Trainer interview – going virtual with Dan Bernauer

Dan Bernauer

Photo credit: EnglishBusiness AG

When Germany enforced restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic, our training team had to move classes online within days. Luckily, trainers like Dan Bernauer have embraced the change and turned the online classroom into a place their students love. In this interview Dan explains how he successfully transitioned to virtual language teaching.

How has the transition to virtual classes been for you?

It was relatively painless. I was happy to change my teaching methods to suit the times.

In most cases it has been easy to create good online lessons for my students. Learning English on the internet is great because there is such a wealth of English content.

Apart from that, I now save a lot of time by not traveling to classes, which I can put into my planning.

How does teaching online differ from the classroom setting?

I find that I can be far more versatile and responsive to my students and their requirements.

If students are interested in expanding on a topic, I can add any new vocabulary to our online class list while the students do some online research on the topic. They can then present their findings to the group later in the class.

This simple activity involves reading, comprehending, and presenting, all while the students explore something they decided to learn about.

What are the benefits of online training?

The biggest plus is that students have personal access to the internet during the lesson. This enables them to take more of an active role in their learning. They can share videos and articles or pictures, and have other tabs with dictionaries open, which also makes the lesson interactive despite the physical distance.

The many incredible online possibilities make it easier to facilitate the students’ learning rather than dictating what and how they learn at all points of the lesson. It makes for a freer and more creative learning space.

What are the challenges?

Initially there may be technical problems. You have to choose a suitable video conferencing tool and make sure everyone has access. On the other hand people have already gotten more adapted to online tools.

I do find that online lessons work better for smaller groups. You can only see a limited amount of people on your screen, so it’s harder to address students individually. Tools like Zoom allow you to break the class into smaller groups for activities, but generally I’d try to keep the class size below twelve.

What platforms and resources have you used so far? How has the experience been?

Just in terms of teaching, Zoom is the best platform. It has break-out rooms and a white board function. However, there are security concerns so Zoom might not always be the appropriate choice. MS Teams is a solid all-rounder with screen and audio sharing capabilities that are helpful during lessons.

Quizlet is an app that has worked well for building vocabulary lists and has some fun options for studying them after class.

What has the feedback from students been? Which aspects of the virtual classroom have they enjoyed most?

The feedback has been very positive. The students are finding it easy to use online resources in class and contribute to the lesson by sharing their screens. We’ve done more listening comprehension tasks, which are quite popular.

Another positive effect of moving lessons online is that we now use zero paper during the lesson and Quizlet is proving to be a great alternative to vocabulary lists and flash cards.

Can online classes replace face-to-face lessons?

Yes, in fact I have two classes which are going to now stay online after the restrictions have been lifted. The students value the ease of attendance and the versatility of our virtual classroom.

What are your tips for working and learning from home?

This is obviously quite dependent on your living situation, but I would focus on two things. Try to establish and stick to a new daily routine, and separate your workspace from your recreational or private space.

About Dan

Dan is a dual citizen of Australia and Spain. His shared European and Australian background has enabled him to evolve into an intercultural expert with extensive knowledge of cultural diversity and exchange.

After studying Philosophy at the University of Sydney, Dan travelled extensively throughout Europe. He brings a wealth of cultural knowledge and an open personal manner to every class he has taught for EnglishBusiness. His passion today lies in applying his teaching skills to help companies as they internationalize their workforces.

Since he started with EnglishBusiness, students have applauded his ability to help them gain confidence speaking English in his friendly, informative, and excitingly varied discussion-based classes.

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