Are Skype Lessons The Latest Threat To In Person Lessons?

Are EFL teachers doomed to be replaced by online learning? I considered this topic a while back, and Sue from an ELT Notebook added an insightful comment, and had also made a few relevant posts of her own on the topic. It mostly seems that while online learning can supplement in-person classes, it is unlikely to pose a real threat to it.

However, I recently came across this: an offer of 30 minutes of lessons on Skype for $5…and the price is being lowered to $1 an hour to target South and Central America.

Granted, this is one case, and perhaps an unusual one…and we don’t really know the content of the lessons. I think it’s unlikely that the quality would be the same as that of 30 minutes of class time with a teacher who has some experience and even a basic qualification like a TEFL certificate. But this is considerably less than a student pays a school for a one to one lesson in Eastern Europe, and more or less on par with a teacher’s take home pay after the school takes its cut.

Given that these lessons could be “given” from anywhere, this does raise more of a question in my mind about implications for in-person lessons.

I do think students need to be fairly Internet-savvy to want to take Skype lessons or to see them as a real alternative. I would say that while the majority of my Eastern European students certainly use Internet, I don’t think Skype is commonplace by any means, and not enough to make this seem like a practical alternative to in-person lessons. I don’t know South and Central America well, but I also expect the target customers for Skype lessons would probably be in the higher income bracket.

But I imagine it is a different story in much of Asia, where this is quite below the going rate for one to one lessons, and where tech know-how and use is higher.

While I think most teachers with experience can agree that using only Skype lessons is a far cry from lesson in a school in person, in a field that is as market-driven as TEFL in Asia, the difference may seem unimportant enough to students.