The Leap to Online – How We’ve Adapted

In 2020 – and amid the outbreak of COVID-19 – companies are undergoing a lot of changes. How will they continue to serve their clients? How will they take care of their employees?

USA English has been no different in this. And while the initial shock of what the virus would require of us may have been daunting, our team has since hit its stride in this new adaptation of “normal operations”.

A primarily offline company, our services were, for years, primarily based out of our offices in the Haidian District of Beijing. We offered very little online – in fact, our own websites were still under construction until this year. So when it came time to go completely online, every level of our organization needed to adjust.

First, we invited our education team to share their thoughts on how the transition has gone:

From Jose:

When I heard about the shift to online offerings, I was a bit skeptical. I had never taken a fully online class back in college, and instead I really enjoy the social interaction that academic environments provide. But after about four months of working online, I can say that my outlook and perception has become very positive.

For one, online sessions are interactive in ways difficult to replicate in an in-person environment.

Our clients love technology, and I’ve found that they are a lot more engaged when they are interacting with the material as they learn via a shared digital blackboard and other tools that can only be feasible in a virtual room.

Similarly, online offerings provide everyone with more flexibility. Clients that might have had issues with commuting and/or conflicting activities, can now free up some time to further develop and learn new skills.

The move online has certainly brought in some logistical changes and readjustments. Even though I still prepare as I normally would, additional communication with clients and colleagues is definitely required.

As convenient and flexible as technology is, sometimes it just doesn’t work. If, for example, on a given day a PDF file that I was planning to use in class does not open, I need to be able to pivot quickly and seamlessly to a writing activity or a short video that is relevant to the material at hand. Technology brings in a lot more variety to the classroom, but it also requires more planning and flexibility from educators.

Though I miss seeing our clients in person, going online has given me a completely new and highly positive outlook of the potential of online education moving forward.

From Jackling:

The very beginning of our company’s transition was intimidating, as I had never worked virtually, and I was nervous to see how sessions would hold up without the face-to-face interaction. Will the clients be able to stay put and stay concentrated in front of a computer for the entirety of the session? And how would I be able to manage the situation if they didn’t? Those were definitely my top concerns.

Luckily, these concerns quickly went away as soon as I started working online.

I realized that the online platform actually allowed for more creative interactive activities during sessions, which helped to keep the clients engaged – and that includes even the youngest clients!

Initially, the tech side of online sessions was also intimidating. After I got past the couple of days that I needed to get used to all the tools and buttons on the program, I grew fonder and fonder of all the possibilities that technology has to offer to our sessions – the timer, the dice, the screen sharing, just to name a few – with the only catch being, a stable internet connection!

Another aspect of online sessions that I’ve come to appreciate is the option for assignment submission and correction, which allows us to review and correct the assignments ahead of class. This allows me to identify common errors, helps me plan sessions more efficiently, and most importantly, helps me to economize our time together, all the while still being able to offer a thorough review of each individual client’s work.

While I do miss seeing the clients’ lovely faces, and our cozy USA English environment, I’ve been throughly enjoying all the plus sides that going online has to offer!

From James:

The transition to online sessions from the traditional structure can take some adaptational skills. However, much like other things, it comes with its own set of advantages. Being able to have an interactive blackboard, or all your books and materials right on hand can make the organization of the session so much smoother.

Not being able to do so many hands-on activities for younger clients is a bit of a problem. In contrast, the potential for presentations, visual aids, worksheets, and videos greatly lends itself to intermediate and advanced clients.

Overall, with some adaptation and more preparation, success with online sessions is attainable.  

What I like about working online is the ease with which I can present new concepts using the vast resources of the internet. I also really enjoy being able to control the flow of conversation more effectively using the built-in features of many online platforms.

As each member expresses, initial intimidation has turned into surprising success across the board. While it hasn’t been easy, it’s been well worth the effort.

In only a few months, our team has gone above and beyond to bring our offline services to screens around the city. We have seen a lot of creativity in how this is done, and learned from each others’ efforts at every turn. There is still a lot we have to learn, but we are grateful our clients have supported our steady progress.

In our next post, we will hear from those members working behind the scenes to keep USA English running – and its clients as happy as ever.

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