Learning German online

I’ve been teaching German one-to-one and in group settings for many years. I now find myself helping students learn German online to continue earning a living and to minimise disruption to existing students so that they can progress with their German language studies during this Covid19 crisis or upskills by learning German online.

Until February 2020, I was no advocate for online learning. What are my views today with e-learning being the dernier cri?

Online German lessons

A stable internet connection with enough internet bandwidth at both ends is essential to conduct lessons successfully via the data highway.

A desktop, laptop or tablet computer using headphones with a built-in microphone to minimise background noise is ideal. Mobile phones are a little on the small side.

The question now arises, which platform to use? I’ve used Facetime, Skype, Zoom, WebEx, Teams and Google Hangouts during the past month. I am yet to try the Houseparty platform.

Skype is a great platform that offers the exchange of notes and files with course material. Screen-sharing is also possible. The sound and picture quality aren’t always consistent, though. A good feature is that Skype stores the chat history you want to refer to during subsequent lessons. My recommendation is that students still take notes during lessons.

Facetime, on the other hand, offers no facilities to exchange notes or files, nor does it allow sharing screens. I would therefore discount FaceTime for e-learning.

WebEx and Teams offer the same functionality as Skype. Both apps need to be downloaded, seem to be using a fair bit of RAM and may slow down older computers with insufficient memory.

Zoom also requires downloading but uses minimal RAM, and the picture and sound quality are excellent. Google Hangouts, however, doesn’t require downloading as it works with the internet browser. Zoom and Google Hangout offers the same benefits as Skype but provides superior picture and sound. They are, therefore, my favourites.

Online German courses

An online German course is excellent as an interim solution, but it lacks the immediacy of contact with no accurate eye contact and less real dialogue. Teaching also requires teachers to learn about their students, which doesn’t happen much during online learning. If not planned well ahead, e-learning can mutate into a one-size-fits-all scenario, with students losing out on the conventional learning experience.

I prefer face-to-face lessons, and post-crisis, I will return to conventional teaching.