Online or face-to-face? Learning English today.

At the beginning of this month, the annual meeting of the great and good in the English-teaching profession took place at the IATEFL conference in Harrogate, Yorkshire. The London School of English was represented by five members of staff who spoke on a wide range of topics. Those trainers will be sharing their ideas and thoughts on the blog in the coming weeks. In this week’s post, Andy reflects on his experiences in Harrogate.

IATEFL (or the International Association of Teachers of English as a Foreign Language) is based in Britain and was founded in 1967 with the intention of linking, developing and supporting English Language Teaching professionals worldwide.  Their annual conference is held every spring with key speakers and individual papers, workshops and symposia.  

This was my second IATEFL conference and what struck me this year was the quality of the talks and workshops on offer. I really learnt a lot from my peers in the industry and have a better understanding of the challenges we are facing. I ran a workshop on using technology in materials writing and course design. This isn’t a new topic for me, as I ran a similar workshop at a conference in Prague last year. This makes the task no less daunting, as standing in front of a large group of teachers and other EFL professionals is always nerve-wracking. The session went well and I hope that those in attendance were inspired to try out some of the things I showed them.

A real theme of the conference this year was the perceived threat of technology. Many people in teaching are concerned that their role is being challenged by innovative online solutions. I simply don’t believe this is the case. While online learning has a huge number of benefits, the majority of people learning English will, provided they have the time and resources, choose a face-to-face course over an online course. Why? Well, it’s the same reason why people prefer to have pilots flying aeroplanes or surgeons performing operations – as humans we have trust systems and we prefer to place ourselves in the hands of professionals, not machines. I’ve long believed that we should blend our teaching and our learning, using both online and face-to-face teaching methods.

I was also very lucky this year to be given the role of a mentor to a first-time conference speaker. My mentee was Mariel Amez from Argentina. My role was to provide advice and support and to help her in any way I could. It was a real honour to help Mariel, and I’m pleased to say that her talk was a great success! 

By Andy


the great and good (fixed exp) – often used ironically to talk about a group of famous or interesting people

reflects on (v + prep) – to be ready and excited to begin doing something

founded - (v) to be created or started

symposia - (n) the plural of symposium, a meeting where several speakers discuss a topic

struck (v) – made you think or realise something

peers (n) – people in a similar profession to you

daunting (adj) – difficult or challenging

nerve-wracking (adj) – causing stress or anxiety

perceived (v) - interpret or regard something in a particular way.

Innovative (adj) – advanced or original

blend (n) – a mixture

mentor (n) – an experienced and trusted adviser

mentee (n) – person who is advised, trained, or counselled by a mentor

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