Online Teachers: Make More Money Being Effective

Online teachers are popping up everywhere as the demand far outweighs the supply. This is one of the quickest ways for a native English speaker, or Spanish or Chinese, etc., to find online work and, if they want, to begin traveling. Teaching online offers the flexibility to work from home or abroad while gaining a stable income. It is also particularly attractive to people like me, a single parent and/or a stay a home mom with a young child that I would prefer not to put in daycare (I couldn’t afford it anyway!). I also enjoy the freedom of being able to work wherever I want, as long as the internet connection is stable and fast.

But what about licensing/certification/degrees?

Yes, in a perfect world, all online teachers would have degrees, certifications and/or licenses, but there simply are not enough qualified teachers to fill the demand. Countries like China, Japan, Russia and those in the Middle East will pay top dollar for effective online teachers. But what does an effective teacher mean exactly? In my opinion, it is one that will help the student improve his/her language skills in each and every class.

One of the biggest mistakes that amateurs make, upon becoming an “online teacher”, is that they think they are being paid to have a conversation. While this is a ploy often used in recruitment advertisements (i.e. “Make Money by Speaking English!), there is much more to being an online teacher. In fact, I have gained a number of private students who come to me from other teachers. Their biggest complaint is that the teacher expected to chat for the class and had not prepared anything formal.

Tips for being an Online Teacher

Here are some hints and tricks to make your online teaching as successful as possible so that you can retain students long term:

  • Prepare: You need to prepare a lesson plan as if you were a teacher in a classroom. Even conversational lessons need to have a list of vocabulary to focus on and at least one grammar point. Sometimes online companies will provide lessons for you, but you still need to take a few minutes to look through the materials and make 2 – 3 backup activities that you can if you finish early. It is easy enough to create a role-play based on almost any material to keep the class going and provide additional practice.
  • Dress Professionally: Yes, one of the benefits of working as an online teacher is that you can literally do it in your underwear. But from the chest up, you need to be presentable if you are on camera. If you work in a hot climate, like I do, make sure to have acceptable shirt or blouse nearby to put on for your classes.
  • Environment: Although this is a great job for a stay at home parent, you need to make sure your environment is appropriate. Students don’t want to hear crying babies or toddlers or to be constantly interrupted during their classes. If you have young children, I would suggest scheduling classes while they are asleep (which is possible with the time zone changes in many parts of the world). You can also enlist a mother’s helper, to play and entertain them while you work (this is what I do), or you can work opposite your partner’s schedule… but either way, children and other interruptions, like televisions, pets, and traffic are distracting to the student.
A quiet environment is a must for online teachers. Voices, noises, pets, traffic, etc. can all distract and frustrate the student.
  • Correct: Students need to be corrected as much as possible. You will have to figure out when it is appropriate to immediately correct, or when to wait until the end of the activity (for example, reading a text), but you should try to correct the students as much as possible. It is even better if you can record the new vocabulary and pronunciation mistakes to include in the after class feedback. Correction is even more important for adult students, who want to see progress in their learning with each class.
  • Visual Aids: According to the Multiple Intelligence Theory, there are several types of learners. The majority are strongly inclined towards visual learning. In an online class, you can use an interactive whiteboard (I use http://www.realtimeboard.com) and/or screen sharing to help increase the visuals. You can also use this to point out corrections and pronunciation errors. Repetition of the words will also reach auditory learners. Sometimes students need to repeat a work up to five times before they can say it easily and you should be aware of that and be patient with them.
Use colorful visual aids to introduce new vocabulary. You can find plenty of examples on Google image search.
  • Adjust your Speech: You will need to speak slowly and clearly for even advanced learners. What seems like slow motion to you may be overwhelming to them. They will need time to absorb the information and think of a response. Speaking slowly helps to give them that chance without a misunderstanding or a long, awkward pause while they think of an answer.
  • Feedback: All students should receive some type of feedback following each class. It is important for adult students, and parents, to see the progress that the student is making. Feedback can come in many forms, but generally, you can prepare a report (even from a template) which includes new vocabulary from the lesson, grammar points, advice and perhaps homework assignments. I choose to send an e-mail that contains the materials used in class, screen shots, lesson notes, and homework.

Final Thoughts for online teachers

While this is not expected to be your certification as an online teacher, I hope that the previous points will be helpful to your new career. Successful online instructors are ones that provide value to the student and show them that they are advancing and learning more with every class. Also, as a final note, smile! You want to show the student that you are enjoying your job and the time you spend with them.

In my next article, I will be writing about communicative activities which can be used in the online classroom in order to get students speaking in the target language. Stay tuned!

Teach English Online for up to $22/hour

I am writing this post as a follow-up to the previous article on “The Best Jobs to Work Online (while you travel!)”. So many people have inquired about how to teach online that it only made sense to expand on it. So, if you are thinking about teaching online, are looking for online work or are new to teaching and don’t know where to go next, then this article is for you.

WHAT KIND OF PEOPLE ARE SUCCESSFUL AT TEACHING english ONLINE?

To teach online, you need to be friendly and patient. Your students need to feel comfortable in order to learn from you. This means they cannot see you flustered or annoyed if they are not understanding something you say. Expect that you might have to explain it in another way or use the vocabulary in an example sentence so that the student understands. As a teacher, you should speak in a slow, clear voice and a neutral tone. And of course, be prepared to smile for hours on end.

