Covid-19: Time for Virtual Classrooms

By Dr Birbal Jha

Until March 2020 I had never thought even remotely that I would be working from home one day, conducting classes in English communication skills and grooming the young generation from the deprived section of the society for their better career, prospects and lifestyles.

Almost three decades ago, I set up my social venture British Lingua and there was a time when I used to carry a tape recorder to my classroom to run the cassettes of BBC Tiger’s Eye, an English conversation program which carried only audio accompanied by a corresponding book. Nevertheless, the trainees used to get riveted to it once the audio set was pressed on. Alas! If there were a video! It was a common exclamation from those attending the training sessions.

However, over time, there came a VCP which I used to run with some English movies like Titanic to acquaint the learners with English sounds, dialogues and the pattern of English-speaking. It was all, in addition to the functional Grammar and dyadic talks for situational conversations for everyday life.

In quick succession, in late 90 a Vintron computer I bought replaced the VCP for good. What then followed as the icing on the cake was the first-ever talking dictionary from Oxford University Press.

With the pace of time, a cassette, a floppy, a CD and a pen-drive; all of them were short-lived and disappeared one by one from the scene of educational set-ups that have seen a paradigm shift.

Now is the time for the internet connecting the world from one corner to another in real-time? Furthermore, the moment is set for the cloud which has no limit. Harnessing the resources of technology for all occasions synced with the moments gives an edge over others.

With the lockdown given the Covid-19 pandemic, the offices were shut; classes were suspended due to a precautionary measure of social distancing in adherence to advisories issued by the governments. Utilizing the enormous free time that was never before, I was almost lost in my literary work which has been my passion since the kick-start of the journey of my career.

However, a few weeks later phone calls from different quarters began to pour in, enquiring about whether online classes for communicative English were available. I was a bit reluctant, hesitant and sidestepping because I was not convinced whether I would be able to hold interactive sessions wherein a group discussion is an integral part of the curriculum, playing an important role in the andragogy.

Since 1st May 2020, I’ve conducted online interactive English classes wherein a student of STD 8th Tanmay Anand from Gujarat, graduate Aryan Thakur from Hyderabad, Gayatri in her post-graduation from Patna and Delhi’s homemakerSapna Pandey are among the dozens of attendees from varied locations in the country. Interestingly, each of them is in my virtual classroom though they appear to be just sitting before my very eyes in an actual one.

Now I stand corrected! It is Thanks to the technology and its enhanced features galore that have enabled me to incorporate the English SIM, Structural -cum-Interactive Method developed by British Lingua which I head as Managing Director.

While holding the online classes in Spoken English Skills, I aptly use a whiteboard; show PPT, present an image for a particular word for the clarity of its meaning. Such as a ‘coot’ of which a picture is demonstrated on the screen of the computer for its literal meaning and then its figurative sense is well explained for quick and easy grasp of the usage in varied situations.

Incredibly, an ideal group discussion takes places daily, allowing everyone to speak up and put forth their views on the instant topics and at times pre-announced ones. Language errors are spotted; corrections are made with explanations at the end of the session on the day. Moreover, attendees’ doubts are cleared with a particular session with minute attention.

This adversity caused by the coronavirus must turn into an opportunity for the youth of the day. While staying home for the sake of health, it is the best possible time for them to create a wealth of knowledge that is said to be power in the intellectual society one wishes to be a member of.

Improving your English communications skills online while staying home could be a sagacious decision of yours for the best use of time and for the sake of a wealth of knowledge that you may acquire since the English language is said to be a window on the world.

Once equipped with this language passport, you will have unlimited access to the treasure trove of English literature whatsoever and unfettered communication skills. Given the Covid-19 pandemic, the time is up for virtual classrooms which nobody can deny.

 (Dr Birbal Jha is a noted author and the Managing Director of Lingua Multiservices Pvt Ltd having a popular trademark brand ‘British Lingua’. He is credited with having created a revolution in English training with the slogan ‘English for all’ in India. Mob: +91 9810912220)

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