The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to the rise in online classes, allowing busy students, professionals, and stay-at-home parents the opportunity to take advantage of learning opportunities that they could not find time for previously.
One of the most valuable tools that can be used to improve an individual's skills is taking a speaking class. There are many kinds of speaking classes, but they usually involve practicing and improving public speaking skills in front of others. Online speaking classes offer the same opportunities as traditional in-person classes, but it comes with its own features.
In this article, I'll discuss the pros and cons of taking an online speaking class: what you need to know before you sign up, and how to make your experience as successful and rewarding as possible.
What Are Some Pros of Taking an Online Public Speaking Course?
In a new book, University of Washington professor Matt McGarrity discussed the shift of public speaking classes online amid the COVID-19 pandemic. He highlighted that as the pandemic forced previously reluctant instructors online, technology and tools have also evolved rapidly to ensure the success of online classes.
Today, there are five main pros of taking online speaking classes: convenience, variety, cost, comfort, and greater flexibility.
First, taking an online speech course is extremely convenient. For example, if you live far away from your local college or university's campus and cannot take speech classes there due to your schedule, it may be very difficult for you to find any open slots in the class schedule.
Online courses are available at all hours of the day—anywhere in the world with access to the internet. This means that they are perfect for students who have busy schedules or need more flexibility in their schedule, so they can balance schoolwork, work, family life, and other commitments.
Because these classes are entirely web-based, they are also formatted easily by allowing students to watch video lectures online or read text documents on their own time so that they have a variety of ways to learn.
Here's a list of specific class features you should look for if you prioritize convenience:
Available at all hours of the day, anywhere in the world.
Web-based format, allowing for video lectures and other multimedia to be seen.
Video lectures and other multimedia should be easily accessible for students who learn best via visuals, as well as for those who learn best by reading text and other written materials.
Classroom should include an interactive discussion board where students can converse with each other and the professor, as well as submit assignments.
Classroom should include a chatbox for professors and students to communicate quickly and easily.
Taking an online speech class is also a great way to have access to a variety of educational materials. Students can find courses from over 100 different universities, colleges, and institutions from all around the world listed on educational platforms like Coursera and Edx.
Universities like Harvard University, the University of Pennsylvania, Stanford University, Duke University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Columbia University, and Yale University are just a few of the many prestigious universities that offer online courses.
Not only will students be exposed to a multitude of teaching styles and educational formats, but they will also be exposed to a variety of cultures and viewpoints.
You will also encounter different activities in online speaking classes:
Online educational games, particularly when it comes to practicing certain key aspects of speaking skills such as pronunciation and mnemonics.
Conversations with native speakers for students who are learning the language of instruction.
Virtual field trips to places where the language is spoken (e.g., the professor may take students on a "virtual tour" of their home country, or they teach about its culture and language).
Group projects, allowing students to practice working together with other people who are learning the same language.
Use of social media, such as Facebook and Twitter.
The third pro is that taking an online course will save you money—potentially thousands of dollars! Depending on where you live, classes at your local college or university may cost up to $5,000.
For example, this public speaking course at Stanford costs $3699 for eight weeks of face-to-face learning.
Online courses, however, are typically free of charge—allowing greater access to education for everyone around the world. A good example of this is LinkedIn Learning which provides a 30-day free trial.
Of course, if you need certain certifications in order to get a job or recognition, you will likely need to pay a fee of just under $100. This is still much cheaper than the alternative.
When taking an online course, you won't have to worry about being nervous in front of your classmates. Like all other classes, however, you will still have to prepare for each lesson ahead of time.
Furthermore, if your professor posts video lectures on YouTube or other video-sharing websites, you can watch these in advance and be prepared for what he or she is going to say in class. You might even find additional videos about the topic on YouTube that your professor hasn't yet seen!
Many teachers of online courses also encourage students to create podcasts as a way to deal with speech anxiety. Podcasts are proven to be effective in terms of reducing speech anxiety while teaching word choice, rate, and tone.
The fifth pro is that taking an online course will provide you with greater flexibility when it comes to scheduling your classes. In a traditional classroom, each student has a schedule consisting of several lectures and corresponding quizzes or exams over the course of a week or semester.
In many online classes, however, students can complete their work at any point during the week. For example, if a student wants to work ahead and get all of their homework done over the weekend and then relax and not worry about anything until the next Monday, they can do so without feeling rushed.
What Are Some Cons of Taking an Online Public Speaking Class?
While there are certainly benefits to taking an online speech course, there are also some cons that you should consider before signing up. The top five cons of taking an online speech class are lack of physical interaction, technical difficulties, low motivation, lack of speaking and listening practice, and computer fatigue.
Lack of Face-to-Face Interaction
One of the most significant disadvantages to taking an online speech class is that you will not have face-to-face interaction with your classmates or the professor.
It's difficult to build a relationship with your professor and classmates when you don't meet them in person. While technology allows us to connect more easily across the globe, many believe it doesn't replace face-to-face interaction. Furthermore, some students prefer to learn in a classroom with other people who are learning the same language.
The professor and classmates of an online speech class will likely be complete strangers. It's more difficult to establish rapport with someone you've never even seen before, let alone get to know on a personal level.
Many professors and instructors use the same technology that students do, such as Skype and Zoom. Unfortunately, if you or your professor has a weak connection, audio can be difficult to hear or video quality may not be as clear as you would like. In addition, the technology could malfunction at any time, preventing you from completing an assignment, task, or even a class.
Another con of taking an online speech class is that you may lack the motivation to complete your work. This could be because the coursework seems too difficult or monotonous without having a teacher on hand to help motivate you, or because you do not receive any feedback on your work. This is where self-discipline and self-direction come in.
Speaking and Listening Practice
You may find that online speaking classes can become problematic with regard to speaking practice activities. It can be difficult for your professor or classmates to give you accurate advice on how to improve your pronunciation, speed, intonation, tone, or stress.
You may also have trouble understanding your classmates if they are not speaking clearly or there is a lag in the video feed.
In most cases, students will have a computer or laptop with them at all times during the day—even throughout the night. In an online speech class, there is no limit to how long you can stay on your computer without a break. This can lead to eye strain, aches and pains in your physical body, and negative effects on your mental health.
Why Online Speaking Classes Are Worth It
Despite the cons of online speech classes, the pros we mentioned above are definitely worth it. Taking classes online means that you can manage your time to fit the class into your schedule, whether this is during the day, night, or weekends.
What's more, because there are no limits to how long you can stay on your computer, you can work at your own pace and learn about different topics in depth. Just be careful about computer fatigue!
VirtualSpeech - An Online Virtual Reality Training Program
With VirtualSpeech, you can get started with public speaking at your own pace! VirtualSpeech is an online speech class platform that helps you build public speaking skills in virtual reality or web-based simulations.
The platform offers high-quality speech classes taught by expert instructors, as well as feedback on your progress throughout the course. Each course is affordable and geared toward helping you improve your public speaking skills.
If you're ready to get started, VirtualSpeech has a free demo so you can test it out with no strings attached. Make sure you always feel comfortable with the technology before joining—VirtualSpeech will never let you down.
Taking an online speech class is a good choice for students who do not have the time or money to attend a physical school. However, make sure you are aware of the pros and cons beforehand, so you can make an informed decision.
If you are looking for more resources to develop your public speaking skills while you are in the comforts of your own home, take advantage of the many online resources available to you. Please check out the article ‘Online Resources for Public Speaking‘ for a detailed review of some online resources for public speaking and feel free to leave a comment below.