Last week I wrote an enthusiastic review about Off2Class, a new website which provides lesson materials for one-to-one teaching on or offline. I thought it would be interesting to find out more about who's behind the site and how it was created, and co-founder Kris Jagasia kindly agreed to answer my questions.
Q. I know you have both worked in Istanbul. What were you doing in Turkey?
A. Correct, myself (Kris) and James (my co-founder) were both in Istanbul working on an online English startup called TurksLearnEnglish. Prior to TurksLearnEnglish James had taught EFL on and off in Istanbul for about seven years. Like many teachers working abroad, private English tutoring had often been more lucrative than his monthly salary. Many of our teacher friends and colleagues received requests for tuition; however, they often would refuse the work due to time constraints in preparing content for lessons. We realized that lesson plan content required for private lessons is quite different from that of the traditional classroom. From this understanding was born Off2Class - lesson plans for private EFL teachers. James was so busy creating his own lesson plans for TurksLearnEnglish that it was a natural extension to adapt them for use by all EFL teachers.
Q. The Off2Class site has a very simple and attractive design. Who was responsible for the technical aspects?
A. I have been leading the product design and James is responsible for preparing lesson plan content but since it’s just a two-man team, we both end up working on a bit of everything. We want the user interface to be as simple to navigate as possible. Since we hope that EFL teachers will use Off2Class during their private lessons, reliability and simplicity are paramount. Teachers can load the site, and begin teaching within a couple of clicks. The site is free from cumbersome features. Private tutoring sessions can sometimes be stressful (especially if you are teaching a Young Learner); we don’t want Off2Class to create any complications to delivering a great lesson.
Q. In what sort of situations would you imagine the site being used?
A. We designed Off2Class to be used by private EFL teachers for their own lessons, to either individual students or small groups, online and offline. Although private EFL tuition is our intended use, the content works effectively in a classroom environment at schools or private language institutes. We’ve built enough flexibility in the way teachers can use Off2Class so that the system facilitates varied learning environments. Teachers can run lessons either by sharing their own screen or device with a student, or allowing students to follow along on their own devices. Today, many classrooms are equipped with projectors and many students carry tablets to class; the flexibility of lesson delivery is increasing and we wish to cater to all learning environments. We worked hard to make sure the site looks good on all sorts of screen sizes, devices and browsers in order to accommodate as many uses as possible.
Q. I know the site has only been online for a short while, but have you had any feedback from teachers?
A. The feedback so far has been wonderful! We sincerely value feedback form anyone using our site. As much as it’s encouraging to hear what we are doing right, we would also like to hear what we are doing wrong. For anybody currently using the system, you can email me (firstname.lastname@example.org) anytime with comments, concerns, criticism or praise. I will answer personally.
Q. What have you done (or what do you plan to do) to promote the site?
A. Interviews and guest posts with great blogs like your own! If readers know anyone who might benefit from access to our EFL lesson plans, you can direct them to the contact page on Off2Class. We are currently in private beta but if you send us a message we will set you up with an account.
Q. How do you see the Off2Class site developing?
A. The Internet and the growth of online teaching has created an exciting educational environment for teachers. A teacher who wants to start his or her own private teaching business is no longer constrained by the costs of setting up a bricks-and-mortar school environment. The only infrastructure required to run an online EFL business is Gmail, Paypal and Skype (each of which is effectively free to use). The other two key ingredients for success are a) paying customers, and b) engaging lesson plan content. The lesson plan content is where we come in. Our mission to create a wide range of high quality EFL lesson plans that cater from beginner students to near-native proficiency. We have a large amount of work in front of us but we are very optimistic and enthusiastic about our lesson plans. Once we’ve compiled the A-Z of EFL lesson plans, we intend to develop other tools for private EFL teachers… though we haven’t yet determined what those will be! We hope our users will let us know along the way!