In this study skills lesson, I’ll give you my best tips and advice for taking online English lessons. By applying this advice, you’ll learn English more effectively and will get better value for money from your lessons. In the second part of the lesson video, I’ll also make a recommendation for an online language school.

Zoom Tips for Your Online Lessons

When having a conversation in real life, we usually don’t stand directly in front of people and stare into their faces as we speak. However, when we use video conferencing technology, this is how our body language appears via a webcam. Staring at people head-on is confrontational body language that inhibits the natural flow of conversation. Therefore, to be relaxed during online lessons, we must do what we can to ‘forget’ that we are speaking via a screen. One thing that helps is to click the Zoom function to ‘hide self view’. When this is enabled, your teacher and the other students in the class will still be able to see your webcam view, but you won’t see yourself. Not looking at yourself while you are speaking English in the class will help you to relax and be more present in your lesson.

A second technical tip for using Zoom in your online lessons is to click the function to blur your background.  I advise doing this because it depersonalises your environment, which means your teacher and classmates can’t see your home or personal belongings. Think of it this way: you probably wouldn’t want the teacher and classmates at a real-life English school seeing your home/bedroom/personal belongings, so why should it be different when attending an online school? Keeping your background neutral (showing no personal belongings) or blurring it enables you to keep a sense of privacy when learning from home. Try it, and I’m sure you will feel more much more relaxed when speaking and answering questions.

Technical tip: the Zoom blur background function must be enabled before you can use it. You will find this setting in the Zoom desktop app. Click on your profile picture in the top right corner and a menu will appear that includes a ‘Background & Effects’ section. If you can’t find the ‘Virtual Backgrounds’ and blur function in the menu, then you need to update to the most recent version of Zoom.

Focus and Concentration Tips

It goes without saying that you will learn English more effectively by concentrating during your online English lessons. When learning via a screen, it’s inevitable that you will sometimes get tired or zone out during the lesson (this is when you completely stop paying attention and your eyes go fuzzy). To mitigate the ill effects of this, there are some practical things we can do. My first tip is that you should pay attention to your posture: sitting up straight with both feet in contact with the floor really helps you to maintain focus. Adjusting your posture can also help you to mentally ‘come back’ to the lesson, if you realise that you have spaced out. Note that his tip works best if you can keep your back and shoulder muscles engaged, but without being overly rigid.

Sitting up straight helps you to concentrate.

My second tip to improve the quality of your attention during online lessons is to take them at the time of day  when you feel most energised. For example, if you’re a morning person, you should always book morning lessons. One of the benefits of joining a large online English school is that you will be able to book your lessons at the time of day that suits you best.

One last thing to consider is the impact of lesson frequency on your concentration. In an ideal world, we would always attend lessons when we are fresh and wide awake. In real life, however, this isn’t always possible due to our family and work commitments. The rule of thumb to apply here is as follows: the more frequent your lessons, the less effort you should put into focusing in them! This is because if we are only having one lesson per week, we need to make it count by being fresh and alert throughout that lesson. In contrast, however, if we are having multiple lessons per week, then quantity makes up for quality!

Webcam On or Off During Online Lessons?

My point of view as a teacher is that I like students to have their webcams on during lessons because it enhances the group atmosphere. Furthermore, being able to see my students helps to establish rapport with them more quickly. That being said, there are circumstances in which it is best for students to turn their webcams off during their online lesson. One example circumstance being that the student’s internet connection is poor (turning off the webcam makes the audio more stable). A second situation in which it is preferable to turn off your webcam is if you are attending your class via a mobile phone. Note: using a mobile phone to attend lessons is generally not a good idea, but if you are taking intensive English lessons, then it is okay sometimes. Using a mobile phone for your lesson is better than not having a lesson or being absent because you don’t have a laptop to hand.

How to Present Yourself in Your Online Lesson

This next tip will help you to speak up more in your lessons. English classes, both online and in real-life classrooms, usually involve a lot of personal questions. These questions are designed to get you speaking in the class, however, it can be odd answering questions like this when you are talking to people whom you don’t know that well. One way to deal with the potential awkwardness of this is to adopt a business-like persona during the lesson. What this means is that you still participate in the class as ‘you’, but you do not speak about yourself in a revealing manner by oversharing or talking about emotional topics. In other words, being polite and a little bit on the formal side will give you the confidence to speak more during the class. I also find that it helps to keep your purpose in mind, which is to learn and practise your English (not to make friends).

Best Online English School

The online English school that I recommend for my students is Lingoda. By taking regular lessons with Lingoda, your English confidence and skills can transform. I have personally checked the quality of their training by attending some of their English lessons myself, and based on this, I must say that their experienced teachers and lesson materials impressed me.

Another benefit of taking classes with Lingoda is that their group classes are capped at a maximum of five students per class. This ensures that you get plenty of time to interact and ask questions.

One last reason that I recommend Lingoda is that their classes run 24-hours per day. This means that wherever you are in the world, you can join an English class at a time that suits you best. This level of flexibility and convenience is only possible when joining a large online English school, such as Lingoda.

Lingoda Language Sprint Explained

The Lingoda Language Sprint is a special offer that makes taking intensive English lessons with them much cheaper than usual. Students who successfully complete their language sprint by attending all of their lessons during the 2-month period get 50% of their money back.

The Lingoda Language Sprint has two levels of intensity: there is the Regular Sprint (15 lessons per month) and the Super Sprint (30 lessons per month). The deal that I recommend for most of my students is their Regular Sprint because you can more easily fit it around work and family commitments.

To get a 20 Euro discount on your registration fee, use the Promo code joddle25 and find out more HERE.

Thank you for watching and/or reading this English study skills lesson. By applying these tips, you will be able to learn English online more effectively. To extend your learning, you might also like my related lesson on Zoom manners: What Not to Do on Zoom.


Jade Joddle grows your confidence and skill to shine when speaking English.

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