6 Tips to Make Your Move to Online English Teaching A Success

If you’ve taken a look at ESL job boards in the last few years, you may have noticed a spike in the number of advertisements for online teaching.

However, making the switch from a brick-and-mortar classroom to a new online teaching environment might seem like a tall order – especially for teachers who have become accustomed to their teaching methods.

How to Transition to Teaching English Online

Here, we’ll break down how teaching online English went mainstream, why you should consider making the move, and a few key tips for success when you land your first online teaching job.

Why Teaching English Online Is So Popular in 2020

Online teaching, whether it’s English as a second language or something else, is increasingly the go-to option for educational institutions and the teachers that they hire. There are several reasons for this digital trend:

  • Teaching and learning across borders saves time and money for employers on expenses and generates substantial revenue at scale. Some estimates indicate that the global online learning industry will become a $350 billion industry by 2025.
  • Online learning is convenient, cutting back on travel time and expenses and enabling a level of flexibility that is unprecedented.
  • Even before COVID-19, online teaching was a trend. Now, though, online teaching is a necessity. Some estimates from the UN and other groups indicate that up to 60% of the global school-age population (hundreds of millions of students) is unable to attend school physically. Much of the world has turned to online education as an alternative.
  •  Increasing internet speeds in both developing and developed countries have opened up new possibilities in terms of digital education that previously did not exist.

3 Reasons to Become an Online ESL Teacher

Although resistance to change is a natural part of the human condition, there are several reasons to seriously consider making the switch to the online classroom from a brick-and-mortar setting. Here are a few of them.

Teaching English Online

Reason #1:  Teaching English Online Is Where the Jobs Are Moving

The simple fact is that teaching jobs (part-time and full-time) are moving online. These jobs, once they go digital, may never return to the traditional classroom setting. Several public polls have indicated that roughly 2/3 of respondents support 100% online or hybrid (meaning a mix of online and in-person) learning models moving forward. Younger respondents, the future policy-setters, are even more enthusiastic about online learning.

Although there are distinct educational advantages to in-person contact, the new political and economic realities of the upcoming decade predict even more digital shifts in education.  

Reason #2:  Teaching Online Liberates You

When you land an online teaching job, or transition in your existing job from physical learning to online learning, you will be liberated in terms of not being tied to a physical location.

This can mean several things: if you have no plans to stray far from home, your newfound physical freedom at the very least grants you the ability to work from your favorite room, or even your favorite coffee shop (provided it has fast enough Wi-Fi). For more adventuring souls, this freedom means that you can literally move anywhere in the world that has reliably fast internet – as it turns out, that’s a lot of places.

Reason #3: You Can Break Into the Online Teaching Industry Before It Becomes Ultra-Competitive

The rise of online teaching is inevitable; if you plan to make a career in teaching, then getting ahead of the curve is a huge advantage that can accelerate your career trajectory.

The reality is hundreds of thousands of businesses have disappeared forever, in the US alone, since the COVID-19 pandemic began.  Sooner or later, jobs in the online teaching marketplace will become significantly more competitive as skilled professionals from other fields move into the job market. You can place yourself in an advantageous position by starting the transition early.

How to Become an Online ESL Teacher – 6 Tips to Succeed in the Virtual Classroom

Here are a few strategies and tips to employ that will improve your chances of both excelling at and enjoying your new job as an online ESL teacher.

Tip #1: Make Sure You Have the Hardware and Software Logistics Down

Online teaching generally requires the following equipment and capabilities: a laptop or desktop, a camera, a microphone, good lighting and a fast internet connection.

Most online schools require or recommend that teachers have a minimum internet speed of 10mbps. Many require teachers to regularly test their internet connection on sites like this.

Some employers may provide this equipment or help subsidize its purchase. You should discuss these details with your potential employer during your interview.

Tip #2:  Review the Online School

When you are considering employment with an online school, take some time to browse reviews from employment websites, teachers’ forums, and other resources available on the web to get an idea of the quality of the institution from an employee’s perspective.  

Tip #3:  Negotiate Your Pay Rate

A lot of people wonder how much online ESL teachers are paid. Online English teaching is increasingly competitive, which means that some employers may attempt to leverage this to their advantage by driving down offered per-hour rates.

A fully-qualified English teacher with native speaking skills and a bachelor’s degree can expect to earn at least $15 per hour. Anything less is sub-optimal.

Tip #4:  Get the Right Credentials

You make yourself stand out on a resume when you have certain qualifications. For the English-teaching industry, one of the gold standards is a TEFL certificate (120-hour minimum) from a reputable institution.

Advance degrees, other English/education-related training certifications, and stable employment history are also bonuses on a resume.

Tip #5:  Commit to a Willingness to Adjust Teaching Style or Strategy

Teaching English online carries a unique set of challenges as well as opportunities that traditional teaching models do not pose. As such, if you are going to successfully transition over time to teaching English online, you must utilize your adaptive capacity for embracing change.

Tip #6: Set up an awesome classroom.

Even though you’re teaching online, your classroom setup is still extremely important. Not only do you need to make it functional and organized for yourself, but you should consider what students will want to see to keep them engaged during class. For ideas on how to make your space look awesome, check out these classroom background ideas.

How to Adjust if You Don’t Enjoy Online Teaching

How to become an online esl teacher

Even for teachers with experience, learning how to effectively teach in any new environment with a new medium takes time. Here are a few ways that you can make adjusting to teaching English online easier for yourself and your students.

Search the Web for New Ideas

Sometimes, an idea that may have worked in the physical classroom will fall flat in a virtual environment simply due to logistical issues. Instead, search the web for ways to integrate the essential components of an effective in-person teaching activity into the new digital space. With a few minutes’ perusing Google results, you’ll likely find the help you’re looking for.

Join an Online Teachers’ Forum to Discuss Challenges

Whatever your issue with online teaching, chances are good that another web user around the globe has experienced the same dilemma. When you join an online teachers’ forum, you can connect with other teachers who are likely in similar situations and may have some wisdom to share.  

Advocate For Your Cause by Networking

Just as with any industry, it’s ultimately up to teachers to stand up for teachers’ rights and fair treatment. Many online teaching companies have emerged in recent years; some treat their workers fairly and decently and some do not. Facilitating an open dialogue, both among workers and with the company management, can help resolve these issues. 

Quincy Smith, the author of this blog,  is a former teacher in China and Korea and the founder of ESL Authority, a website dedicated to helping teachers get started teaching English.