Stepping into the Virtual Classroom

Skyping with my Dubai students just wasn’t working in early January.  Literally not working – they could see and hear me perfectly but the audio/visual at my end seemed scrambled. We soon discovered the reason – UAE had banned the free communication services I, and many other online tutors, use.

We tried the UAE’s approved VOIP service. The audio crackled, the video wouldn’t kick in, and I struggled without screensharing. We resorted to an old-fashioned method: collaborating on a powerpoint shared via Google Drive, while talking by phone. But that’s a poor substitute for being able to see each other and work on a document controlled by me.

It was time to step into the world of virtual classrooms, properly interactive online learning. But which of the many products in the marketplace suited me best? The right one would be easy at the student’s end. The audio and video would be audible and visible. The interactive whiteboard would work. And if I could also show videos – my own, or from YouTube – well, hurray! Techies might be able to do all this by manipulating a variety of products during one lesson. I am not a techie. My students are invariably aeons ahead of me when it comes to technology, and it’s not good business to test their patience too far….

After some research, I signed up to WizIQ, and so far, I love it. Better still, so do my online students . It’s early days, and there’ll be a learning curve (for me – all the students have to do is log-in.) I’m now using this everywhere online, not just where Skype and the rest are banned.

And I case studied the situation to teach an EAL student the meaning of the idiom “cloud with a silver lining’…

By Dr Julia Fowler

Private Academic Tutor in English Language and Literature; UK Curriculum, KS3, KS4, KS5; GCSE, iGCSE, AS / A-level all boards. In person and online.

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