Teaching via Zoom

Teaching via Zoom

Paul Arden | Tuesday, 13 July 2021

It was an interesting page last week from Bernd on teaching via video vs in-person and I agree with Bernd on his points. Comparing those two side by side, in-person is undoubtedly best. Firstly you can see everything that’s going on, but also you can just make a series of quick adjustments in a very short time.

However teaching via video conferencing is a different thing again. While you have the restrictions on what you can easily see, you can ask your student to move around and cast from different positions. For me I think this is a much better comparison because then we are comparing a one-hour lesson in-person vs a one-hour lesson performed remotely.

Like Bernd, I’ve been teaching via Video almost since the first years of Sexyloops. Ok not quite in the first years of Sexyloops because it was very difficult to film yourself and post that to the Internet. But since the early 2000s it’s become easier and easier. Anyone who has a phone nowadays can video themselves and with very little skill can post their video via email, Dropbox, messenger, youtube and so on.

Like Bend I do a lot of that sort of “teaching”. However I don’t see that as formal teaching or a formal lesson, more along the lines of giving friendly advice. However the interesting thing happens when you apply that experience to video conferencing.

Since this bloody pandemic happened, as you’ll probably know, Zoom usage has exploded. People working from home has made this platform widely used and many people use it in their daily lives – not only for work but also for staying in touch with family and friends.

Around the beginning of this year I really needed an additional income. Since the beginning of the pandemic I’ve guided 4 days to locals with no international guests… that’s 96 days less work than planned! Sexyloops rod sales have been good this year – last year was a small disaster – but my guiding/hosting business has had virtually no business – and that’s the one that pays our living costs around here; it covers repayments on my truck and our house rental. My wife has been out of work for over a year and studying an MBA instead (she is in the hotel business and so you can imagine how that is over here at the moment. The resort hotel on the lake where I live, for example, has been shut for 16 months and is still shut and will most likely not open again at least until November, if at all!).

So in January this year after downloading Zoom and experimenting with where I can use it on the lake, I gave a few experimental fly casting lessons to friends and regular clients of mine. In no time at all we all saw great value in these and so in early March I started giving formal paid lessons. Consequently I have around 6 months experience in teaching with this medium.

The biggest disadvantages that I can see are virtually all my end as an instructor. Firstly I cannot easily move around. Seeing the entire loop unroll is very difficult maybe impossible. Watching back and forward loops unroll back-to-back you can forget. So I am mostly concentrating on body movement and verbal feedback from the student. My students are all intermediate level and above – this may be important, because I can ask them how the loop looks and they will tell me!

Another disadvantage is that I can’t cast side by side simultaneously with the student; I use this often when teaching and it gives fast results. So that is out. We can pantomime of course, but watching loops unroll side by side cannot happen. And finally, of course, I can’t put my hands through the screen and move their hands about for them! But to be honest I rarely do this anyway nowadays. I find that many people get intimidated and something always changes the moment you make physical contact. I imagine now, that since we may have some deadly virus, physical contact is going to be less anyway.

So what are the advantages? There are two big ones. The first and most significant advantage of all is CONVENIENCE. I have about half a dozen regular students at the moment (and I’ll explain what this means in a moment) as well as a sprinkling of students here and there, who may also become regulars (I hope so – especially for them!). Not one of them travels for more than 5 minutes to get to a lesson. Two walk into their gardens. All of them have their Zoom lessons where they normally practise.

Just think about that for a moment... When I give lessons in Essex most of my students travel 2hrs each way for the lesson. Four hours of travelling and to make it worthwhile and palatable I make the lessons 2 hrs long. However I can think of no occasions where 1 hour would not have been sufficient and (significantly) where 2x1hr lessons would not have been FAR better.

When someone travels for two hours to get to you they are stressed. They don’t want to be late, they don’t want to crash or get stuck in traffic, they’ve had to plan their entire day around your lesson. When someone wants a Zoom lesson they just walk out to their usual casting field a few minutes earlier and get connected.

The other advantage I find is that they are relaxed! Whether that’s because they haven’t been driving to get to me or if it’s because they are casting where they normally practise, or even maybe it’s because I am remote, they are definitely more at ease. And we all know as instructors just how important it is for your students to be comfortable.

I have three clients now who have each had more than 8 lessons, all on Zoom. In 25 years of teaching fly casting I have never before given 8 lessons to anyone. And all in the last 4 months. These students have undoubtedly learned more from me than all of my other students. The differences and improvements in their technique has become very obvious. Four of my students are training to be CCI. That’s pretty normal of course.

My current student base is USA, Australia, Hong Kong, EU (three counties) and UK. None in Malaysia!

I believe that the ideal situation would be a combination of in-person training and Zoom lessons. Something like a 1-5 ratio. But since that is obviously not possible in these circumstances, I would take 2x1hr Zoom lessons over a 1x2hr lesson in person any day. And if we add travel time on to a lesson (not even thinking about travel costs!) you can see just how efficient is video conferencing.

My typical lesson in Essex is 2hrs travelling from London each way, plus a 2hr lesson which equals 6 hrs of Zoom lessons spread over a couple of months.

When I look it like that I know that video conferencing fly casting lessons is not only the future but it's now – and we should all try to get very good at it!