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Motivating Adult Learners – Skype an Expert




Written by Shelly Terrell.

Young adult girl using a webcam and headset for video conferencingMy adult learners are not technology savvy, but they enjoy when I use technology in our classes. Their favourite tool is Skype, a free videoconferencing tool that can be downloaded on the Skype website.  Skype allows me to connect my students with the world. We can speak with guest experts from virtually anywhere on a webcam. My adult students enjoy this tool so much they often ask who we will Skype next.


Skype is such a versatile tool. You have the option to share your desktop, exchange files, text chat, and videoconference with up to five people (PC users only). You will need a web camera and microphone to use this free software. I have an LCD projector that displays our guests for the entire class to see. The students sit in a circle facing the screen.

We only use Skype for 20 percent of the class time. The beginning of the class is spent exploring our topic and deciding which questions the students want to ask the guest speaker. After the Skype call, I ask the students for feedback.

Lesson Ideas

Skype can be integrated into almost any lesson. Last week, we were studying British and American idioms. We used Skype to interview a person from the UK who helped students figure out what the most popular idioms meant. Students also interviewed her about the recent election and the Ash Cloud trouble. The week before we quizzed an American about his knowledge of British culture. The idea came from this interview with Hugh Laurie. We have also had classes from America interview us about Germany’s culture. My students ask and answer many questions and are able to practice the English they have learned in context with native speakers.

Other ways to use Skype include having students:

  • Debate with another class
  • Give short presentations
  • Tour a building or place
  • Present and describe cultural items
  • Interview each other for a news report
  • Conduct a role play
  • Critique presentations
  • Provide feedback for reports
  • Practice their telephone English
  • Phone a friend for Who Wants to be a Millionaire?
  • Interview an expert such as a famous author
  • Investigate a witness of a pretend crime
  • Hold an election
  • Tell a group story

Visit my technology wiki for more lesson ideas, Skype resources, and lists of classes and experts who will Skype with your class.

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  1. Thank you for detailing the many ways that Skype can be effectively used in our English classrooms.

    While I’ve never designed an assignment around Skype yet, many students have chosen to use Skype to conduct their informational interviews for a class presentation. Plus many universities are exploring adding Skype to admission tests, and some are considering adding Skype to their placement exams before international students arrive on campus. Your post makes me more comfortable with both possibilities.

    Perhaps it’s time for me to consciously add new Skype assignments for the Spring 2011 semester.

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