We are well into month two of exclusively online learning at Diplomatic Language Services. As time passes and we adjust to our new normal, we decided to share some tips for making the most of your online class from our recent Student Webinar. We’ve touched on language training tips before, but learning exclusively online is a very different experience. In this article, we will be going over our tips for online language training along with some basics for spending the majority of our time online.
Implement a consistent schedule and stick to it. Setting up a routine helps you feel productive and like you are getting the most out of your days at home. Along with a consistent schedule, create a dedicated study space where you can participate in online training, and study peacefully. Comfortable seating, a clean table or desk, proper lighting, and a trustworthy Wi-Fi connection will all increase your ability to stay on track and keep yourself comfortable.
Utilize our tutorial videos for Zoom or Microsoft Teams to ensure you are comfortable with your online learning environment. Similarly, bookmark your go-to websites for language training on your browser to organize your virtual workspace.
As best you can, try to eliminate distractions which could be difficult now with loved ones and pets at home. A dedicated workspace and communicating your routine can help to minimize interruptions during your training. Be sure to remind yourself why you started acquiring a new language and stay motivated to meet your goals.
Now that you’ve got the basics down, read on to learn how to make the most of your online language class.
Be Your Own Advocate
An easy way to advocate for yourself and how you learn best is to openly communicate with your instructor. Need a break? Tell your instructor. Can’t see or hear your instructor very well? Ask them to adjust the camera and/or microphone. If you’re comfortable, ask to take remote control of their computer if they need help navigating the virtual environment. (If you don’t know how to do this, see our Zoom tutorials page for help!) We aren’t able to read body language, see visual cues, or hear each other as well through video platforms. To help alleviate some of the struggles, try being as explicit as possible with your needs.
Did you really like an activity your instructor picked or a teaching strategy they used during class? Let them know how helpful it was. Moreover, if you feel you need more variety in activities, let your instructor know that too. Online instruction can look different for every student and instructor, but only you know what works best for your learning style and it’s important for you to advocate for more of it.
Finding a balance between online and offline time is always important, but especially now that you are expected to be in front of a screen for the duration of your sessions. Along with open communication, let your instructor know when you need a break. Better yet, schedule in breaks together so it becomes routine. Implement this by taking a full lunch break and setting timers so that you are reminded to get up and take your eyes off of the screen in consistent increments.
Optometrists suggest following the 20-20-20 rule: after looking at a screen for 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds to lessen eye strain. To further decrease your screentime, try using a physical textbook and take notes in a notebook, if possible. If you don’t have a physical textbook, print out pages so you don’t have to rely solely on your computer.
If your instructor is not already doing so, encourage them to ‘chunk’ your lessons into different activities every 15 minutes or so. This will help keep you engaged and not stuck in the same activity for too long. Try turning off your camera and mute yourself while you practice autonomous activities (like listening), to get a chance to work on your own. This is where a ‘flipped’ teaching approach may work – instructors allow their students to work on something (grammar, for example) without them. This can be done by sending a definition or explanation to the student, having them work on their own, and regrouping to check for accuracy. Additionally, use your phone to your advantage during this time and practice speaking or listening activities with your instructor while walking outside. Getting a different perspective (and some fresh air) will contribute to greater online learning sustainment.
Become An Independent, Self-Directed Learner
This is important for language learning in general, but especially now that you are learning online. Reflect on your learning style and tell your instructor which activities have worked best for you. It’s important to set learning goals for acquiring a new language and you can ensure you’re effectively meeting those goals by focusing class on the way you learn best. Finding beneficial strategies and ensuring they align with your goals can aid in online learning, especially as they may differ from the strategies you used while in-person. Strategies are varied and plentiful, but a few examples include using flashcards, finding word roots, skimming and scanning while reading, etc. Pay attention to the strategies you find helpful and those that seem to hinder you. Don’t judge yourself or your abilities – just notice what is happening while learning and adjust your plan/goals as needed.
Use free resources to your advantage while working to meet your learning goals, like language apps and other online tools. Or, if you’re interested in a resource that requires a paid subscription, reach out to your Language Training Supervisor to see if there is a way DLS can help you access that particular resource.
Remember Your Support System
It can be difficult when it feels like it’s just you and your instructor on this language learning journey now, but you have a full staff and a community of support behind you at DLS. Whether it’s going to your Language Training Supervisor or the front desk staff, we are here to help you. We also offer many language training and wellness webinars that can be a helpful reminder that the DLS community is still here together, even if we may be physically apart.
Additionally, use this extra time with your family, roommates, and/or pets to your advantage! Bring them in for a lesson, if you feel comfortable doing so. Practice your speaking with them or simply let them in on what you’re learning and what goals you’ve set.
Hopefully, you feel you are struggling less than you were during the onset of distance learning. It’s very likely that this is a new territory for you, your instructor, and your classmates. Not to mention, an unexpected situation. Remember that your compassion and understanding can go a long way for your peers, teacher, and yourself.
We hope you’ve found our recommendations helpful and more importantly, useful. When you’re used to having one-on-one or small group classes at DLS, transitioning to distance learning can be challenging. We are here for you and welcome any feedback you may have regarding how your online training is going.