With so many free English lessons online, is there any value in English lessons with a teacher?
That’s a question asked regularly, not only by EFL students, but also by EFL teachers who can see that their role is changing – and even fear that they may become obsolete altogether.
My answer is that a teacher’s job is so much more than just to present information – otherwise we could have learned Mathematics by reading a book, rather than attending school.
Language, like mathematics, is a skill, and needs to be practiced and refined to get it right. The teacher’s role is like a coach- she takes the student who has the ability and the theoretical knowledge, and she helps him to use it.
A football coach may not play as well as their professional clients, but their job is not to teach football, but rather to alert their student to where they can improve and to hold them accountable to training and dietary goals they may have set. In the absence of a coach, the athlete finds it easier to skip training sessions or break their preparation discipline. The payment made to the coach actually ensures that the player will follow their coach’s advice – not to do so would involve throwing away a service already paid for!
The payment factor is also relevant to learning. If we pay a week’s salary for a course of lessons we are much more likely to follow them than we are to complete a free online course. Again – the payment ensures our success.
In the EFL classroom, the paying student learns more when there is more at stake, and the paid teacher is committed to making the student accountable and motivated to reach their goals.
Another factor to consider is that the professional EFL teacher is qualified (TEFL qualifications) to analyze the students ability, assign them to the level of study best suited to their capability, and to address their questions and problems. Anyone can set themselves up as an EFL guru online and, while there are many great teachers offering great free online lessons, there are also some mediocre –and downright bad- teachers out there too. It is difficult for the student to determine the quality – or even the accuracy- of the material.
The main message is that EFL teaching is not dead – it is merely undergoing a metamorphosis, in which the many advantages of the Internet may be incorporated. The good teacher cannot ignore the changes in learning and the profusion of information available – but he would be wrong to regard it as competition. While there are many who reject the idea of online teaching, and prefer to continue with the traditional classroom approach, they are still able to use online lessons and material to enhance their teaching techniques. The really exciting development is the new opportunities that online teaching presents for those who embrace the technology and use it to build highly-lucrative online teaching businesses. There will be a generation of English language teachers with the ability to earn salaries that pre-internet teachers could only dream about, and offer the potential for English teachers to be financially rewarded for their English lessons online.
If you don’t believe me, have a look at the millionaire tutors in Hong Kong!