How do you present your material? How do you make it available to your students? There are 5 basic ways to share your files, documents and slides with a student.
Sending material by email before the lesson
This seems to be the most common idea, also among students. However, it’s not the best way to provide your students with material. Why?
- Even if you create an email folder for each student and save your sent emails in it, you will need to write down in another document what exactly you sent and when you sent it so that you don’t lose track what you did with your student. If you work with a textbook, that’s a bit easier, of course.
- Don’t expect your students to be organised. Some are but in many cases, it will happen that you asked your student to open the document you emailed yesterday and the student will frantically start to search his emails resulting in unnecessary loss of time.
Sending material through Skype
This seems to be a preferred method by teachers. Just like with emails, you will also need another document where you note what you sent.
Sending material through Skype before the lesson is acceptable but not the best solution, in my opinion. When downloading it under standard settings, the file is saved in the student’s download folder. Once again: Don’t expect your students to be organised. Most likely, the file will stay in the download folder and disappear from the student’s mind after the lesson.
Sending material through Skype during the lesson is a no-go as far as I’m concerned. Here are my reasons:
- It slows down the connection. You may have fast internet and it doesn’t affect you when sending something during the Skype lesson. It may be different for your student. The video could became blurry and the sound quality decreased. It’s annoying, even it lasts just for one or two minutes.
- Many people who take language lessons online are introverts and/or a bit shy. It could be stressful for them to do not know before the lesson what to expect, especially if they don’t speak the language well yet. Spare your students this feeling, give them the possibility to have a look at the material before the lesson.
Sharing your screen during the lesson
Some teachers provide material just by sharing their screen, they don’t make the material available to their students or send it later after the lesson. While you can make it work, it’s not the best solution for a student for three reasons:
- When a teacher shares his screen with the student, the student totally depends on the teacher. There’s no way, he can scroll up or down to check something which was discussed a couple of minutes ago, for example. It’s a situation of absolute dependency and that’s not necessary nowadays.
- The content often appears very small on the student’s screen. Especially if they are using mobile phone or a tablet. Sure, the teacher may zoom in but it’s still difficult for the student to read.
- It’s more difficult to highlight the text and impossible to copy-paste it.
So is it always a bad idea to share the screen? No, you may do this temporarily. For example, when the student is lost and doesn’t know where you are. In this case, both of you have the same PDF file and by sharing your screen you can quickly show the student where you are.
Sharing links to websites or videos
Here, it depends on the content of the website. Does it complement other material you’re working with? In this case, it’s absolutely no problem to send a link during the session and go to the website for a couple of minutes.
Or do you want your student to read and discuss an article from a newspaper or blog? In this case, it’s better to provide the link before the session. Same reason like I already mentioned above: Give your student the possibility to have a look at the material before the session.
Sending a student to a website with online grammar exercises is pathetic, in my opinion. You may have spent some time searching for a website with such exercises but your student will get the impression that you were too lazy to prepare something adapted to his needs. Providing such a link at the end of the lesson and ask the student to do the exercises as a homework is absolutely fine, of course.
When sharing a video keep in mind that beginners and low intermediate students usually need 2 or 3 times to grasp the content. So it’s best to give them the possibility to watch the video before class or as a homework assignment.
Allow students to download the material
Sharing the material before the class allows students to be prepared and organized. You don’t waste time during the lesson and can work with text more efficient. It could be especially important if the internet connection is not perfect.
For me, this is the silver bullet and it’s how I work. I use a combination of Google Docs and Classmill to make all material available to my students – one day before the class starts.
All my material is stored in a cloud so I can easily share it by giving my students the download link. Every student has his own document (which we also use as a kind of blackboard in class) and I leave all download links on the first page of that document.
It gives the student the possibility to download the files before class and store them in a special folder. Some students simply open the links in class, that’s also fine. The links stay in the document, so the student can always go back to them.
Classmill, on the other hand, is great to organize different kinds of material. You can upload files, include videos and images and there’s even a discussion feature.