Nowadays Skype has become almost like a phone, as it is normally used to communicate with friends, relatives, colleagues, connecting countries and continents.
Without doubt, the main use of Skype is the private one, and everyday life is the most frequent topic of a Skype conversation. This is the main reason for the wide-spread stereotype that Russian lessons via Skype mean only speaking practice, usually on everyday topics. Unfortunately, this is indeed sometimes the case, but only if the teacher is inexperienced, and does not usually work via Skype.
Technology now means that Russian classes via Skype can approximate – and in some ways even surpass – real classes. The teacher prepares a wide range of class materials from various Russian language textbooks to use in the Skype class, and this means that the Skype classes have a definite structure.
Everybody knows that during “traditional” Russian classes in a group new words are always written on blackboard. Now it has become possible for us, Russian language teachers, to use the electronic blackboards, such as Idroo or Vyew, that allow us not only to write new words, but also to do picture description exercises together with the student, to draw on the board together, etc. The most important thing about the use of a virtual blackboard in Russian classes is that all records can be stored and viewed many times. In this way, the student can better learn new vocabulary and grammar points and regularly revise them at home.
Video and audio are also widely used in our Russian lessons via Skype. Youtube is a great help for us, because there is a large amount of Russian class materials there. We also use some podcasts from sites dedicated to the study of the Russian language.
You may ask, what about writing? There are several possible options: the first one is that the student just writes the homework by hand, then scans it and sends it to the teacher, and the teacher corrects it; the second option is that the student types a text, and then the teacher corrects it, usually in Word format.
But this is just an overview of the methods used to teach Russian via Skype. The most interesting part is discovered during the Russian classes themselves!