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August 2021 - Year 23 - Issue 4

ISSN 1755-9715

Being Taught or Teaching Online (1)

Hanna Kryszewska is a teacher, teacher trainer, trainer of trainers. She is a senior lecturer at the University of Gdańsk, Poland. She is co-author of resource books: Learner Based Teaching, OUP, Towards Teaching, Heinemann,  The Standby Book, CUP,  Language Activities for Teenagers, CUP, The Company Words Keep, DELTA Publishing,  and a course book series for secondary schools: ForMat, Macmillan. She is also co-author of a video based teacher training course: Observing English Lessons. Hania is a Pilgrims trainer and editor of HLT Magazine. E-mail:  


How the article came obout

These voices come from extra mural MA university students (University of Gdańsk, Poland) who are language learners, pre-service teachers and often already practising teachers. They were the first groups of students who were forced to learn and often teach online because of the pandemic. Here are their voices in the original version.



Before the virus I did not have much experience with online teaching, however; now I have  had the chance to see how teachers have coped with being forced to teach in this way. I have seen how a student in class 6 and myself have been taught by using online networks.

Looking at the student in class 6 it is incredible how each teacher organized their teaching. Some sent so much work that it was unbelievable to think that they would do this much in class in normal lesson time. On the other hand others hardly made any effort to use the online teaching, poorly prepared for the lessons, not enough contact with the students. It was surprising to notice at the way parents deal with the only teaching and how they (most of the time) did the work for the child in order for the child  to get the best grade or to get the work done asap.

Comparing primary school to university, I have noticed that it is a similar case (apart from the parents doing the work for the student). Some teachers were VERY organized, always sent the materials on time, sent links to the online meetings on zoom which was always helpful to organize time for the children in order to take part in the meetings. However, there were cases where there was no available contact with the teacher and no preparation before which was difficult for the students. I think that the teachers who have had the experience of online teaching managed without any problems and the teacher’s who have not had the previous experience struggled with this system.

I have not had the experience to teach online, therefore; I have not given my opinion on this matter.




Online teaching I was supposed to do my MA didactic teaching practice in traditional way (40 hours in State High School), however situation with coronavirus has forced all of students to conduct lessons online. At first, I thought this may not be possible and I was really stressed out. Firsty, because I have no experience in teaching (except from conducting a few lessons in state primary school), but also because of technical problems such as Internet connection, lack of my knowledge about teaching platform for school use. However, to my surprise I haven’t noticed any significant technical problems during online teaching (except from background noise and the teaching platform froze). I wrote a lesson plan for B2 level students. The lesson was structured in few stages (warm-up, pre-teaching, teaching, post-teaching and follow up). All materials essential were sent to the learners before lesson. I found evidences of students’ motivation in the learning process: they paid attention during the class and wanted to participate actively in the lesson. They developed and practiced speaking. The lesson include the aim of real communication. In my opinion they were more self- confident and aware of language usage because I let them choose to have camera on/off during the speaking (some of the learners were more talkative than the others). This lack of real face-to-face engagement between the learners and me had no impact on lesson aims - this was confirmed by my mentor after the lesson. I am critical of one aspect - time management. The lesson took a bit longer than 45 minutes




I am a teacher of English in a preschool. The beginning of online teaching was quite difficult for me. Firstly, I need to state that I conduct my lessons in a way suitable to very young learners: I introduce a lot of movement into the lesson, songs, visuals, fun and game activities. Therefore, I had a huge difficulty in how to continue doing that. There was an option of conducting lessons on Zoom or other program, however, it was hard to organise with such young children. Moreover, we were informed that we cannot do it with the youngest children in the preschool who are 3-4 years old since they are too little to sit in front of the computer. Hence, I knew that I have to think about a solution that would be suitable to all the children, their parents and me. I have conducted online teaching in a form of creating a list of a few points with things to do (explaining some concepts, tasks and providing ideas for different activities). Also, I have made some short videos where I introduced some new words and encouraged the learners to repeat or where I read some books. I did it in order to be sure that learners have some input and to make them happy that they can see their teacher.

To conclude, I can say that I am not fully satisfied with the way how I conducted it since a lot had to be done with help of the parents. Moreover, I cannot be sure that everyone followed my instructions. However, it is difficult for me to think about the best solution in the case of teaching very young learners. 




