Home Schooling
During the COVID-19 pandemic online lectures have become the new reality for students and teachers. Photo: Pixabay

Communicating through the crisis in English

Mag. Heidemarie Köllinger,

Heidemarie Köllinger, lecturer at the institute, talks in her blog post about communication channels and their changes in the field of teaching.

Again and again, last semester I found myself in situations where I had to teach skills which I could not base on prevalent materials as the channels of communication had changed or the change had been expedited by the COVID-19 pandemic. From a linguist’s perspective, the skills with reference to meetings, presentations and applications are the ones which I found most impacted by the turmoil of recent times.

Conference calls, not meetings

Everyone who has ever participated in an English course with a focus on meeting skills knows how English teachers usually harp on about the usefulness of phrases. One obvious benefit of these is certainly that they can help give meetings structure and aid participants in following a certain meeting etiquette. Introductions must be made, the purpose and agenda introduced, possible misunderstandings avoided etc. The process is the same, whether it is a face-to-face or a remote meeting. In addition, online meetings and conference calls bring along a whole lot of other challenges that must be addressed in verbal form. As a chairperson or even a participant you can be faced with aggravating situations: terrible background noise, participants speaking at the same time, file sharing not working, somebody not knowing how to join a breakout room, or (for crying out loud) not even knowing what a breakout room is. I am pretty sure we have all had our own challenges over the past half year. I see it as my responsibility as a lecturer of English to prepare my students to address such challenges in English. Meetings are not entirely the same as telephone conferences and this must be reflected in the English lessons.

Online, not In-Person Presentations

I had the impression that many of my students’ worry lines disappeared at first when their in-person presentations were turned into online presentations – well, at least until they discovered that maybe nobody was listening if you read something off the screen and shared the Power Point slides with your audience. Even if all the rhetorical techniques that we had covered were well-applied, it was very likely that the presenters would lose their audience within the first few minutes of their talk. The audience cannot be left out and this is certainly all the more true for online presentations. It is hard to find good advice in specialist literature. I found the most valuable tips on professional social media sites and blogs as the need arose. And some of my students, I must admit, displayed a really good feel for what it takes to draw the audience in, especially those who are into vlogs or have been dabbling with vlogging themselves.

Headphones a must in online teaching
Photo: Pixabay
Headphones are a must have in online teaching.

Professional Profiles, not Job Applications

Are applications sent by snail mail old school? – Oh, yes, they are. By email? You tell me. In their second semester, the students of Mobile Software Development now learn how to create a social media profile. In contrast to vlogging, this is something I can relate to as I am an active and passive user of professional social media sites. Writing comments, creating interest for media contributions and presenting yourself on such sites is based on knacks overlapping with those required for pieces of writing not meant for cyberspace. However, I daresay the tone has become less formal and more conversational with the rise of social media. I might also venture to say that an individual’s professional profile tends to tell us more about the personality behind the screen than an application letter and CV inserted into an envelope or attached to an email does. As communication coaches we are again challenged to deal with these changing needs. A professional profile is something everyone on the job market usually wants to have in English. Can you hear the English teacher’s ‘hurrah’?

Boost, not Headache

Everything in life seems to undergo change these days and this might cause quite some headache. What needs to be learned to develop one’s skills with regard to meetings, presentations and job applications is no exception. The COVID-19 pandemic will go, but our communication skills will have been boosted, and I hope the headache soon forgotten ;-)

Tip:

Another blog post on a similar topic can be found under the following link.