By James A. Smith
As a result of the pandemic, more and more language schools have taken their services online for international students. This is usually in the form of Zoom, Google Hangouts or Microsoft Teams. One school in particular, however, has taken online learning to a new level.
In this post, I talk about my experience using the Hutong School Web App, a user-friendly interface which connects students with Chinese tutors from Hutong School. I discuss the lesson style and structure, the dashboard features, the quality of the teachers and why I think dashboards like Hutong’s are the future of online language learning.
My online classes with Hutong School
As established, I recently had the pleasure of taking an online Mandarin class through Hutong School’s new web app. My 60 minute lesson was with a tutor called Jenny. She did a fantastic job and made me feel at ease. It can’t be easy teaching somebody like me, who is a complete beginner in Mandarin, especially when you’re unsure of the student’s level before the class.
Jenny adjusted the class accordingly as she became familiar with my level of Mandarin. The content in the lesson was engaging and unique. Importantly, she made the lesson interactive and spoke good English. For this reason, it was a very welcoming experience with Hutong School, leaving positive first impressions.
Hutong Web App Dashboard
I was pleasantly surprised by how user-friendly the Hutong dashboard is. The app is really easy to navigate and there are plenty of features which make it an enjoyable experience. The main purpose of the Hutong Dashboard is, of course, to provide a platform for live video lessons with Hutong’s teachers, but the app is not limited to this. For example, there is a chat section from which to message your teacher with queries or feedback on work. There are also interactive exercises to complete after each lesson, which are tailored specifically to individual student needs. As a student, you can use the dashboard to view your courses, lesson schedule, lesson reviews and your teachers.
One of the best features of the dashboard, besides being able to find a teacher and benefit from live lessons, is the ability to access Chinese courses ranging from HSK1, total beginner level, to HSK 6. The Course section also contains digital text books and vocabulary flashcards.
In total, this area contains hundreds of individual lessons, the vast majority of which are free to access when you are enrolled as a student with Hutong school. I think it’s great that Hutong have made their resources available via the web app.
From the lesson I tried, it was very clear that the teachers have a lot of experience teaching Chinese. The majority are Teachers of Chinese to Speakers of Other Languages (TCSOL) or Teachers of Chinese as a Foreign Language (TCFL) with many possessing Masters Certifications in Teaching Chinese. As a student, I like the fact that you can choose your teacher on the dashboard based on their experience, the personal bio they provide of themselves, the number of students they have and the ratings provided by other students.
You can even see how many hours of teaching they have completed on the web app and how many students they are teaching currently. For me, this is important as I don’t want to waste my time and money with a teacher that isn’t right for me.
Fortunately for technophobes like me, scheduling lessons with the Hutong School web app is really simple. Once you have selected your preferred tutor, you are notified of his or her teaching availability and can book classes accordingly. You can also message teachers before doing so. Once you have booked, lessons are added to your personal calendar, which is also accessible through the dashboard.
Overall, (in case you couldn’t tell already), I am really impressed with the Hutong School Web app and its features. Nowadays, there are plenty of places to learn Chinese online. In this sense, Hutong school is not unique by adapting its offering to cater for online learning. However, I think Hutong have placed themselves ahead of other Chinese language schools by incorporating various elements into one holistic, user-friendly space. The ability to schedule lessons so easily, message tutors and students, manage your calendar and access so much Chinese course content for free makes the web app a truly great addition to
I believe that dashboards such as this are the future of online language learning. Whilst they do not replace a classroom experience, the grouping together of all necessary materials makes it a truly great experience for students. Other Chinese schools have some catching up to do!
About the author: James A. Smith
James is a language enthusiast, a lover of travel and the founder of the online language blog travel-lingual.com. He is an online tutor of English, Spanish and French, and currently learning German and Japanese.