My experience with online teaching

- At first it was hard to get used to talk to the laptop sitting in my house instead of talking to group of learners in the classroom.

- I had to solve the problem of “concept checking”- because of noise everybody had microphone off and I did not know immediately what was and what was not understandable.

- Children did not know how to use technological devices and first lessons were mostly basing on explaining how applications work, often parents were present during classes (now they are present also but they hide and I can only hear them answering my questions- sometimes I have feelings of teaching parents instead of learners but it is a subject for another discussion)

- As some issues have to be discovered by the children themselves it was important to select information available via webpages/apps/any other online or my own resources to be most suitable, understandable and clear for students.

- Being online mean being available 24/7 for students and parents and I constantly feel as being at work, additionally some parents call me in the afternoon/ weekend to ask questions (I am also the form teacher).

- I was used to “act” in front of my students (those young) in order to make my message clear- lots of gestures, mimic, playing with the voice and it was fun for them and for me; but it is not the same in front of the computer and having in mind that parents are watching- they may think that is not teaching.  I had a situation when parents were trying to instruct me in the teaching, saying “You should do this and this..” and it was embarrassing as they did it in front of the group.

- And last but not least- terrible internet connection and lack of equipment- which is the nightmare of my colleagues and students from the school I teach. Some students had to participate in classes via mobile phone  by calling friend or me; some did not even participate as their siblings had classes in the same time.




When it comes to teaching online, I would divide it into two categories: teaching online in real time on camera and sending a “to do” list to a students on a platform. Every type of teaching has its pros and cons. I believe that younger children gain more from learning on cameras, because everything can be explained, they can ask about something they do not understand. When it comes to a “to do” list, it is impossible. However, not every child has access to a computer or a phone to take part in such lessons on cameras.

When it comes to being taught online. I believe a “to do” list is more accurate for older students, for example at University. It is hard to listen to a lecture that lasts 3 hours. Teachers often do not have an idea what to do, so they play videos, not short at all. All that students can do at their own when they have time. It should be just submitted on time, and that's it. Another problem is that parents are too demanding. They want their children to be taught properly but also without their assistance, which is undoable.  To sum up, there is no type of teaching and learning that would be the best for everyone. I believe that teachers as well as parents should be lenient during these difficult times and they should be cooperative.



As a teacher, I think that there are numerous advantages and disadvantages of teaching online. Unfortunately, there are students who do not take part in online lessons and do not do any of the given tasks. What is even worse, some of the parents do not cooperate, do not support their children. What is more, there are students who log in for the online lessons and that’s all they do. Very often they just leave the computer and do other things- they do not answer the questions in any way- speaking or writing in the chat. It happened that the students told me that they didn’t answer my questions if they were with us, because they were sleeping or just had left the room.

Also, as far as doing some tasks is concerned, there are students who reject doing anything. Maybe it is connected with the lack of motivation, maybe because they know they won’t get any bad marks (and this would happen during lessons at school). We are told not to give bad marks for not doing and not sending the tasks as the students may not have the opportunity to do them, have some problems with internet etc. And I think that the lazy students just take advantage of it.

However, I think that there are also numerous advantages. Some of the students who didn’t do very well before now have the opportunity to get better marks. Very often they are given activities to do and send back and get good marks. They can use various sources to find information, they have some time to complete the tasks. They do not have tests like at school. And obviously it is easier for them to get 5 for some exercises done with the coursebook than to learn and get 5 from a test at school.

Consequently, I think that for me as a teacher it makes me see who is devoted, who wants to learn something and cares about the subject. I found out that some of my students are more eager to work, but maybe sometimes they were too shy or just didn’t feel confident enough. And some of my students showed that they won’t do anything unless they are made to.




From my own experience as well as my relatives’, I would say that both learning and teaching online is not an easy task, especially under very stressful and disturbing conditions, such as pandemic. It is a key factor, because under “normal” condition, I find online classes an attractive and useful variety. But with spending most of the time in isolation at home, the additional hours in front of computer are not a pleasure at all. On contrary, it can lead to the decrease of motivation or physical symptoms of fatigue, such as headache, eyestrain, or back pain. The fear of unknown as well concern about our own and our relatives’ health and life is also hard to ignore. 

