The idea of teaching online seems strange to lots of teachers who are used to working in classrooms, but it’s the new frontier of teaching and it has a lot to recommend it! In a world where work schedules are becoming increasingly flexible and the boundaries between the office and the home are blurring due to the option of working remotely, teaching online is a great way for TEFL teachers to fit more hours into their schedules. You can teach three classes back to back, with no travelling in between, at a time of your own choosing and from the comfort of your own home.
However, the idea of teaching online can be nervewracking if you’ve never done it before, so we’ve put together some tips for online teaching rookies.
Work with a reputable academy
There are thousands of online teaching companies which act as the middleman between teachers and students. The academies that pay the best hourly rates are the ones with a more rigorous interview method. VIPkid, for example, will expect you to do an interview with a recruiter in Beijing and a trial class with a fake child (yes, it’s as bizarre as it sounds) to make sure you’re able to teach at the standard they expect. The pay is usually between 14 – 22 USD an hour. Academies will decide what you’re worth based on your qualifications and your teaching experience. Peak time is usually between noon and 3pm in Europe, which is evening in Beijing.
Make sure your equipment is up to scratch
You’ll need a decent microphone so the students can hear you speaking. If the inbuilt microphone on your laptop isn’t up to scratch, invest in a good external microphone. If you live with flatmates, or on a noisy street, you might even think about investing in a headset – that way you’ll hear your students as clearly as possible without too much noise interference. This list of headphones is worth checking out as it has been put together with online teaching in mind. You’ll also need a good internet connection – that is, one that can support a Skype call without any connection issues. It’s also worth having a backup connection in case your internet goes down – you can tether your laptop to your phone.
Choose your platform and get familiar with it
Some academies use Skype and others have developed their own platforms. Whatever you’re working with, make sure you’re confident about what you’re doing – trying to figure out how to flip between a slide and the video is time-consuming and stressful when you have a student waiting on the other end of the video call!
There are a lot of teachers available for online classes, so competition is fierce and academies expect you to log in on time. If you miss a class, even with a good reason, you’ll find it difficult to get more teaching hours through the same academy. It can be tempting to roll out of bed five minutes before the class starts – after all, you’re only going as far as your living room – but make an effort to be as presentable as you’d want to be in a physical classroom. It will make a difference to how you feel and how you teach.
Adapt your classroom skills to online teaching
Even though there’s a lot of overlap, there are some adjustments you’ll have to make to your teaching style. It’s a strange feeling teaching through a screen – you’re often on an iPad, looking up a kid’s nose! Sometimes the students have a very low level, and their parents don’t speak English either and you can find yourself at a loss when communicating across the world, so it’s a good idea to have some simple props to hand to reinforce vocabulary. Being expressive is very important – online teaching is a great vehicle for total physical response teaching, a methodology developed in the 1970s which mimics the way that babies learn language and involves lots of gesture, exaggerated facial expressions and body movement. This counteracts the distancing effect of teaching through a screen, and you can even do fun things like getting your students to do high fives and fist bumps through the screen.
Do you have any tips for online teaching? If so, let us know in the comments!