Imagine teaching a child, building a relationship week after week, getting to know their strengths and weakness, making a personal connection, and yet you've never met them in person. This isn't some philosophical mind puzzle, but a reality for me and my colleagues at EF Kids Online (or KON for short). Every day, we teach kids from many different centers across Shanghai from the comfort of our own desks. How much does on-line teaching differ from in-class teaching? Take a look into our day to day lives to find out!
KON is a relatively new product at EF, although its first iteration has been around since October of last year (2017). KON started with only three teachers working out of HQ and has grown and evolved into 19 teachers – 17 international, 2 local. Currently, online packages are offered in eight centers in Shanghai, with plans to grow both in Shanghai and across China. Our center, located not far from People's Square, works similar to in-class centers in that we have an Academic Manager, a Center Director, and a team of online admin; all working together to deliver quality classes to our students using the same EF course material. The one big difference? No actual students ever set foot in our center!
Instead of interacting with students face to face, we teach classes on an on-line “classroom” platform. This platform allows us to hear and see the children through a webcam and microphone headset, and we are able to interact with the children through tools such as, text, a laser pointer, a paint tool, and are able to give rewards to children (called trophies). As well, we can mute the children who are misbehaving, a process we call down-staging. Another difference between online and in class teaching is that we currently only teach High Flyer students one-on-one, and each lesson is 25 minutes. We can have up to 8 classes on weekdays, or 12 classes on weekends, and all lessons are scheduled 24 hours in advance. Similar to in-class centers, most students take classes after public school or on the weekends. All classes are recorded for parents and students to review afterwards, as well as an “After Class Report” written by the teacher. Typically, teachers prepare for their classes the day before, or the day of.
Teaching online comes with its own struggles and benefits. One of the biggest struggles in this stage of KON is technical issues, including a bad connection, or a student not being able to hear or see us (and vice-versa). However, as KON becomes more and more refined, our technical issues will be a thing of the past. Besides that, some more obvious issues include making a meaningful connection with your student, and being able to control your student's behavior – both are hard when you aren't sitting directly across from one another. So, you may be asking, why teach online? Well, teaching online can be just as rewarding as teaching in center. The reason I love teaching online is that every day I get to interact with different students from across Shanghai. Plus, with our one-on-one format, I love that I get to pay more attention to my student in the “classroom”. And, let's face it, teaching in class can be exhausting; I love the flexibility of the 25 minute classes.
We might be a relatively new center, but we're excited about the future of teaching online! Currently, KON has plans to expand overseas and in-center. We're hoping to, eventually, grow to a team of over 100 teachers, both full- and part-time, in China and around the world, teaching almost 24 hours a day to thousands of students! For now, KON is happily surfing the web in the office at People's Square.