Paso a Paso (“Step by Step”) teaches Spanish over the Internet to people in Japan. I caught up with the head teacher, Pablo Bernardi, in between lessons and asked him how he uses VSee.
When Paso a Paso started four years ago, their ambition was to teach all of their lessons using video over the Internet, but it was difficult to find a product that made it easy for people to establish good communication, understand natural speaking and movements, and share materials on his desktop. Although VSee was in its early stages back then Paso a Paso saw its potential and has remained with the product as it improved over the years. On a recent VSee call from my office in Massachusetts to his in Osaka Pablo showed me how he uses just about every feature of VSee to create a classroom experience over the Internet.
In a lesson that lasts 45 to 50 minutes, Pablo or one of the four instructors will establish an audio and video link (80% of their students have webcams), gesture and talk in Spanish. They also make extensive use of the screen sharing to present images to illustrate concepts, and use the auxiliary camera input to play audio and video recordings. The result is a seamless experience for the student, where the instructor can control exactly what the student sees.
Students sign up by the month, for a package of 4, 8 or 12 lessons at $20 each and a complete course of study can last from 6 months to 3 years.
The most difficult part of the operation is the initial setup. Many of the students are not sophisticated with computers and need to be helped through the process of purchasing and installing a webcam and associated audio gear. Paso a Paso has Japanese staff that leads the students through the process on the phone. There is also an automated VSee id that can be called to verify the successful installation. Once the student gets VSee running the teachers do all the work and the student can concentrate on learning Spanish.
Pablo teaches from the main office in Osaka, but also there are two instructors teaching from Tokyo and two from Argentina. He recently made a trip to Argentina and continued teaching from there without any loss of quality, although is difficult to find a reliable Internet connection there.
Paso a Paso shows how all the elements of VSee can be brought together to provide a powerful tool for online learning.