Published: Sep 16, 2022 | By: Lucas Weaver
There are many ways to learn English online, but how do you know which lessons will be best for you? The first step is to ask questions based on what's important to you.
Every English learner has different needs. Do you have an English event coming up soon that you need to prepare for? Then a fast-paced, intensive English course might be the best option for you.
Are you preparing to take an academic or immigration exam that will be scheduled months in the future? Then the best course for you would be where you get consistent practice over a long period of time, and a challenging amount of homework each week that will help you improve all of your English language skills.
Alternatively, maybe you have an exam, such as the IELTS, coming up quite soon. In that case, private exam prep lessons would be the fastest way to make sure you improve all of the exact English skills you need before you have to take your exam.
Are you preparing to give a speech in English at a conference? One-on-one online English lessons with an instructor who’s experienced with helping students with public speaking would be the best option to improve for your specific needs.
The questions you ask about your potential online English courses will determine what information you receive. First, determine what’s important to you, then you can ask questions related to that information.
Class sizes will determine how much individual attention you get from your English teacher. If the class is too large, it will be difficult to engage one-on-one much with your teacher, which means you get less personal attention. Also, smaller groups can give advantages, like getting to know your classmates better. However, larger groups give you more chances to meet more people, if one of your motivations for taking the course is to meet new people.
Class length is important depending on your own learning style and speed. Are you able to pay attention for long periods of time, or do you get bored easily and have difficulty concentrating? Lessons can range from 45 minutes to 4 hours in length, and you’ll want to make sure you have that information before you sign up for your course.
You’ll also want to have information on the teacher of your course before you sign up. Is the teacher a native English speaker? How much experience do they have? Do they speak your own native language? These are important things to know as native speakers will have a better feel for the language than non-native speakers. And a teacher with more experience may have had a student that struggled with the exact same things as you before. Having someone who speaks your native language is not always a plus, but is definitely helpful if you're a complete beginner.
If you’re choosing a business English teacher, you’ll want to make sure that your teacher has experience in the business world. Having a teacher who has been in business situations will make it easier for them to advise you on real-world business situations that you are likely to encounter. English teachers with business experience will also be more likely to understand your situations, and many times can teach you things you didn’t even know you needed. As they say in business, "time is money", so making sure you have a business English teacher experienced in business will save you both!
If test prep is your main focus, find out if the teacher you’re getting has experience teaching courses focused on the exam which you need. It will be a huge advantage for you if you find a teacher that has prepared many students before you for the same exam you're taking, that way they’ll be able to use what they’ve learned with previous students to help you faster. And when it comes to exam prep, you can't afford to miss out on potential points because you have an inexperienced teacher.
Not all virtual classroom and meeting tools were created equally. Some online language learning platforms use Zoom, some use Google Meet, and some even still use Skype. As the world gets further into the digital/virtual revolution inspired by the pandemic-era lockdowns, online meeting tools are getting more and more specialized.
In the beginning, there seemed to be only a few options, and Zoom was basically the only good one. Now most of the big online meeting tools have gotten pretty good, and it's now coming down to the specialized features they provide. Personally, we ended up going with a tool specialized just for online classrooms for our online language lessons, simply because they seem to build their product with online students in mind, not as an afterthought.
Class times will probably be the first question you ask, especially if you have a job or a busy schedule. Make sure that the time and the day of the course offered fits with your schedule and gives you the best chance to attend all the lessons. You should also make sure that you can schedule all of your lessons upfront. Some platforms make you compete for teachers with other students, making it difficult sometimes to get the teacher you want at the time you need. At the Weaver School, we make sure that the teacher you want is the teacher you get. You always choose one specific time and day that works for your schedule and then you have that time and day reserved for your entire course.
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Lucas Weaver founded The Weaver School in 2016. He's passionate about using the latest learnings in neuroscience and education to create the best language learning experience possible for our students, so they can quickly build effective language learning habits that will last for years. Lucas is a graduate of Texas A&M University and after 7 years of living in the Netherlands, he is currently traveling through Southeast Asia while learning their languages along the way.