Published 18th June 2021

Online teaching via the internet

Sky-high motivation

Can-do attitude

Comfy leggings

If you’ve got all that it sounds like you’re ripe and ready to start teaching English as a Foreign Language online – or are you?

To set yourself up for success as an online teacher of English there are a number of things you need to have. Even though you might have a vague idea of the tools you need, we thought we’d look a little bit more in detail about what you need, just to make sure you start on your best foot.

Read more: What Are the Requirements for Teaching English Online?

First and foremost, obviously, is an internet connection. But it’s not as simple as that. Let’s look at the different aspects of your internet connection you need to consider to make sure you have the right internet speed to teach English online.

The internet

Your internet connection needs to be stable and reliable. Most online companies will require you to have a minimum upload and download speed of 10Mbps. In order to prove this there are a number of websites that allow you to test your internet speed, so it’s simple enough to check your connection speed for yourself. Companies will often ask you to verify your internet speed.

Then we need to think about reliability and stability. While for most of the world this isn’t usually a problem, South Africans: we need to talk. Loadshedding and power outages are a part of our everyday life now and it doesn’t look like the problem is going to be solved anytime soon. Don’t let the inefficiency of Eskom put you off your dream, though – there are loads of online English teachers working from South Africa, not to mention the many digital nomads who come especially to South Africa to work remotely.

Read more: How Teaching English Can Help You Become a Digital Nomad

So, what can we do when the lights go out? Well, we can make sure that never happens.

You have options

There are a few options available to you:

  • A power bank and dongle
  • A UPS
  • An inverter

A power bank is a simple and cost-effective solution to the problem of no power. You can buy a power bank at most cell phone shops or computer stores, or online. There are different sizes but the bigger the better when it comes to battery power. But, this will only allow you to power your phone or your laptop. You will also need a dongle so that you can get an internet connection at the same time.

However, power banks have a limited capacity and might not last the entire duration of a load-shedding blackout. And you have to remember to keep it charged for when you do need it. You also probably don’t want to give a lesson while you’re sitting in the dark! So a power bank is useful if you know you’ll be without power in daylight hours and if you only have a lesson or two.

Teaching online together

UPS

A better option is a UPS. A UPS is an Uninterruptible Power Source. Many of us are familiar with generators but a UPS is a better option for a household because it provides instant power when the power supply goes out. In other words, you don’t need to wait for it to power up like a generator. As you can imagine, this would be a disaster in the middle of an online lesson!

UPS’s vary in size. Some can power just a computer, while others can power a computer, modem or router, TV, lights and a number of other appliances. You would only need a relatively small one for your needs. Your appliances are plugged into the UPS all the time so that it automatically becomes the source of power when load-shedding starts. A UPS can usually last for a few hours, which should be enough for your load-shedding needs.

Added protection

An added benefit of having a UPS is protection to your devices. With load-shedding, the sudden loss of power and subsequent powering on of the electrical supply can cause a power surge. This can cause damage to your devices and appliances and has even been known to cause fires. Luckily, because so many South Africans have already invested in UPS’s, we are able to gauge which are the more popular and better options for us. Have a look at this article for more information.

 An inverter is a similar option to a UPS. For general use, it is often preferred for households. However, if your home is a working environment it might not be suitable. While an inverter may last longer than some UPS’s, there is a delay in the power supply when the main power supply gets turned off. This is why inverters are not suitable for online English teachers.

Read more: Top Companies for South Africans to Teach English Online

A device

Of course, what you also need is a device to make use of your internet. For teaching online a mobile phone or a laptop are suitable, depending on your teaching situation. If you are teaching English through a company such as Cambly or with a programme like Skype, then a mobile phone is fine because your lessons are conversational and you only need to be able to chat.

For any other online teaching, a laptop or desktop is recommended. While there is no specific model that you need, you need to be able to share documents, use an interactive whiteboard, play videos and games, video call and chat. With that in mind, you need a computer which is relatively up-to-date.  

Along with your computer, it’s also recommended that you have a set of earphones or a headset. This is so that you can hear your students clearly but also so they can hear you clearly and without any distracting background noises.

A laptop stand is another good idea. Sitting at a computer for hours every day is not good for your back, and a laptop stand will ensure your laptop is at the right height for you. This will prevent you from getting backache, wrist injuries and eye strain. You could also consider a standing desk if you want to be super trendy.

A quiet space

The beauty of teaching English online is the flexibility. Yes, this means you can teach from basically anywhere, but you do need to bear in mind that you need a quiet space to teach in. Space away from barking doors, ringing doorbells, noisy traffic, chaotic children and TV. Your space must be light and decorated appropriately.

If you are teaching Business English or in a corporate or academic setting, your background should be clear and clean. Pictures on the wall are fine, but make sure there is nothing offensive or inappropriate in view. If you are teaching Young Learners, it is a good idea to have a backdrop. This could include pictures, the date, a name card, a map, emojis – anything that is bright and colourful and would appeal to a child.

So while there are a number of tools you need to teach English online, the most important one must be your internet connection. If you’re in an area that has a dodgy relationship with the internet, don’t fret because there are options available to you – and making plans is part of your job description! Wherever you are make sure you’re good to go to ensure that your online lessons can go off without a hitch.

  1. My internet connection is extremely low for uploading and downloading. I live in rural Ireland county.down and I wonder if your can recommend a solution to my plight. Would for instance, a universal Gps dongle provide the 10BPS I need?

    1. Hello James, I would encourage to check with your local service provider to see if there are any solutions they can offer you. Louise 😊

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