I think one of the main problems, especially at the beginning of the lockdown, was a heavy workload with tasks and homework. I heard of it especially from students in primary school (higher grades) and high schools. However, I’ve also experienced it. Sometimes the time devoted to accomplish some exercises (given instead of “normal” lesson) significantly overran the time of real lesson (I don’t mean our classes). It ended up in spending almost all day in front of the screen which doesn’t lead to effective acquirement of knowledge. But I also heard that teachers were overloaded with work, as everything what they were doing previously, has transferred into internet. It turned out also that some older teachers found it difficult and stressful to use electronic devices and internet applications as they hadn’t used them before. Unfortunately, there are still some children whose material standing or family situation don’t allow them to participate in online classes. Moreover, I think  that online learning, just like any  kind of online activity, lacks in real “face-to-face” contact with other people, which is very crucial from the psychological point of view and also affect our learning process.

To sum up, I think online learning/teaching is a challenge, however it also gives opportunities we weren’t aware of and then we should benefit from them, having in mind that sometimes unforeseen problems may occur, something may not work properly, and therefore we should be kind to each other.




I can only share my experience from the learner’s side in studying online.

Studying on my own without interaction with other learners was always difficult for me, and the meetings we usually had every second weekend were giving me wings and energy, and motivation to learn until the next meeting, so now lack of these meetings influenced the motivation and learning effectiveness.

The first-month distance studying was limited to e-mails exchange and sent materials with instructions. It felt like it was more to do than usual. First of all, it took more time to check the emails, student's platform, download the materials, and go through them before I really got into doing any task or proper studying. Above this, the plain text of a few pages to read was not the best method I could expect to be interesting and effective in this challenging time.

After one month my group started live meetings on zoom (three weekends) with two tutors. I found it very important and effective for the process of learning and motivation. The online lectures were based on the discussion method involving students in active participation. The great thing about it was that we also were divided into smaller subgroups to discussed particular issues and then with the whole group we shared our thoughts and conclusions about some topics. The discussions were based either on the issue or question from a tutor or related to a video watched on our own or on the shared tutor’s screen. My group was willing to participate in the discussion and as the majority of these people are active teachers, it was not only theoretical discussion but very practical and interesting. These lectures were even exciting to me as there was always some significant aspect to remember better the meeting. It was great to see faces, listen to each other and really no extra materials here were necessary to conduct the lecture or to improve it. Zoom meetings and it’s technical possibilities definitely eased the distance studying and connected the group again and gave a lot of positive energy to online studying.




Online learning has its pros and cons. For me it has definitely more drawbacks. Not every student has a computer at home. However, the most common problem is having a computer but one for the whole family. Assuming that, for example, parents do not have laptops from work and there are three children of school age, the problem may be huge. Theoretically, everyone has a phone. But it is obvious that not everything can be done on the phone. Moreover, students and teachers may have a problem with Internet connection. Without Internet reception, with limited telephone reception, there are many teachers and students mainly living in villages. A very large proportion of parents fail to cope with the help their children need. Parents often call the teacher several times a day, have a claims and often comment on the whole situation in such a way: "I have to do two jobs and teach a child, and teachers just send tasks and take money for it?". The reason for this problem may be the fact that parents do not help children in their everyday learning, which is why it is now such a problem. The child does homework in the after-school clubs or alone at home. Nowadays children have to deal with themselves. I remember that when I was a child, I sat with my mother (who also worked full-time) and we did homework together. What else is important, many teachers cannot use a computer, which is a huge problem in online learning. They have to ask for help, which actually takes even more time. The time we are in requires us, teachers, students as well as parents, to be fully mobilized and collaborated.




