5 Potential Problems in the Online Classroom and Their Solutions
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Teaching English online can sound like a dream come true. Working whenever you want, wherever you want, getting paid to have a fat chat with some cool people, maybe sing a few songs and play a few games. And while we’re not saying it isn’t any of those things, we thought we should give you a dose of reality so that you’re not crying into your keyboard after your first week of teaching when things don’t go exactly according to plan. Let’s get real. As with every job, there are inevitably things that can go wrong and problems you might have. Let’s look at a few of these so that you can be prepared for them and not let them put you off teaching forever. But don’t worry, we won’t leave you in the mud like that – here are 5 potential problems in online classroom and their solutions.
The problem: Time zones
Teaching English online means you could be teaching anyone, anywhere. Your students could be children in China, teens in Italy, adults in Japan, or university students from a bunch of different countries all in the same classroom. You, on the other hand, could be living it up on a Thai island, making snow angels in Sweden, or all comfy at home in the UK. This situation is great because you are able to work flexible hours, but it also means that you might have classes scheduled at hours you’re not usually awake!
For example, teaching students in China means teaching during peak hours in Beijing time, which is 6pm to 10pm on weekdays. If you’re in the US or Canada, this is anywhere between 2am to 8am, depending where you are, and if you’re in Australia this is between 7pm and 11pm.
Change your sleeping habits! If you’re teaching late nights, train yourself to sleep late or have a nap in the afternoon so that you’re still awake and fresh until way past your bedtime. If you have to wake up at some ridiculous hour, make sure you go to bed early enough to get the sleep you need, and take comfort in the fact that you’ll probably be going back to bed when everyone else around you is waking up!
The problem: Technological issues
This is a tough one, because it’s often out of your control. The basic requirements of teaching English online are having a stable internet connection and good equipment. Sadly, technology is not always our friend. You never know when you might have a power outage or your laptop or microphone decides to go on the blink. And no matter where you are, there are days when the internet is slower than you would like it to be. In the online classroom this can translate to time delays and awkward moments.
First of all, make sure you have a backup plan for power outages. A battery pack or USP, even knowing how to turn your phone into a wifi hotspot can help you out in a pickle. Also, don’t go for cheap and cheerful when it comes to equipment. You wouldn’t buy a second-hand car if you were a F1 driver, or rotten ingredients if you were a professional chef, so there’s no reason you should skimp on the tools of your trade. Plus, they’re tax-deductible!
The problem: Classroom management
Even in a virtual classroom, classroom management is important. In fact, it’s possibly even harder in an online setting than it is in a face-to-face classroom, which means that it is even more important to consider. In a virtual classroom it is easy for naturally louder and more chatty students to dominate class discussions while, quieter, shyer students resort to listening rather than contributing. This is detrimental not only to the individual students but also to the general class atmosphere.
Similarly to a physical classroom, online teachers must have signals they can use to direct the flow of the classroom. For example, holding up a hand if you want the students to be quiet while you speak, asking students to put up their hands when they want to say something, or nominating students to speak. Online you can even go so far as to mute the students until you want them to speak, if you find that necessary.
The problem: Quiet students
It’s often the case that quiet students are more of a challenge than loud students. Loud students are very visible and command your attention, while quiet students can quite easily fade into the background and before you know it the lesson is over and the student hasn’t said more than two words. This is a problem because even though the student is still getting input, they are not being allowed the opportunity to practise their speaking. While this is problematic in a group class situation, it’s even worse in a 1-to-1 situation.
In a group class, make use of break out rooms or whatever similar tool your teaching platform has. Break out rooms are a way for the teacher to break the class into pairs or groups. These groups can then talk to each other privately. In other words, they are not being disturbed by the other groups, because they cannot hear them. In a 1-to-1 situation, the key is to embrace the silence. Don’t feel the need to fill the silence. Give your student time to think and formulate what they need to say before they speak. Also make sure you provide them with enough scaffolding so that they are capable of producing the language you want.
The problem: Group dynamics
Put a bunch of people in the same room and it’s possible that there will be personality clashes, both in a physical classroom and online. Your students may not know each other, they may come from totally different backgrounds, or they might just not get along. This can be uncomfortable in the classroom because it can cause tension or start disagreements or even arguments between students.
When you start teaching a class, make sure you lay down the ground rules. This may seem a bit silly when you are dealing with adults, but it is still necessary. Especially in an online classroom, students need to know what is expected of them and how the lessons are going to be run. This includes reminding students to be respectful of each other’s opinions and cultures, and taking turns for speaking. This will ensure there are no misunderstandings and everyone knows how to behave courteously.
As you can see, teaching English online might not be the idyllic job you imagined it to be. Then again, not many jobs are. There are always going to be challenges and difficulties, but there will always be a way to deal with them, so that you can do the best you can at your job. Even with all these potential problems, what other job lets you go to work in your slippers?
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Name of course Description Combined Level 5 TEFL Course 20-hour face to face Classroom Teaching Practice TEFL Course combined with a 148-hour online TEFL and grammar course (Plus three free 30-hour online Top-Up Online Courses) Online Level 5 TEFL Course 168-hour Online Level 5 TEFL & grammar course (Plus three free 30-hour Top-Up Online Courses) Online Level 3 TEFL Course 120-hour Online Level 3 TEFL & grammar course (Plus three free 30-hour Top-Up Online Courses) Top-Up Courses 30-hour Online Teaching Young Learners, Teaching Business English and Teaching Online & 1:1 Courses 10hr Online Teaching Practice Course 10 hours of webinar teaching practice course (Learn about classroom management and Q&A with a TEFL expert)
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LAST UPDATED: 27th August 2021
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- 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL Ltd has made a solely automated decision about you, you can object.
- Please note, Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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 Everything TEFL 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
Everything TEFL Ltd
28 – 32 Pembroke Street,
Republic of Ireland
Telephone: +353 (1) 554 6227
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.