Monday, 23 March 2015

ESL lesson plans for the digital world

I think if you asked most teachers, especially in their first few years of teaching, what would make their lives easier, the single most common answer you would get, would be ready made lesson plans and materials. Well there’s good news, because that’s exactly what you get from Off2Class, a huge collection of ready made ESL lesson plans complete with instructions, teachers’ notes, answers to all the questions and even homework assignments.

What’s even better about Off2Class is that the materials are all ready prepared for the digital teaching world, whether you teach in the classroom with an IWB or a data projector, or whether you are teaching online using Skype or some form of virtual platform.

The platform is very easy to use. You start by setting up profiles for your students. You’ll need their email address to do this and you’ll need to create a password for them, but this is quick and simple to do.

Once you have set up your students’ profiles you can choose a lesson to do with them. There is a really wide variety of ESL lesson plans to choose from. Most are organized around grammar topics, but there are also reading and speaking plans too. If you click on the drop down menu for each section you can see the range of plans and if you select a lesson and click on the magnifying glass icon you can preview the main aims of the lesson.
To launch a lesson you click on the rocket icon. You’ll then see the lesson materials with the teachers’ notes at the side. You can then flip through the slides and as you move from slide to slide you see the notes changing and synchronizing with the slide you have selected.
When you use the lessons in the classroom or online you can put the lesson materials to full screen and use a mobile app to follow the teachers notes. As you move through the lesson materials, the teachers’ notes will again synchronize with your mobile device.

Once you have launched your class, you can enroll students into the class. This will enable you to take and share notes with the students during the lesson. The notes can go to all students or you can just select the student the note refers to.

The student can also take notes and access all of these notes through their profile. The notes are also automatically referenced to the class they applied to and have the date added so this makes it easier and more useful when students want to revise.
You can also assign and mark the homework assignments through the platform and again all the answers for the assignments are provided.

The lesson materials themselves are well designed with colourful images and illustrations and there really is a huge and constantly growing collection to choose from. When new materials are added you get a note when you log in to the platform, so you always know what new things are available.

 You can find out more from this video:

There really is a lot to like about Off2Class:
  • It looks great
  • The lesson materials are well structured and designed
  • It’s really easy to find your way around and understand how everything works
  • There’s a really good support blog
  • The company is obviously still developing and adding to it, so it can only get better.

There is of course a downside and one which will put many teachers off - It’s not free.
  • The pricing is very reasonable though, starting from $7 a month for 2 student accounts and rising to $25  month for 15 student accounts.
  • It would also be nice to find some listening materials in the lessons too.

There doesn’t seem to be any large scale pricing or corporate offers, so it looks like the product is being aimed directly at private teachers who are doing their own classes. Considering how much work this would save a teacher on lesson planning and producing their own materials, the price seems very reasonable, though I guess this depends to a large extent on where you teach and what your hourly rate is.

On the whole though this seems like a really great well thought out and useful product. So many education start-ups these days seem to drawn by the scent of big money and have little real ambition to deliver a quality product that will really help their customers. This company obviously has some real insight into their market and has really hit on an area that, particularly in the digital world, teachers need some help with. I really hope Off2Class does well and that you and your students enjoy using their materials.

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Nik Peachey

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