In my opinion, online teaching could be even better than ordinary teaching in the classroom. Even though face to face contact is considered irreplaceable by many people, teachers should dig deeper into the online teaching tools and techniques. Safety is one reason for that. When it comes to my personal experience, I have been teaching Spanish online during the coronavirus spread. I think that it is amazing – I started using some apps and websites which I had never heard of before, and along with this I stayed safe at home. What is interesting is that the results are the same – my students did their homework every time I asked them to do it, learnt systematically and we were all technologically ready for it since young people use computers and phones so often nowadays. Similarly, my experience when it comes to being taught online by the university academic teachers also proved successful. I stick to the deadlines and learnt systematically along with being safe at home. However, as always, there are ups and downs. It is unbelievable how creative the students can be! I have heard recently that they, for instance, turn off their cameras and set the word “Reconnecting…” as their photos in order to make the teacher think that something went wrong. They also change their nicknames to make others laugh and manipulate the teacher’s voice making it higher, slower, etc. Teachers should be prepared for such jokes and resistant to them. Yet, there is a variety of websites and applications as well as methods of  conducting the online teaching so the teachers should not worry and adapt them to their students so that these “downs” do not occur.




Teaching online is very challenging when it comes to teaching online as well as being taught online. One thing that struck me the most is the fact that people now are more dependent on the internet than ever. I really hate that because sometimes I sit by the computer prepared for the classes and when the internet connection fails I am not able to do anything. No matter how much I endeavor, it is not up to me whether the internet connection will work well or not. People cannot be self-reliant anymore. It is very stressful. I usually go and reset the router but it costs me lots of nerves because I can never be sure if the class I am conducting or attending to will not stop in a second. The only thing I can do is to hope it will be alright. 

Another thing is that I find it extremely taugh to focus on what is going on in the computer as I get distracted very quickly especially now when I spend most of my time at home. I constantly notice things to do. Personally, I worked it out that I focus better when I have my camera and the speaker on and my desk is tidied from all neccessary and distracting objects. Only then when I am finally surrounded by a clear space with no distracting objects, I think I have nothing else to do than to eventually pay enough attention to the digital world.

Teaching wise, I do not have problems with focusing because I am the one who conduct the lessons so I have all my thought and energy put into teaching. The only thing that bothers me is when my students get lost in the students book or do not understand a particular thing and cannot explain me which one they mean. If they were next to me they would just point it with a finger and the other way around but when teaching online it sometimes takes a few minutes.




Coronavirus made it impossible for us to attend University classes the usual way so we were made to take part in “online” learning that has been a thing for the past couple of weeks. And while for some people it’s been a dream come true, my experience with it is not the best.

First of all, I’ve been stuck at home for the last two and a half months with a 6 years old son. The amount of energy children have is infinite. The amount of energy I have is not. Trying to do ANY uni work done with an energetic 6yo jumping all over the house has not been easy. I also can’t join any zoom/skype meetings or lectures because it is simply impossible to spend two hours alone in front of a laptop while there is a small child at home.

Second of all, not all teachers have been regularly sending us materials the entire time. Difficulties with keeping in contact with us – students are just an unnecessary source of stress in an already stressful situation. Announcing an online meeting ten minutes beforehand has not been a one time thing and for many of us (for example, me) it does not leave enough time for preparation.

Moreover, I am the kind of person who needs to “physically” attend classes because my attention span is shorter than that of a fruit fly, which makes it so hard for me to focus on one thing at a time when I’m at home. I’ve been taking no pleasure whatsoever from any studying I’ve done since March. Having sessions every two weeks (at University) was something constant, something I would always wait for, something I was excited about. Now I don’t know if it’s a Wednesday or if it’s June, and my inner Scarlett O’Hara whispering “I’ll think about it tomorrow” has been making the online learning experience a real nightmare.




I am not a teacher and I do not teach on-line but I can describe my experience of being taught on-line, though.

The main difference I have to face is that opportunities to speak with the tutors are limited. In the classroom I am always allowed to disagree, ask questions or make comments. In comparison, when I receive a range of materials and tasks to perform, I must depend on yourself. I can communicate with the tutor via e-mails but this is (in some extent) indirect communication. Another issue is that I think I am able to accomplish the last semester of my studies in on-line regime but I would not like to undergo 5 years of studing on-line. The subjects I have been learning since January I am able to explore on my own depending on materials attached. But, during 5 years of studies I developed so many skills that would not have been developed in on-line courses, for instance public speaking, communicative skills, quick reaction for different turn of events in the classroom, etc.

