Is Classroom Teaching Endangered…By Online Teaching?

plc180.jpgGoogle news updates recently delivered to me an interesting blog post about online teaching: is it a threat? Overall, I agree with the author’s conclusion that online teaching does not represent a threat to traditional classroom teaching in the near future and that it appeals to a different and perhaps complementary market.

I do, however, have a different opinion as to why. I don’t think practical resources are theoretically such an issue; most of what is in a school’s resource room – or its equivalent – can relatively easily be converted to some form acceptable for online use (though there may well be legal or copyright issues which would take some time to organize on a wider scale). In general though, I think technology can overcome most of the obstacles its use initially presents.

I personally think the reason online teaching won’t take off on a worldwide level enough to pose a threat to in-person teaching is simply that there are enough learners who just don’t want it or don’t have Internet access or even a computer. I’m sure there are areas and segments of the population – such as parts of Asia, which do of course represent a huge EFL market – where this is not true, but I think in other regions, and even in many other parts of Asia, only a small portion of learners have the resources for and an interest in online learning.

I don’t think “classic” ESL learners in the US or UK would learn online. Granted, immigrants and refugees are not typically considered high-paying customers, and so their situation might have a lesser impact than those who are, but even EFL learners who have come to an English-speaking country to be immersed…have come to an English speaking country to be immersed! Online study in place of in-person lessons strikes me as something that wouldn’t appeal to them. Additionally, even in countries with relatively advanced technology, my impression is that their own public schools and I suspect their attitudes towards learning in general may retain a lot of traditional elements.

I should point out that I am surprisingly low-tech myself, and this may influence my views on online teaching. But still, twenty years ago people hypothesized about a future where print books wouldn’t exist – and I think the same facet of human nature that has led us to hold on to “real” books will also prevent online teaching from becoming a threat to classroom teaching, at least for some time.

All that said…there might be a few interesting aspects of online teaching…