With the development of technology a new approach to teaching and learning has been developing since the end of the last century – that is distance learning. The rough definition for this term would be teaching and learning process where the teacher and the learner(s) are not physically around each other. Under this term you can view online sessions with a webcamera, written correspondence sessions, synchronous and asynchronous work on projects and many more. The blend of distance and face-to-face sessions is called Hybrid or Blended.
These types of courses are popular mainly with adult population. Below are some of the numerous advantages of this type of teaching and learning:
- flexibility of schedule
- relatively low cost
- provides with additional skills
- promotes learner autonomy
- does not interfere with job hours
However, distance learning has challenges the most obvious of which may be lack of necessary technology skills both on the teacher’s and the student’s side, weak discipline, unavailability of equipement and so forth.
So what is the difference between a conventuinal teacher and a distance course teachers? The difference is between the roles that they asume in the teaching / learning process. Reseach conducted among distance language teachers revealed several maxims of successful teacher attributes, which are the following:
- Empowerment ( give students the sense of possibility and agency),
- Appropriateness (Find ways to assure your support is appropriate),
- Honesty ( work for an honest andsupprotive raltionship),
- Openness (be approachable for students).
As a private tutor I have been tutorin via skype for 3 years already and I can say I have seen distance language learning from inside. Though teaching through skype is one side of the coin. There are many other tools which don’t require a teacher such as Livemocha. This tool gives you a totally different experience. Here is where the phrase “one good turn deserves another” is more than appropriate. In a word you check the work of other people leaning your native language and get points which you in your turn can use to “buy” a course. Here native speakers of the target language you want to learn will be checking your work and giving you feedback. When doing this I realized how this exercise raises metalinguistic awareness and critical thinking. When giving feedback you look at your speech trying to keep it at the learner’s level. You always make sure to avoid ambiguity and complicated sentences that may mislead the learner even more. When you are the student you expect the same kind of self-reflexive attitude towards your learning.