Bea Koch has been teaching English in Madrid for the past five years. She received her TEFL certificate in 2007 and started teaching straight away for two different English academies, giving mostly group and one-to-one classes in companies. Three years ago, she began teaching English over the phone and on Skype, and has been doing that ever since.
EF: How did you become attracted to the idea of teaching English via Skype?
B: Teaching via Skype has many advantages, the main one being that you can do it from anywhere in the world - the only thing you need is a good internet connection and your students can be from anywhere in the world, too.
EF: What types of students do you tend to have in terms of ages and levels of English?
B: At present, 90% of my students are adults - their levels ranging from B1 to C2. Teaching A2 students via Skype is more of a challenge, but possible.
EF: What reason do your students normally give for choosing to take classes via Skype?
B: To practice conversation, to be less nervous when answering phone calls and to save travelling time to and from school/teacher's house.
EF: How does a typical Skype class go?
B: Two days before the class I send students a lesson (online) that contains three of the four skills (speaking, listening, writing or reading). On the day, I'll call up the student on Skype, we have a 2 minute icebreaker and we go over the class I've sent them. During the last minute of the class I do a mini-summary of the points we have covered.
EF: What are some advantages that a Skype class has over a class in person?
B: There is no time for distractions - you are practising the two main skills at all times: you are either listening or speaking. You also save in travelling time and in general. You therefore save money overall.
EF: What are some of the disadvantages?
B: In my opinion there aren't many - maybe the fact that the student does not get to interact with other students, so you can't do group activities.
EF: How do you measure your students' results - do you give exams, do they keep you updated on their daily lives?
B: You can give them a "test" after a few months, but in general the teacher can tell that the student is advancing from the quality of their "use of English" - either by speaking, pronunciation, accuracy - and/or through homework.
EF: Who do you think is an ideal candidate for taking English classes via Skype?
B: Anyone could take classes via Skype, unless they have some handicap that could compromise their comprehension, listening or sight.
EF: Since the classes are online, the resources are probably from there, too. What sites do you recommend your students visit to improve their skills?
B: There are loads of excellent websites out there but I prefer not to point out one in favour of another.
EF: Any final advice or words?
B: I've been a big fan of Skype ever since I began teaching with it. I notice my students demonstrate improvement really early in the course. Nevertheless, one thing must be said. The student needs to do his/her part too, as in any other method of studying. There isn't a magic pill that you can just pop to speak English fluently the next day. Commitment is key to learning anything in life, but classes via Skype may shorten the time it takes to achieve your goal. The teacher's commitment is also very important. He/she must be very aware of each student's necessities, goals, weaknesses and achievements and act in accordance to it. Last but not least, I find that preparing a class that your student and you (as the teacher) will to enjoy to be the ultimate key to success and a sense of achievement.