5 Challenges of Teaching English Online While Travelling
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Teaching English online can be a dream come true. Being an online English teacher means you have the freedom to live out of your suitcase if that’s what your heart desires. You can pack your bags at any moment and move your life somewhere new, somewhere better or somewhere just different. After all, that’s the idea behind being a digital nomad, isn’t it?
But is it all butterflies and rainbows? Yoga pants and naps? Freedom and Zoom calls?
Well, no. It is real life, after all.
Sadly, as with anything in life, there are a number of challenges you may face when teaching English online and travelling the world. Enough to put us off teaching online altogether? Absolutely not. As long as you are aware of what you are getting yourself into and any potential difficulties you might encounter, there is no reason you can’t be prepared and deal with them as and when necessary.
So let’s go.
1. Hello? Are you there?
Being online is, obviously, an integral part of teaching English online, so a stable and reliable internet connection is a must. This is usually fine and dandy when you’re at home but what happens when you travel?
If you are travelling for a short time you need to make sure that wherever you are going to stay – be it an Airbnb, hotel or friend’s couch – has a good internet connection that you can access. This means it must be stable as well as have a decent internet speed.
A bad internet connection could mean you freeze, or your audio or visuals are not good, or you keep disconnecting. We have all experienced the frustration of a bad Zoom call, so you can imagine how you would feel if it happened in a lesson you are paying for. If your student has a bad experience in the lesson because of your internet connection, they might not book any more lessons with you or they might complain to your employer, which could mean you are fined or even lose your job.
In some countries, a good internet connection might not be as easy to find as you think, or it might cost you money you didn’t budget for. To further complicate things, in some places the power can be unreliable. This could be because you are in a remote place or because there are power outages. Either way, no power means no internet means no online classes.
What to do: Be prepared. Find out if there is a good internet connection before you book any accommodation. Use a website like Speedtest to check the internet speed when you arrive. If it is questionable, make sure you have a mobile internet device that will allow you to go online when you need to. If you have to pay for internet access, find out what the most cost-effective way to get internet is local – usually this means buying a local SIM card. Or find out if there is anywhere close by you can utilise for your lessons – though this is less than ideal if you can only find a busy coffee shop.
2. What time is it?
Teaching English online means you and your students are probably in different places, possibly different countries. While the beauty of the internet means this usually won’t affect you or your lessons in any way, the one thing it can affect is your time.
Considering time zones is not something we usually do when we go on holiday, but it must be if you are an online English teacher. Once you have set a time with your students for a lesson, you need to stick to that time, whether that means midnight or lunchtime for you.
One thing you do need to keep in mind, unfortunately, is the possibility that when you move around the time of the lesson might not be convenient for you anymore. However, we always say the beauty of teaching online is the flexibility, though that means you might need to adapt to a new lifestyle. Who knows, maybe you enjoy working nights and sleeping until lunchtime?!
What to do: Check your time zones. Always carry with you a clock with the time of the country where your students live, so you know what the time is for your students, no matter what the time is for you. Make sure you are organised with a schedule to keep track of your upcoming lessons.
3. How much can you fit in a suitcase?
As an online teacher, you supply the classroom. If you are travelling, this means you need to have a portable classroom that is easily packed up and moved. It’s always easier to travel light so it’s not going to be possible to lug an entire giant whiteboard from airport to airport!
But at the same time, there are a number of things that you need for your classroom for your online lessons. You might want a backdrop of some sort, or pictures or flashcards or a name card. If you are teaching Young Leaners you might want to use stuffed toys as mascots or sticker charts as reward systems. Then there are all the books and stationery that teachers seem to collect. As you can imagine, it won’t always be easy to fit all these things into a suitcase!
What to do: Be brutal. Decide what is absolutely essential for your classroom and only use those things. If you can, have a suitcase dedicated to your mobile classroom so that whenever you have to pack up and go, you know exactly how to pack everything in one bag. This will save you time and headaches.
