online learning

Online Lessons



reign take place it’s about time
loft feature supervision
set up founder concentrate
puppet handmade at the same time
script draw up element (3)
trick curriculum imagination
chance tackle (3) complicated
allow trial run monitor (2)
bubble dynamics whiteboard






Today’s history lesson is taking place online; the subject is the reign of the Roman emperor Augustus.

Lukas Dolling is in the sixth grade, and his teacher thinks it’s about time he learned about Roman history.

Luckily there is plenty of material available online, to help him tackle the subject.

Lucas Dolling, Pupil: “I think it’s easier to watch a film before I read a book, because I can understand it better, and I know a little bit more about the subject.”

His mother pays €15 a month for the online lessons. She says that it helps him understand the subjects better.

The videos are produced in a loft in Berlin. They contain a lot of comic figures, speech bubbles, colorful images.

The camera in the roof films it all . . . the result is a short film.

Stephan Bayer set up the company.

In 2008 he began filming videos while he was doing business studies. Since then, he’s made more than 10,000 films. And has 60,000 subscribers.

Stephan Bayer, Sofa Tutor Founder: “The camera films what I write there. I talk at the same time, and that allows the viewer to concentrate on what’s really important.

A lot of the elements of our video are handmade, like these puppets made of paper. And handwriting plays an important role.”

In this office, the editors and teachers work on the curriculum: this is where the scripts are drawn up for the films.

About one hundred graphic artists, web-designers and IT specialists work here every week, under Stephan Bayer’s supervision.

He says imagination is important. So all kinds of visual tricks are used to explain mathematical problems which otherwise seem complicated in a normal black and white textbook.

Bayer says it’s all a result of good teamwork.

The progress of the students is monitored, and there’s online chat for any questions.

The fantasy figures are the product of the graphics department. Everyone here says the future of teaching is — online.

Stephan Bayer, Sofa Tutor Managing Director: “The most important thing we can do is give pupils a chance to teach themselves, to learn things independently that are taught in schools.”

Stephan Bayer’s tutorials are being tested at this Berlin school. In a trial run, the teachers are using online lessons for pupils in the sixth grade.

Ilona Bernsdorf, School Principal: “They make lessons a lot more relaxed. They help the teacher to prepare and present them differently. The most important thing for me is they allow the pupils to work independently, once they are familiar with the material.”

While the students can work independently, the teachers have a lot more time to explain things.

When the children are given a laptop and headset, they often work faster than adults.

Lares Koplin, Pupil: “The videos are put together so that it’s easy to remember. We use parts of the videos, we take them out, and put them in Power Point, for example.

And we present that to the class, which allows us to explain the subject.”

Playing the films over the whiteboard changes the dynamics of the lesson.

And if this trial run goes well, the online tutorials will end up a regular feature of class.


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1. Learning ancient history from classroom lectures and textbooks is fun and interesting. True or false?

2. Are Lukas’ online lessons free?

3. The lessons are made by amateurs for fun, as a hobby. Is this right or wrong? Do only computer experts make the online lessons?

4. Do the videos only feature teachers lecturing?

5. Is this a small enterprise (company) with a dozen employees started by a group of venture capitalist businessmen?

6. The online lessons are only for individual students like Lucas learning alone at home. Yes or no?

7. Can the online lessons supplement and improve classroom learning?


A. I had (or I have) online lessons at my school. True or false?

B. Do you think online lessons are a good way to learn math, science, history, English, etc.?

C. How do students (or young people) feel about online lessons? Are their parents (older people) enthusiastic about it? Do they agree with online lessons?

D. Do teachers and other educators have reservations about online lessons? Are they suspicious or skeptical? Do they fear them?

E. I read, watch and listen to many things online. Yes or no?

F. What will learning be like in the future?

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