In my opinion, learning on-line is not as good as it seems to be. What about the dangers it brings? We are more exposed for addiction from technology, from the screen. We have less opportunities to socialize with people. Social media have already drastically receded social skills of the youth. People absorb more and more blue light from the screen which sabotage human body's inner cycle (e.g. production of different hormones in different parts of the day). [If you are interested in this subject it is worth to watch the podcast you can find under this link:

Locking our education in our laptops is extremely dangerous and people will do a huge step backwards in my opinion. So, I am glad this happened to me in the end of my studies, not earlier.




I find individual on-line teaching a pleasant experience. It is similar to an individual classes in person, being able to focus on one person and work with them throught the whole class is not a challenge and it does not differ very much from how I conduct lessons face-to-face. When it comes to teaching bigger groups I think that approach must be different. On-line classes can be directed to the group of more advanced students and students of certain age. I think conducting a lesson with group of young students is not an esay task, but obviously possible to implement. Teacher should adjust course planning,activities and plan carefully how he will use time in class.

Advantage of it is that teachers became familiar with new technologies and aware of their potential. Online education provides opportunities to share information more easily. Teachers and students are able to join communities of practice based on their area of interest rather than their geographic location.

When it comes to the disatvantages, I think the big problem is a lack of boundaries between members of the class, it can be a lonely and isolating experience for students. Moreover some of them struggle with the access to the Internet.




Before the pandemic, I used to be a language school teacher conducting business courses for a variety of different companies. Some of these were more focused on Business English, some were general, and a few were technical (machinery, construction) or profession-oriented (medical, HR, recruitment, customer service). My job used to be driving from one company to another all day long and conducting courses with different groups. Due to the pandemic, 80% of my groups were cancelled – company having financial problems, companies not allowing for online lessons, employees not having company computers/bad internet connection etc. By May, my salary has gone down ten times compared to February. Some groups I have managed to convince to turn to online teaching. Also, I have received three new groups to teach. Below I will outline the pros and cons of my online teaching experience.



I would normally spend around 800-1000 zł on petrol per month. Now I spend 0zł

Most of my groups were not prepared to turn to online teaching, thus their learning has stopped

A lot more people are present in lessons than previously

Within one or two days I had to adapt, ie get a really good internet connection, computer, camera, microphone and headphones

The lessons are so much more focused on English rather than talking about nothing in Polish

Each group wishes to works with a different platform- Zoom, WizIQ, Lifesize, Skype, Skype Business, Hangouts, Teams etc I had to learn them all and quickly adapt my teaching

It is a lot easier for me to draw people’s attention to my screen because I can simply share my screen with them

There are problems with playing listening tasks and these are unfortunately mostly undoable

I am unsure whether this is a pros or a cons, but my younger students (ASP) often are in bed during lessons

I do a lot of my lessons on TEDTalks and unfortunately this means youtube. A lot of company laptops have youtube blocked so they cannot view it. If I share it on my screen, the sound is very low so they cannot hear

The whole problem of checking the register has disappeared. It now takes me two seconds to do so, compared to the previous 10 mins of signing the sheets etc. Some programs do it for the teacher like WizIQ

Older students (over 50-60 y.o.) have trouble joining the lesson.

I have found that because there is no need for commuting I now have a lot more time and my lessons are well prepared and I also have more time for personal life like sports

The platforms are now overloaded and often break connections or have maintenance so I always have to be ready to send them a link to a different one and move my whole lesson to a different platform

My whiteboard notes are a lot cleaner and clearer now. There are no problems with “miss, what is that word written there?” which was a popular question with new groups before they got used to my handwriting.

People often do not turn their cameras on because they think they look bad or didn’t do their make up and then it is hard for me to assess if they are listening or if they understand. Normally a teacher can see this from their facial expressions, now I need to wait for their feedback.

No more problems of not working projectors

I miss the ability to do exercises like games and group or pair work, because now it is unavailable, as each person is at a different location and I cant ask them to play “shop” or anything, not even come to the board

No more issues with not working whiteboard pens

They rarely write by hand, so they actually learn less because most things are written by me due to technical restrictions. I guess expensive programs allow for more, but that is not the reality in Poland.

No more issues with forgetting materials on my side, or on the student’s side- I just share my screen with everything they need


To be continued


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