Suggestions / ideas for running English classes online?

So, no particular reason for asking this right now (ha!), but I may need to figure out how to run my university courses online. It looks like the school may give both teachers and students use of MS Teams - I’ve had a very brief tutorial with that, but haven’t needed to use it yet.

I figure my composition courses would be straightforward enough - the core of that course is them writing and me marking anyway. But does anyone have experiences or suggestions for dealing with “general English” courses (60 students slowly working through a textbook, with assorted activities), or speaking classes?

Conversation is the big one that worries me. Has anyone heard of or used a way to replicate “small groups talking while the teacher wanders around” in an online setting? Is that actually an easy thing that tons of apps do these days, and I’m just ignorant of it?

And of course I’d need to put a sticky note on my home computer, reminding me to put my damn shirt on before I turn on the camera.

Oh yeah, sound gear … is a normal computer’s microphone adequate? Or should I be looking at getting a proper mic?

At least the students would enjoy the cats periodically walking across the video feed.


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Get a proper headset. You don’t want that reverb sound!

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Zoom allows for breakout rooms.

Free account allows 40 minute meetings for up to 100 people.


In terms of ‘small groups talking while the teacher wanders around’, I thought of Discord - you could make a bunch of voice channels, with one being the ‘main’ channel, and group them (e.g. ‘you three go to channel A, you three go to channel B, etc. and practice this grammar’), and you could switch around each one as you please to listen in. Not sure how strict your university will be about which software you use, but I really think discord (or maybe something similar like slack, though slack is not free for many features) is pretty robust.

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Students might be already familiar with Discord.


Yeah, that’d definitely be a concern. I have a strong suspicion that what my school requires will be more hassle and less useful than other options, and I’ll give up trying to run a “good” class because I need to waste my energy following the rules instead. But we’ll see - this is all hypothetical for the moment. I just want to be not totally overwhelmed if it does come to pass, and I assume forumosa’s got other users in similar situations.

I listen to a lot of the podcasts from Signum University / Mythgard Academy, although what they do is more lecture + question based than what I typically do, and I’ve never listened to their live lectures. Anyway, their tutorial on online teaching, from yesterday, is something I’ll be watching soon:

Cool, thanks: and it looks like you can take a break and then resume with another 40 minute meeting soon after. That’s useful, even if it feels like cheating. Their pro plan is USD$14.99/month, which isn’t bad either, if I’m paying for just a few months.

I did hear that Zoom is getting a bit creaky from being overloaded at the moment - understandably! - but perhaps that wouldn’t such a big problem here, what with the time zone difference.

I’m dreading this happening. I am currently using Skype with half a dozen Chinese students who are stuck in China, but how on earth am I going to teach 40+ conversation class students online? I think I might give TPRS a crack, always wanted to have a proper go with it and this might be the perfect excuse.


I’m wondering about “write and record yourselves performing a role-play” exercises. Not something I normally do, but who the heck knows how this is going to work.

On the plus side, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the quieter students become more outgoing if they’ve got a chat box to type into. Also on the plus side, if it’s possible for me to “stealth switch” into different groups, with them not knowing when I’m about to show up (or even when I’m there? Not sure how the software works), I suspect that’d make some students perform a little better!

I did surveys of a couple of my classes yesterday, and out of around 60 students, only one doesn’t have reliable internet at home, so that’s good. I think there were 3-4 that would be stuck on smartphones only; I was surprised that well over half the students seem to have their own computer. I’ve always assumed a bigger share used the school computers, or shared a family computer at home. (And if they do have computers with keyboards, why on earth do so many of them write their homework on their phones?!)

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I did this for a language class in college, and it generally worked pretty well - you had to write and perform with either yourself playing all parts, with a native speaker, or with another student (but they also had to record their own, separately). It was also supplemented by weekly 15-minute one-on-one meetings with the teacher to go through any issues, and then we’d have to re-record with the corrections. Didn’t feel as effective as immediate correction & feedback, but definitely better than nothing. :2cents:

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On headsets: any recommended brands / kinds that are available to buy in Taiwan oh, let’s say, this weekend?

I don’t know if this is helpful or not, but I have started a FREE online course called “Teach English Online” created by Cambridge Assessment English, on the FutureLearn site:

I’ve found this course to be very helpful, and I think it can answer some of the questions brought up in this thread (what equipment do I need? how do I use breakout rooms? how to teach speaking?). Might be worth signing up, if you have the time.

Also, The Digital Teacher ( has lots of tips, lesson plans and reviews for teaching online.


One more suggestion: take a look at Russell Stannard’s site (or YouTube page) Teacher Training Videos:

He has an impressive collection of videos on topics discussed in this thread, such as teaching online, teaching with Zoom, and teaching with Skype.

My uni just sent me an email with details of some online teaching software they’ve bought. Dammit! It’s going to happen. And all because a bunch of selfish morons couldn’t bring themselves to cancel their vacation.

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People in my school have been talking about this for days. I think they’re going to be using Zoom, but I doubt this is going to work well. A lot of kids in my school don’t even have a reliable internet connection. The head of the local education bureau tried out Zoom with several principals yesterday and it didn’t work. Some of us were thinking we could just make little movies, assign homework to go with the movies, and put the movies on YouTube.

Not very conversational I’ll agree, but Taitung isn’t exactly a high tech sort of place.

Hello there,

My school has floated the idea of us teaching from home. However, I’m aware that it’s only legal to work at that specific school’s address on the work permit. My home address is not on it. Anyone here have any idea if I would face legal repercussions teaching from home in this situation? I know we haven’t encountered this type of thing in recent memory so hopefully a special allowance would be given? Just a bit unnerving to not see anything concrete about it. Anyone have any insight?

Thank you!!

I was going to go look for something tomorrow. Maybe it’s time

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