4. Dude, where’s my classroom?
In an ideal world, you would teach all your lessons from a quiet, light, bright classroom. In reality, you could be teaching in a cramped bedroom, a shared living room or even a kitchen. If you are teaching early in the morning or late at night it could be dark in your room, and if you are in the city you might be surrounded by honking horns, barking dogs or rubbish trucks.
It is important for the quality of your lessons that your students can see and hear you clearly. At the same time, you need to be considerate of anyone staying with you or near you. Not many people would be impressed by your singing the alphabet song 10 times before sunrise!
What to do: Invest in some equipment which will make your life easier. A ring light is a small, portable light that folds up easily and will create enough light to brighten up any space. A phone or laptop stand is another good idea to make sure you have a good spot for your laptop or phone. Noise-cancelling headphones are essential to blocking out noise so it’s easier for both your student to hear you and you hear your student.
5. Is anybody out there?
Teaching English online can be a lonely job. You don’t have any colleagues and the only people you are speaking to every day are your students – and they aren’t necessarily going to be your friends! If you add to this the fact that you are moving around regularly and you might find yourself a little bit lonely at times. This is totally normal and nothing for you to worry about or make you hang up your headphones.
What to do: Keep in touch with friends and family back home. If you are travelling solo and don’t find it easy to make friends in new places, find an online community of TEFL teachers you can connect with regularly. Being alone doesn’t mean you have to be lonely, so if you are, reach out and make a connection.
Even though there are a few challenges you might face when teaching English online, we know it’s nothing you can’t handle!
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LAST UPDATED: 19th July 2022
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We’ll only market other organisations’ products and services if you have said it is OK for us to do so.
You can ask us to stop sending you marketing information or withdraw your permission at any time.
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD retains personal information in line with our corporate retention requirements. Your data will be stored within the European Economic Area (“the EEA”) (The EEA consists of all EU member states, plus Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). However, in some circumstances, part or all of your data may be stored or transferred outside of the European Economic Area (“the EEA”). You are deemed to accept and agree to this by using our site and submitting information to us. If we do store or transfer data outside the EEA, we will take all reasonable steps to ensure that your data is treated as safely and securely as it would be within the EEA and under the GDPR. Such steps may include, but not be limited to, the use of legally binding contractual terms between us and any third parties we engage with, and the use of the EU-approved Model Contractual Arrangements. If we intend at any time to transfer any of your data outside the EEA, we will always obtain your consent beforehand.
Right to access personal information
- Under the law, any individual has a right to ask for a copy of the personal information held about them. This means that you can ask for the information that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD holds about you. This is known as the right of ‘subject access’.
- When making a request you will need to give us:
- a request in writing (by post or by email)
- We may need to ask you to provide:
- proof of your identity
- proof of your home address
- any information that we reasonably need to locate the information you have requested (for example details of the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD offices or staff that you have had contact with and when)
We will not start looking for your information until we receive all of the above. In order to submit your request, or for help making a request, please contact us.
Rights concerning the processing of your personal information
- Right to restrict processing of personal information
- In some situations, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of your personal information. We may restrict your personal information by temporarily moving the information to another processing system, making the information unavailable to users, or temporarily removing published information from a website. We may also use technical methods to ensure the personal information is not subject to further processing and cannot be changed. When we have restricted processing of personal information, this will be clearly indicated on our systems.
- You can require us to restrict processing in the following circumstances:
- You are concerned that the information we hold about you is inaccurate. You can ask us to restrict the information until we can determine whether the information is accurate or inaccurate.
- We are processing your personal data unlawfully and you do not want us to delete the information but restrict it instead.
- We no longer need the information for the purposes for which we collected it, but they are needed by you for the establishment, exercise or defence of legal claims.
- You have objected to the processing (see below), and we need to decide whether the legitimate grounds we have to process the information override your legitimate interests.
Processing you think is unlawful
- If you tell us that you think we are processing your personal information unlawfully, but you do not want the information to be erased, you have the right to require us to restrict the processing of that information.
