The new norm for language teaching is conducted remotely. It has been thrust upon all practitioners due to circumstances beyond our control, but much of the field of remote teaching and learning has been underestimated prior to the pandemic. I remember a few years ago, I was discussing why online language teaching and learning was not included in the CELTA and one practitioner declared that it was more unregulated with many institutions based in China seeking to exploit language teachers and pay as little as possible.
While this might necessarily be true, to some extent, there has been a growing opportunity for professional tutors to deliver lessons and courses online, particularly through higher educational institutes and private language schools. However, there are many opportunities for freelance English teachers that wish to tutor English remotely, and with today’s blog post I shall be reviewing “Become an Online English Teacher: Essential tools, strategies and methodologies for building a successful business“.
The book is written by Nestor Kiourtzidis who is the co-founder of the popular EFL/ESL website, Lingua House. If you are unaware of Lingua House, the website offers a platform for teachers, learners and freelances to gain resources and materials that can be used to develop learning. I would recommend that you have a look at their Nestor’s website to see what it offers. Anyhow, “Become an Online English Teacher” is published by Pavilion ELT, which also publish English Teaching Professional (ETp) and Modern English Teacher (MET) magazines.
Prior to the chapters, there is an introduction for readers which highlights the benefits and drawbacks of online teaching. It gives readers a very frank account of teaching remotely, if undertaken independently from other institutions. For example, some of the benefits of freelancing as an online English teacher could includes convenience (being able to schedule lessons when it best suits both parties), skills development (this is much more important now as institutions are likely to employ teachers who have the necessary skills to teach remotely), as well as possible financial reasons. It is obvious that you could target students from wealthier countries and increase your income wherever you are based.
Nevertheless, some of the drawbacks highlighted within the book include the marketing effort (it takes a time and effort for individuals to market and position their services appropriately for potential clients), interaction (teaching remotely is not the same as face-to-face teaching), as well as technological barriers (not every student and teacher has adequate connection to the internet and there is an assumption that English students will have the necessary skills and equipment for online lessons which might not be the case).
This book is broken down into seven key chapters:
- Chapter 1: Tools of the trade
- Chapter 2: Finding students
- Chapter 3: Building a blog
- Chapter 4: Promoting a blog
- Chapter 5: Establishing a workflow
- Chapter 6: Getting paid
- Chapter 7: Ideas and resources
One small thing that I have noticed, which could be corrected in due course and is not necessarily a big issue, is that the page numbers for the relevant chapters are incorrectly printed in the Contents from Chapter 3 onwards. However, with future editions, I am sure this will corrected.
Chapter 1: Tools of the trade
This chapter attempts to guide the novice online teacher through the various points to consider such as necessary equipment (desktop computer or laptop, webcam, etc.), communication tools for use with synchronous lessons, software tools to aid with the recording of lessons, sharing and collaborating files and worksheets, as well online tools to collect information from potential and current online students. Each tool which is introduced within this chapter is available for free and will enable the reader to better understand each element which is considered. As with any offline or online software, it is recommended that potential freelance teachers experiment and learn by using them.
Chapter 2: Finding students
The second chapter considers effective tactics that can be incorporated to find students online. There are a number of suggestions included but not limited to joining an online teacher marketplace, contributing to forums or creating YouTube videos – with a total of six suggestions. Each suggestion breaks down each activity that the reader could develop and incorporate when seeking potential students. One aspect that I like within this chapter is the inclusion of marketing strategies, which is critically reviewed with both advantages as well as disadvantages to possible strategies. This is really useful for readers who are developing a marketing strategy and how best to position themselves online. There are further resources included at the end of this chapter as well as relevant links for possible software or for further reading. One consideration that is not explored within this chapter is approaching students that you have taught face-to-face, and possibly returned to their home country. It would be opportunity to explore when approaching previous students. Overall, the second chapter offers an invaluable chance to explore potential marketing opportunities.
