Learn Italian online: webinars vs. virtual classes
The global health emergency we are experiencing at the moment is also seriously affecting the education field. To cope with the new needs of a quarantined world, the only weapons left to Italian language teachers and students are those of online teaching and distance learning. But what are the methods and the approaches most commonly used to learn Italian online?
Best way to learn Italian online: e-learning, webinars and virtual classes
First of all, a distinction must be made between the various forms of online teaching. The term e-learning means, in fact, very much in general: “the use of both physical hardware, software, and educational theoretic to facilitate learning and improving performance by creating, using, and managing appropriate technological processes and resources”. Within e-learning (or educational technology), then, fall the most widely used techniques and media for the implementation of on-line resources in teaching a discipline.
Webinars (or web conferencing) are a distinctive model of e-learning implementation consisting in meetings, training sessions and conferences not taking place in a meeting room or classroom, but on the web, thanks to and through online meeting softwares and platforms. Webinars not only serve for training, but for any kind of business meeting. Participants only interact with the trainer or the person holding the webinar through the surveys, through the live chat and the Q&A session, i.e. questions and answers scheduled at the end of each session.
The virtual classroom, on the other hand, is the model that comes closest to classic classroom training: it is an online “place” where a group of people meet to access learning content. In our case, it is an Italian language class in the classic sense of the term, but one that involves the use of the Internet and multimedia learning material in a virtual environment. Again, students are active via chat and webcam: the difference lies in the fact that they communicate not only with the trainer, but also with each other. They can, in fact, work in small groups, give their contribution to the board, share documents and participate to discussions in audio mode.
The virtual class in learning the Italian language online
With regard to the language teaching and, in our case, the Italian teaching to foreigners, the virtual class is undoubtedly the choice that comes closest to the training environment of our actual Italian classes, based on peer interaction, cooperative learning and the development of interlanguage, which are essential to learn Italian online. In this sense, the global emergency we are facing is a chance to improve and broaden our technical expertise and shape our method on the existing technologies. Opportunities are clearly lacking (or dramatically reduced) in online education to develop certain communication skills that are of immediate use in a classic Italian language class context, such as proxemics. But even these shortcomings can be remedied during an online Italian class with a wise use of the virtual environment and a dynamic approach to the lesson by the online Italian teacher, who will have to encourage interaction between peers and act as a moderator and a vehicle for content that will then be developed in plenum, by the whole class, just as if it were in the actual classroom. On the students’ side, however, a little effort is required in setting up a comfortable workspace in which distractions can be avoided and a full immersion encouraged.
In the wake of the above, during our online Italian courses, Kappa Language School‘s native Italian teachers will try to take advantage of all the tools offered by the online platform we use for communicating with students and maintaining a high level of attention. Our Italian tutors will therefore be able to modify and adapt the learning material generally devised in a traditional classroom context to tailor it to the new means of communication, but they will also work in creating original materials through the use of presentation software, external e-learning platforms and authentic texts available online. Out Italian language students will then deal with multimedia teaching materials (such as presentations, game-exercises and tailor-made activities on online learning sites) at every stage of the lesson: from motivation to comprehension, from the reuse of newly learned grammatical structures to written and/or oral production.