Advantages and disadvantages of Skype in virtual German lessons
Skype as a tool for German online teachers vs. full-blown virtual schools
For many years, German lessons have been online via Skype. Many freelancers offer themselves as German teachers on platforms or sales portals such as Ebay classifieds or the like. Some schools also offer German online courses via Skype in addition to normal German courses. Most self-employed online German teachers actively use Skype for online private lessons or group lessons in DaF (German as a foreign language) over the Web.
Since about 2010, there are also more and more professional virtual school solutions that can replace Skype as a possible learning platform for German online and they also offer other benefits. Today we would like to compare both and compare the advantages and disadvantages of both systems.
First comparison: Skype as a classroom for German Online Vs. virtual classroom
Basically, we can say that Skype’s biggest advantage is that is free of charge for both sides in its basic version almost everywhere in the world (China is often an exception), the online teacher and the online German students can use it easily. Also, Skype is still the most popular software for video conferencing on PCs worldwide.
Also, the features that have been added in the last few years, such as the distribution of files of different sizes and screen sharing, are very attractive for teachers of online German lessons via Skype. Also, dealing with Skype is quite uncomplicated for both sides, almost nobody needs a manual or support forums to use it. You can also quickly find help with technical problems on the Internet, as Skype is very widespread.
However, the advantage of Skype usually ends again when compared to real virtual classroom solutions.
Most virtual classrooms have a big advantage over the free version of Skype, namely a virtual whiteboard (only Skype for Business currently offers this solution), to which all lesson content (eBooks, PDFs, Word and PowerPoint files) are uploaded into the classroom. This allows the teacher to interact directly with lesson materials without having to wait long for file uploads or the like.
The whiteboards are also mostly collaborative, i.e. students and teachers can write together on the whiteboard or the teacher can also have the online German students write something into the uploaded media and can make direct corrections.
Often, virtual classrooms also include useful additions such as a hand-raise function for students and a check-mark for teachers to mark certain practice content as done. This greatly facilitates communication between online learners and the online German teacher during longer conversation sessions.
In addition, some solutions (ours too) often offer solutions for designing conversation rooms without a whiteboard and also for dividing students into specific virtual rooms for the shared preparation of specific exercises.
Second comparison: Scheduling of online lessons and online payment
Of course, the virtual online schools are clearly ahead in this regard. As in our case, most virtual school systems, compared to teachers who offer online Skype-based German language courses, also provide a convenient way of finding times and dates for group and individual German online lessons. Usually, these are available in the form of course lists simply via the virtual school lesson booking system, often with access to teacher data as well as the entire course dates.
Online payment is also often an integral part of such systems. As in our case, the respective course credits for the online German lessons are simply set up via credit card payments. Whereby our system usually differentiates between one-off payments for private course units online and monthly subscription structure payments for group courses.
Although we also do not want to conceal that with some software tools, Skype or Hangouts, of course, the course scheduling for online German lessons and online payment can be replicated.
Many teachers work with online appointment scheduling systems like Calendly and secure as well as easy-to-use online payments via PayPal are becoming increasingly popular.
It is also important to remember that in the case of virtual schools, the data of both sides (students and teachers) are usually not directly visible in the system, which of course is not possible with Skype courses for German, since both sides arrange their appointments by email and of course need to own the skype name of the other person.
Third comparison: operable speed and time required for online German teachers – advantages with Skype
Here, the advantage lies again with Skype. Because most teachers can unquestionably operate the system within a few minutes, although it must also be said that the operating options are of course limited to pure video conferencing.
Of course, the operation of a virtual classroom or a complete course scheduling system takes some time and usually also a little instructions manual. For some teachers, therefore, the effort is still a bit large, but it pays after some time due to the increased teaching quality
Certainly, for many users that are new to the topic of learning German online, both solutions outweigh each other. But our conclusion shows already clear overall advantages for the virtual school system.
Conclusion: Skype good for free learning meetings but German online schools score in total
Our conclusion, and this is also based on our own teaching experience, is Skype, Google Hangouts or other video conferencing solutions via PCs, tablet computers or large format smartphones are available for free and are a good, free entry point for nice learning meetings, but unfortunately not more.
Teachers who work with it, can easily and quickly operate it and use the software almost worldwide (in China, unfortunately, is often their firewall or the absence of Western software vendors), yet they are only good for video and audio meetings. Certainly not a bad solution for conversational lessons in German online lessons from B1 and above levels.
The virtual school with its complete system from the classroom to the schedule and price page and secure online payment, however, usually outweighs the benefits of free video meeting solutions. In any case, we therefore recommend that every interested teacher and student gives a school like ours even “a virtual” chance to learn German against Skype.