Chapter 3: Building a blog
This chapter analyses actionable steps that can be used to set up a blog for your service. The author suggests that if you have your personal blog/website, then you are unlikely to “compete with other teachers on the same platform” (p.45) and if you are using a website such as italki.com to promote your services, you are essentially competing with other teachers on the same platform. A range of self-hosted or free-hosted blogs are introduced within this chapter such as Blogger.com, WordPress.com and WordPress.org. Each potential choice for blog is introduced and the reader is provided with the necessary information to consider whether making the choice. Furthermore, within the third chapter, there is also an analysis of the pros and cons of each considered blog provider. This is invaluable and when I started my website, I wish I had access to this information before committing to a particular platform or blog provider. Also, towards the end of this chapter, there are additional aspects for the reader to consider especially when developing a website and service for potential clients.
Chapter 4: Promoting a blog
The fourth chapter looks at best practices for promoting your blog to potential students. There are four considerations that the reader could implement when promoting their blog/website such as search engine optimisation, social media marketing, exploiting other social media sites, and email marketing. This information within the book is not necessarily new but there is a steep learning curve for those teachers who have limited knowledge and awareness of online marketing with their websites. The fact that this chapter includes this information and aids the reader in optimising blog posts for search engines is invaluable. As with previous chapters, the end of this chapter includes additional resources and reading that the reader could consider.
Chapter 5: Establishing a workflow
The following chapter recommends procedures for enrolling students for your lessons and these include but are not limited to: the initial correspondence, free consultations, level placement as well as trial lessons. As with the example of initial correspondence, the author provides some examples that could be used for approaching students who have engaged with the reader’s website or sought English lessons. Furthermore, this chapter suggests some first lesson ideas, dependent upon the context (General English, Business English or Exam Preparation) which are invaluable for the reader should they worry about what to include with their first lesson. With some online English teachers, talking about the rules and scheduling of an online tutoring service with students can be slightly awkward but it is necessary to include this aspect, to avoid any potential disagreements with clients. The book provides recommended Terms and Conditions which could be incorporated within the service for online tutoring.
Chapter 6: Getting paid
One advantage of remote freelance tutoring is the ability to earn potentially more than a private language institute. Therefore, it is important to approach this delicate subject with possible clients from the outset and this chapter obviously considers appropriate and efficient methods for processing online payments. The author includes a brief paragraph regarding the legal aspects of tutoring remotely such as the requirement to register self-employed or how best to keep the accounts for reporting to the Government. Obviously, this is a very broad subject and there is a lot more information which is dependent upon where the reader is based. However, within the UK, all self-employed individuals need to inform HMRC when they started and then report their earnings, costs for services and then contribute towards Pay As You Earn (PAYE) and National Insurance (NI). This is beyond the scope of the book but any readers who are seriously considering to work freelance, should, as explained in the book, approach an accountant for advice. What is included within this chapter are the various options for being paid, with an emphasis on PayPal (invoicing, links and buttons for your website, etc.). Other aspects related to the payment of tutoring services are included within this chapter.
Chapter 7: Ideas and resources
Within the final chapter, offers practical lesson ideas and resources that can be incorporated within your online lessons, with some suggestions on how to teach speaking, writing, or exam preparation courses. Additionally, further websites are recommended for the reader to consider when planning suitable lessons. There is a brief conclusion added by the author which highlights some aspects to consider when becoming a successful online English teacher.
There is an appendix attached to the book which provides the reader on running more than one Skype account simultaneously, assuming that you wish to have your personal account and a business account for your remote teaching requirements.
Overall, the book is just over 100 pages in length with a variety of topics that are integral for running a successful online English teaching service and it is aimed for those professionals who wish to better enhance their awareness for online language education. This publication would suit anyone who desires to set up a website which entices students to pay for online language education services and guides the reader through the entire process, with aspects to consider for online marketing, sourcing potential students as well as being paid. This book was published prior to the COVID-19 pandemic and Zoom was not introduced within the book, but much of the information with other software introduced is transferable. Finally, “Become an Online English Teacher” is priced at £14.95 in the UK, which is highly competitive.
Combine your purchase of “Become an Online English Teacher” with the other suggested books below to better improve your position as a professional online English teacher.