I think the key to teaching adults online is laughter. It’s got to be about having a laugh and staying connected with each other.
I teach 14 adults conversational Spanish every Wednesday evening. Normally, we meet at New College Lanarkshire. At the moment, we’re meeting via Zoom. A month or so ago, when we realised things were changing, I thought I’d just carry on and keep something going. People need that normality just for their own sanity.
I have some experience teaching online: when I was teaching at the University of Glasgow, I used to deliver lessons via video link to students in Dumfries. Even though you’re not physically in front of the students, having a good connection with them is crucial to keeping them engaged.
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With my adult learners, we have halted any assessment (which was quite a small task at the end of term anyway), so it’s all about having fun and being silly together.
A couple of weeks ago, I asked them to log into Zoom dressed as their favourite character from Spanish history or modern-day and introduce themselves. It was brilliant: footballers, Che Guevara, Enrique and Carmen Miranda to name a few on our screens. It was hilarious. The costumes were varied but the feedback was the same, from comments such as "Brilliant hour tonight, thank you to you all for making me laugh" to "Best part of my day".
I’ve also prepared a Spanish play for them and given everyone some lines to learn with the view of performing it live on Zoom. I get them to come up with some ideas as well: you can do anything online if you put your mind to it. I’m just want them to come along, take part and enjoy the experience.
They have a class WhatsApp group and are keeping in touch with each other during the week on that. When I asked them to dress up as characters, it was constantly going off with people giggling about what they were going to dress up as and how they were making their costumes. The class had gelled really well before college closed and they’re now closer than ever.
It’s been so much fun: laughter has been up there in everything we are doing. Everything you do online has to be done with humour.
Siobhan Argyle is a lecturer at New College Lanarkshire