Published 10th March 2021
Considering teaching English as a Foreign Language online? Welcome to the future!
Teaching English online is a booming business right now and it seems its popularity is not going anywhere anytime soon. And there’s no reason it should. Online learning is convenient for both the teacher and the students because it can take place anytime, anywhere. It doesn’t matter if the teacher and the students live in different countries, on different continents, even in different time zones. Plus, there is the added convenience of not having to travel for lessons.
Even better, there is not much you need in order to be able to teach English online, which means it’s a viable career option for most people. Yes, even you!
Not convinced? Let’s look at exactly what tools you need to teach English online:
A TEFL qualification
First things first, you’ll need to get yourself a TEFL certificate. Look online and you’ll find hundreds of TEFL courses on offer for you around the world or online. Do your due diligence and pick the course that suits you.
Read more: How Do I Choose the Right TEFL Course?
A computer and accessories
Yes, we know you know this but it’s worth repeating. You can no longer think of your computer as a means of communication or a way to stream Netflix. Your computer is now your livelihood. Make sure it is a decent computer or laptop and also that it has a good antivirus. Make sure it is regularly updated so that it can run smoothly.
Then, you also need a headset or a microphone. There are loads you can buy but try not to go for the absolute bottom of the range. You don’t need to break the bank but these will be used a lot so they need to be of good quality. Besides, cheap electronics have a tendency to break quickly so you’ll end up replacing a cheap pair soon anyway.
Depending on your “classroom” situation, it might make sense for you to invest in a laptop stand and a comfy (but ergonomic) chair. If you’re teaching for hours on end, this could save you loads of money in physical therapy later on!
Obviously, you need an internet connection but bear in mind it needs to be relatively fast and reliable. When you sign up with an online school they will ask you to do a speedtest to confirm the speed of your internet. The speed requirements vary from company to company but usually, they ask for an upload speed of 10 to 15 Mbps, though the higher the better. You can test your internet speed yourself at Speedtest.net.
Then, if you’re in an area where the internet connection or power supply is a bit unreliable (hello, South Africans!), you should consider investing in a UPS. A UPS is an Uninterruptible Power Supply. If there is a power outage, a UPS will power your computer and wifi for a few hours – hopefully until the power comes back on. There are different sizes available but you only need a small one for home use and thankfully, there are not overly expensive – and totally worth it since your livelihood relies on it.
Props and backgrounds
We have all learned through the last few months of Zoom meetings that we always need to be careful about what’s in the backgrounds of our screens. When you are teaching, this is understandably a big concern. To make sure you won’t suffer from any embarrassments, try to keep the wall behind you clear. But, if you would like to make your background a bit interesting, you could choose a few nice artworks or posters to hang behind you.
If you are teaching English online to Young Learners, then a bland background just won’t cut it. You’ll need a backdrop of some sort of posters to hang up behind you. You can also have a map, maybe a whiteboard, your name written somewhere, and even a calendar or the day of the week.
During your lesson, you want to introduce realia into your lessons. This could be something as simple as pieces of fruit if you are teaching fruit, or clothing if you are teaching clothing. Many teachers have a mascot in the form of a soft toy or puppet to “assist” them in their teaching.
While it’s possible to note everything down online, there is something to be said for the ease and convenience of a whiteboard. You don’t need a giant one. There are mini versions that will suit your purposes just fine. And don’t forget you’ll need a few different colour marker pens too.
Flashcards are also a good idea if you are teaching Young Learners.
Read more: Using Flashcards to Teach Vocabulary
A teaching platform
You might be wondering how you actually teach your students online. And the beauty of the internet is that you actually don’t need to worry about that. Most commonly, your online school will have its own teaching platform which you will have access to. This should have a classroom as well as an interactive whiteboard, a shared screen, and messaging capabilities. You will also use this platform to check your class schedule and bookings, give feedback on your lesson, and request payment. Each company will work differently but you will be provided with adequate training before you start teaching.
If your school doesn’t offer this, there are other options available to you. Skype used to be very popular, but Zoom is becoming more so these days, probably because it offers a lot more by way of interactivity. Either works fine, you’ll just need to check them both out and see which one suits your needs best.
If you’re lucky, your school might provide you with your lesson materials. This means you don’t need to worry about a thing besides showing up and teaching. Of course, you’ll look over the materials before the lesson but you won’t need to make time to plan your lesson or source materials.
If you do, there are tons of different sites to help you out. Some of them are subscription sites but there is still a lot of free materials available to you. Here are a few of our favourite sites:
A payment method
The easiest way to get paid from abroad is through a payment website, such as Paypal, Transferwise, or Payoneer. The majority of online schools pay through Paypal and it’s very simple to use. You’ll need to sign up and link it to your local bank account – but that’s it! Easy peasy.
That’s it! You’re all set! With these tools at your fingertips, you’re ready to conquer the online world and teach English.