Living in Canada, a bilingual country, I have always had an interest in learning languages, which led me to get a degree in linguistics. Before that, I was living overseas in Europe and discovered that it was a great advantage of being a native English speaker. I started teaching and right away I was sure this was the right profession for me. From there I spent time in Vietnam teaching and upon returning to Canada I was introduced to online teaching.
About the author: Elizabeth is a graduate of OnTESOL’s 250-hour TESOL diploma course. She has over five years of teaching experience, including teaching English in Vietnam and teaching English online with Skimatalk.
What are the benefits and rewards of working online?
Teaching online has so many benefits. The most obvious are being able to work from home or while travelling and having flexible hours. Teachers and students can balance family, work, and school in a way that works for their schedules.
You can also reach more students than in a classroom setting … unlimited in fact. I have literally hundreds of students from all over the world.
The challenges of working online
The biggest challenge with working online has been the issue of Internet connectivity. It takes a lot of bandwidth to run a video chatroom such as Zoom or Skype, so you need to have a good internet plan and wi-fi is usually not suitable.
One of my least favorite things about teaching online from home is the time difference. For example, if my students are in Asia and I’m in Canada, the difference is 14 hours, so I have to start at 5 or 6 am, or teach until after midnight.
Another is that it’s not easy to control student’s behavior (especially young learners) online. It also limits the kind of fun activities you can do online – it’s not as easy to shift gears when you see students are bored.
How OnTESOL prepares you to teach English online
My TESOL training with OnTESOL has given me so much more confidence in teaching online. With a degree in linguistics, I already knew a lot about language acquisition and phonology. I had also studied some of the methods of teaching English as a second language. This course was essential in learning how to plan lessons, classroom management, and many other things. OnTESOL teaches extensive lesson planning techniques in speaking, listening, reading, and writing, using the Communicative Approach and Task-Based Learning which are the most effective and commonly used methods currently used. In the methodology module, they cover everything from making a good impression, to using authentic materials in the classroom.
The greatest lessons learned while teaching online
Online teaching is fairly new and quite non-traditional. One of the most important things I’ve learned is that you have to put effort into building your network. On some online teaching platforms, you can be rated reviewed by students and your student base will depend on how high a rating you have. It’s very similar to the concept of Uber or Airbnb where your guests leave reviews and it affects your ranking in search results. Maintaining a good rating is important and means that you have to pay attention to your appearance, punctuality, enthusiasm, etc.
Why pick OnTESOL over other TESOL courses?
I chose OnTESOL over other certification courses because it is recognized all over the world. They offer a 250-hour certification, which is more extensive than the Trinity CertTESOL or CELTA course. They also have a variety of specialization courses such as Teaching Young Learners and Teaching Business English. But perhaps the deciding factor was the job placement support. They make the process of searching for an accredited ESL school easily.
Concerns before teaching online
Before becoming an online teacher, I was concerned about whether the methods of teaching I was used to would translate into the online platform. Would the use of teaching aids, authentic material, and courseware be different? I was also concerned if I was computer savvy enough to be successful at it.
Actually, most of the methods and materials could be adapted to teaching English online.
Advice for someone planning or considering teaching English online
Anyone planning to teach online should really take their time and consider whether it is right for them. They should consider what their motivations are. It is much easier to sustain your interest if there is a real need and you are naturally motivated as well.
Talk to people you know who are teaching online, watch videos (lots of videos!) of online classes so that you can see some examples of how others are doing it.
And finally, be sure that you know the technology you think you will need, and learn it if you don’t know it.
I would definitely recommend teaching online. It has given me a lot of flexibility and autonomy in my work life and, for someone like me who doesn’t like to commute, it’s been a lifesaver!