If you are teaching for a European or Asian company, you will have to consider the time zone difference. Teaching Chinese students means a 12 – 15-hour time zone difference if you live in the states. This often means very early morning hours (sometimes in the middle of the night) in order to teach at the peak evening times in Asia. Some companies will also require you to work weekends, which are also considered peak days for classes.

Above all, online teachers need to be punctual and reliable. Many companies have very strict policies on no-shows and/or lateness and often won’t tolerate more than two or three instances before terminating your contract.

DO YOU HAVE EXPERIENCE?

You may think you need to have teaching experience to teach online. Not necessarily. You will find hundreds of online English companies popping up all over the world, but the biggest demand is from Asia. There are plenty of companies willing to take native speakers (and non-natives who speak fluently!) and train them to teach online. They will also provide you with pre-made lesson plans. If you can, try to emphasize any relevant experience on your resume that may include training, working in daycares or other childcare settings and being a parent (many of the fastest growing companies teach Chinese children). Since they will provide you with comprehensive training and lesson materials, and the demand for native English speakers is far greater than the supply of experienced ones, you can easily get hired if you have the right personality. However, keep in mind that your compensation will correlate with your lack of experience and/or qualifications. With these companies, you can expect to make $8 – $10 an hour. This is still an excellent option for those interested in working while they travel internationally or stay at home moms who cannot afford childcare. These schools are usually very flexible about time off because you will be assigned class time slots with new students each time, and another teacher can easily cover your lesson time. Examples of these companies are Tutor ABC, Education First and Open English (see below for application links).

Companies that teach Chinese children are among the fastest growing and hire the most teachers.

if you already have experience teaching online

Other companies, usually the better-paying ones (between $10 – $20 an hour), will require experience. They may also ask the teacher to create their own lesson plans instead of providing pre-made materials. That being said, if you are unsure of what to put into a lesson plan, you can always start out at one of the lower paying companies to get your feet wet, and then move up once you feel comfortable as an online English teacher. And again, to keep in mind that while these companies pay more, they do want a larger commitment on the part of the teacher. You will probably be teaching the same roster of students, which gives you the chance to build a relationship with them, but on the other hand, it makes it more difficult to take time off. It can also take a few weeks or months for you to build up a steady roster of students.

SHOULD YOU BECOME CERTIFIED?

Just because you can become an online teacher, doesn’t mean that you should without getting some type of formal teacher training. Yes, companies usually provide their own training, but you may want to consider getting a teaching certificate. Trust me, that as a person who hosts teacher training sessions, you can spot an untrained teacher very quickly. I actually receive a good amount of new students from other teachers who they say seemed unprofessional or didn’t have a plan for the class.

the benefits of certification

A teaching certificate will help you understand the basics of the English language, as well as learning theories, how to make lesson plans and activities which you can use in the language classroom (in-person or online). This is much faster and less complicated than a degree. There are several types of English teaching certificates, and while many will say that the CELTA is the best in the industry, I assume that people seeking online work are usually not in the position to take an in-person, extended course, nor afford it financially. If this is the case, I would encourage you to pursue a TEFL (Teacher of English as a Foreign Language) diploma. This will be accepted by the vast majority of online schools/companies that require them. You can do one in person in several major U.S. cities, or take an online course in as little as a few weeks. You will also have a better chance of getting hired with a higher paying company if you obtain this certification.

EQUIPMENT / SET UP

There is a lot to be prepared for if you want to teach online. To begin, you need to have the appropriate hardware, which includes:

  • A recent laptop or desktop computer
  • A USB, quality headset
  • A camera (most laptops have one built in)
  • A strong internet connection (companies typically require between 2 and 10 MBs)
  • A LAN cable if your company requires a hardwired internet connection
  • A backup internet source (a mobile hotspot, local internet café, neighbor or family member’s home, etc.)

You don’t need a top of the line computer to teach online, but do invest in a quality headset that connects via a USB port.

A professional place to work

But you will also need to consider the teaching environment that you have available. You want to make sure that:

  • You are working on a table, desk or another steady surface
  • You are sitting in front of a clean, light colored wall or another background
  • You are appropriately dressed (students will typically see you from the shoulders up, so a nice shirt or blouse is fine)
  • The area is well-lit
  • Your area is free of distractions, such as noise from the television, children, dogs barking, traffic and other interruptions

A TRAVEL NOTE: One of the best parts about teaching online is the freedom to travel the world. But, keep in mind that you need to keep up the standards listed above, especially the strong internet connection. I recommend renting rooms locally, from Airbnb or homestays to get a better internet connection than you would in a hotel or motel.

RECOMMENDED COMPANIES TO START TEACHING ONLINE

It’s difficult to make a comprehensive list of online companies as new companies are opening daily, but here are some of the most common, that are often hiring. You can visit each site to see specifically what they require from applicants:

*Note: Salary information was obtained by present and past employees, as well as recruiters, and should be verified directly with each company.

RECOMMENDED WEBSITES to find jobs to teach online

Thank you in advance for reading the information from this article. Even though this particular one focused on teaching English online, you can also find the same opportunities if you speak another language. There are sought after online positions for Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, German, Russian and French teachers as well. If you have a question or want to add another company or website to the list, please use the form below to leave a comment. I’d love to hear what you have to say.