- We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the processing is unlawful, and may also ask that you provide evidence to support this view.
Processing of personal information you think is inaccurate
- You can tell us if you think the personal information we are processing about you is factually inaccurate. You can require us to restrict how we use your personal information until we can verify the accuracy of the information. We will ask you for an explanation about why you think the information is inaccurate, and may also ask that you provide some supporting evidence of the alleged inaccuracy.
- If we find that the personal information we are processing about you is inaccurate, we will take appropriate steps to correct the information.
Personal information is no longer needed by ELEARNING FUTURES LTD but needed by you in connection with a legal claim
- In most circumstances, we will securely delete or dispose of personal information when we no longer need it for our legitimate business purposes. Our approach to retention is outlined in our corporate retention schedules.
- However, if the personal information we no longer need would assist you in establishing, exercising or defending a legal claim, you can require us to keep the information for as long as necessary. We may ask you to provide an explanation and any available supporting evidence that a legal claim is ongoing or contemplated.
Right to erasure of personal data (“the right to be forgotten”)
In the following circumstances, you have the right to require that ELEARNING FUTURES LTD securely deletes or destroys your personal information:
- If the personal information we hold about you is no longer necessary for the purposes for which we originally collected it.
- The processing is based on consent – if you have previously given your consent to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD collecting and processing your personal information, and you notify us that you withdraw your consent. Please note: withdrawing your consent does not mean the processing of your personal data which occurred before the withdrawal was unlawful.
- We are processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes, and you want us to stop.
- If you think ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has processed your personal information unlawfully.
If you think any of the above situations apply, we may ask you for an explanation and further information to verify this.
Right to object to processing
You have the right to object to the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD processing your personal data in the following circumstances:
Personal information used for direct marketing
If we are using your personal information to send you direct marketing, you have the right to object at any time. If you exercise this right, we will stop processing your personal information for direct marketing purposes. However, we may keep your information on a “suppression list” to ensure your information is not added to any marketing lists at some point in the future.
Automated decision making and profiling
- ‘Profiling’ is the automated use of personal data held on a computer to analyse or predict things that have a legal effect, or other similarly significant effects, on the individual. Examples would include economic situation, health, personal preferences or interests and location. You have the right not to be subject to a solely automated decision (that is, a decision made electronically, with no human intervention), and this may include profiling (although there is no general right to object to profiling). If you are concerned the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, ELEARNING FUTURES LTD is allowed to carry out automated decisions with no human intervention where you have given your explicit consent to this processing (although you have the right to withdraw your consent).
- We are also permitted to make automated decisions with no human intervention in the following circumstances:
- The automated decision is necessary to enter into, or perform a contract, or complete a contract involving you and the ELEARNING FUTURES LTD.
- The automated decision is allowed under a law passed at the European Union level, or at the level of the European Union or EEA member state level (i.e., is allowed under national law). The law will provide safeguards to protect your rights and freedoms.
However, you still have a general right to object in both of the above circumstances, providing reasons why you think the processing is having a negative effect on you. If you do object, we will carefully consider your reasons, and decide whether to review the decision-making process in your specific case.
Right to data portability
- If you have provided your information to ELEARNING FUTURES LTD, you have the right to request and receive a copy of that information in a structured, commonly used and machine-readable format.
- You also have the right to ask us to send the information we hold about you to another organisation.
- There are some situations in which the right to data portability does not apply. For further information, please contact us.
Exercising your rights concerning the processing of your personal information
If you wish to exercise any of the above rights concerning the way in which we process your personal information, please contact:
Risk Management Team
ELEARNING FUTURES LTD,
21-22 Old Steine,
Email: [email protected]
Your right to complain to a national data protection regulator (data protection supervisory authority)
- If you think we have processed your personal information unfairly or unlawfully, or we have not complied with your rights under GDPR, you have the right to complain to a national data protection regulator.
- Complaints about how we process your personal information can be considered by the data protection regulator.