Developing Communication Skills in the Age of Social Distancing

Image © Zoom Communications

COVID-19 is rapidly forcing school closures around the world, in an effort to increase social distancing. According to UNESCO, as of March 18, 850 million learners have been impacted so far, with surely more to come. Educators must quickly change the way they teach, transitioning from classroom instruction to online instruction.

Language educators who move online face particular challenges in this new age of social distancing. According to a survey of language educators worldwide, oral communication skills (speaking and listening) are by far the most important for learners to develop. Unfortunately, many distance-learning tools are not well suited for teaching oral communication. For example, livestreamed lectures may allow learners to practice listening and post comments, but do not provide learners with opportunities to practice their communication skills through conversation. Other online programs have conversations to practice but they are highly scripted or depend upon teachers to listen to and evaluate the learners’ speech recordings.

Popular language learning apps such as Babbel and Duolingo are designed to help students learn on their own, and can be effective at very elementary levels. But they provide very little feedback on communication skills, so students are pretty much on their own.

A variety of resources are available online for teachers planning to teach online. However, they mostly do not focus on communication and instead consist of of recorded videos and simple quizzes.

Alelo is giving a webinar that discusses resources available to English programs that wish to move to fully online instruction while continuing to emphasize communication skills. This is part of Alelo’s effort to support language programs worldwide as they undertake a speedy transition to online learning. We will discuss how Enskill® English AI simulations, combined with videoconferencing and asynchronous learning, can help students continue to develop their communication skills even when alone at home.

Videoconferencing is an important part of any online language program. Zoom is a popular videoconferencing tool for online classes. It works fine for very small classes, but once the number of participants increases to ten or more, managing conversations can be a challenge. Students can also practice one on one with partners via Skype and Google Hangouts. This is helpful for students who are already comfortable conversing in a foreign language but can be daunting for students who are just beginning or lack self-confidence.

Enskill English complements such tools and helps language teachers overcome their limitations. Learners practice communication skills in realistic spoken conversations with AI avatars, on their laptop or Android mobile device. They get immediate feedback and personalized practice in the areas where they need to improve. Alelo provides reports to institutions so that they can track their students’ progress. Studies of programs using the platform show that it helps students increase their proficiency as well as develop self-confidence.

Alelo is offering free access to Enskill English to help programs get started. We encourage you to contact us at if you have any questions.

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