there is a lot of prep work that must go into each course. From preparing powerful lessons, researching appropriate lesson materials, interacting with students, and providing feedback and grades, you may find these requirements a bit overwhelming. To help with these issues, create a daily work plan to organize your time effectively.
2. Communication is Critical
Working online with students can make it a lot harder to build a relationship. Some may not feel comfortable asking questions (especially in other countries and within different cultures). When teaching an online course, ensure you keep up communication with your students regularly. Touching base with them will help build a rapport, as well as help with their motivation, especially if they know you are taking an active interest in their growth and progress.
3. Feedback Matters
Providing constructive feedback is essential in any learning environment, but even more so for online teaching. Useful feedback will help your students improve in their work, as well as grow in confidence. The input you provide should always be detailed and helpful. If possible, make time to meet with your students on a regular basis. You do not want students waiting weeks for their feedback. To move forward, they need to know where they are, and what requires improvement.
4. Encourage Discussions
Encouraging discussions may not be as simple as it would in a brick and mortar classroom. However, many online courses have discussion boards or private online Facebook groups where you can hold group chats. If your employer allows, start a private Facebook group for your students. In this group, you will be able to work with students outside of the classroom, and they will get to meet each other as well.
5. Gather Feedback
According to Michelle Everson, “Through feedback, I learned that the students wanted to hear more from me, if anything just to let them know they are on the right track.” Getting feedback from your students will make you a more effective teacher going forward, and in doing so, will give the students a better online experience themselves. It will also help to discover if parts of the course you are teaching require improvement.
And here are some tips from teachers at 51Talk, who work with adults online teaching English:
Emily Widy, “A good tip I would give to others about teaching adults is to treat them as such! Give them respect, ask them about what they did that day, or what their plans are for the weekend. Make some jokes and have some fun. Also, tell them a little bit about yourself. I have noticed a lot of adult students prefer a more free-talk, conversational type of lesson. We still go through the structure of the lesson they’ve chosen, but we definitely have side talks as well. I think this really helps their fluency and guides them into a more conversational pace of speaking English.”
Susan Maby, “I’ll choose a teaching point or elaborate on something for the student to extend the lesson. If it’s a page with some complexity, I always ask the student if they have any questions about the material before we move to the next page. I think they appreciate that.”