Irina

23-08-2017

Online English school Online Class was founded by Irina and Mel Rogers. Hundreds of people are already learning English with this Belarusian company. Classes are available wherever you are and it’s easy to pay for them online. Many teachers and students live in different cities and even countries, and only meet on this virtual platform! We have asked Irina what the advantages of online learning are, how Online Class is different from other language schools and what a good teacher of English should be like.

Read this interview in Russian


OC (Online Class): Belarus has so many options of English language schools. Does it really need one more? :)

I (Irina): There are no online English schools in Belarus, so we’re definitely the first here. We see the demand for online classes rising steadily so we’re bound to have competition further down the line, but at the moment there is none. On the other hand, the fact that we are an online school doesn’t mean we only have the advantages related to this format (it’s time-saving, it’s flexible, etc). We are trying to be different in many other aspects too.

OC: Like what?

I: Like teaching people to speak rather than to read and write. It may sound familiar, actually on any language school’s website you can probably read something along the lines of, “We will teach you to THINK in English”. But what you may find if you go there is the learning process may be highly structured, there are programs and textbooks for teachers to stick to. And students are discouraged from taking the time to discuss anything longer than planned, from sharing their views, from striking genuine conversation. To be honest, I don’t see how this approach could be efficient.

OC: What is the right way?

I: Books and exercises are of course a good basis but it’s exactly the habit of working with them all the time that doesn’t let some people come up with their own ways of saying things and learn to speak. And secondly, not every learning goal has a textbook to match. For example, there are study files that can generally prepare you to a job interview but not necessarily in your sphere of work. Everyone has their own reason to learn English. If the teacher ignores it because they already have a neat plan for many classes ahead, the student may still get some results like learn a piece of grammar or some vocabulary but it may not be what they really need or want.

OC: Most language schools promise a personalized approach.

I: It’s possible to have it one on one or in small groups. But even in a group of 4 inequalities begin: somebody speaks more, somebody keeps silent, somebody is faster on the uptake, someone else is lagging behind, etc. An online school can offer learning in small groups of 2-3 people at basically the same price as classes in larger groups elsewhere. Obviously, we don’t pay office rent, heating and lighting bills, etc. It means we concentrate on quality of education and most of what you pay for a class goes to a professional teacher we employ. In a small group, it’s easy to get to know everyone well, accommodate for everyone’s requests with no disadvantage to the others, and spend 30% of the lesson and more on each student personally. In larger groups it is just not possible.

OC: So your competitors are other online schools and private tutors.

I: Yes. But our offer is clearly different from Skype classes. Our learning platform has a virtual whiteboard where teachers upload files to work with in class. You have to try it once to realize it’s too handy to go without. But all in all, we like to think we are different thanks to our teachers. Most people don’t choose a language course, they choose a teacher if they have the chance. We have articles about each teacher on our webpage, we film videos with them, we invite people to take trial classes. We take pride in employing the best of the best. We take the time to pick and choose our teachers, and once we’ve chosen somebody, they have our full appreciation and support. Students give them wonderful reviews, refer their friends to Online Class. That’s how our audience expands, and we have to look for new professionals to join our team.

OC: What does it take to become a teacher with Online Class?

I: Obviously, you have to have a great command of the English language. All suitable candidates are invited to an online interview with Mel (Mel Rogers, Online Class co-founder, native speaker). Plus you have to have experience with teaching English, especially to adults who need English for work.

OC: Do teachers need experience with teaching online?

I: We have come to believe it’s not obligatory. It’s relatively easy to familiarize yourself with, seeing that most of us spend a large part of our every day online. One more requirement for our teachers is the ability to think outside the box when it comes to classes. As we’ve discussed just now, it’s important to let people look up from their books and just talk. Teaching online, it’s easy to make use of the most modern study files and multimedia but to do that, you have to be creative and enthusiastic. And most importantly, you will need to put your student’s interests first. I mean, it may be easier for you as a teacher to bring a textbook and do exercises in class, but if the student wants and needs something else, you will need to prepare something else, and do it well. Not every teacher can or is willing to do that. We are always on the lookout for teachers who are passionate about their students’ learning goals.

OC: And they can teach anyone wherever they are?

I: Yes, it’s a great advantage that many people mention. I’m not trying to say small regional cities can’t have brilliant teachers of English but some of them actually don’t. Sometimes there’s no suitable teacher in your part of town, and you waste a few hours to get to the class and back. Online, you do it in a few clicks, which is incredibly convenient. You can save so much time! And to study with native speakers who live in another country, you have no choice but to be online. We currently employ 5 native speakers, 3 of them live in Great Britain. You can buy separate classes with them or have them join your class for 20 minutes at the end, for example. It’s a great chance to really talk about the things you’ve just learned and test your speaking skills in real conversation.

OC: What can you say to those who are still in doubt?

I: All high profile companies and universities are already training their people online because they understand all the advantages of this format. Read reviews from our students, look at what our teachers have to say. Many of them actually say they had doubts about learning or teaching online. It’s relatively new and not everyone is used to it. It just means you have to try. My husband, who is British, is always surprised by the conservative side of many people here. We tend to have prejudiced opinions about things we’ve never tried or people we’ve never met. Everyone can get one free online lesson on our platform. If you never try, you’ll never know if it’s a great option for you or not. Don’t pass it by, give it a fair shot. It’s becoming popular for a reason.


Sign up for a free lesson with Online Class today! Get more info about the company: meet its co-founder Mel Rogers or read about SpeakEasy, an English-speaking club organized by Irina and Mel in Mogilev. Use the chance and make friends with these wonderful people!



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