The Educational world is changing. For years, we have seen an increase in the number of online learning opportunities.
Not only can students take college classes online, but even high schoolers can opt for cyber education. The good news for ESL teachers is that language learning is no exception. Today’s students have many opportunities for online learning, and that means that you have just as many opportunities for on line educating. Telecommuting isn’t for everyone, though. Teachers considering this type of job opportunity should think carefully about the issues tied to online education before they decide to quit the classroom.
5 Important Questions You Should Ask Yourself Before Teaching English Online
Can I Go Anywhere or Everywhere?
One of the biggest deterrents some have to teaching English as a second language is overseas travel. Packing up and leaving everything and everyone you know is not only stressful, it can be terrifying. Learning to thrive in a foreign country involves issues of language and culture. In my own experience teaching in East Asia, even getting a taxi can be complicated to the new overseas teacher. Online teachers avoid this cross cultural stress because teaching over the Internet means you never have to leave your living room. On the other hand, many English teachers enter the field with ideas of adventures from one end of the globe to the other. If you opt to teach online, you lose the unique adventure that is teaching overseas. You will still have cultural conundrums, but they will come from your students and your communication with them through the computer.
What’s Really in It for Me?
Though teaching is itself the best reward for many people, ESL teachers must still consider how to cover the bills, and that means thinking about money. Many overseas teaching opportunities come with lots of zeros on the paycheck. Others may not pay as much but give perks that make up for what you don’t get in your income. Online teachers may find that the financial benefits of teaching online are less than what they could get travelling overseas. Teaching websites that hire you as teacher or tutor may pay by the hour, and though it’s likely to be more than minimum wage, it’s less than what you would make though other venues. Other opportunities may offer more money upfront, but pay attention for the words ‘independent contractor’. If you are hired as an independent contractor, your employer will not take taxes from your pay before it comes to you. Your paycheck will be bigger, but when April 15 rolls around you’ll find that you own a large percentage of what you made. Independent contractors need to calculate how much of what they make will end up going to the tax man, and then decide if the job is worth what they are paying. Finally, be wary of any company that asks you to pay money upfront. These are questionable at the least and illegitimate at the worst, and you want to avoid them on your online teaching journey.
Do I Have the Tech Savvy?
With online teaching comes a dependence on computers. Before signing up to be an online educator, you should take an honest look at your own tech savviness. Resources like Skype and Facetime make video conversations possible, but teaching may take more than a webcam and an internet connection. Some companies will require you to download software and have specific connection and processing speeds. Because you don’t go to an office, you’ll have to tackle any technology bugs on your own though you may get the assistance of a help desk professional. Potential online teachers should think about what they can do and who they can turn to when they have technology needs beyond what they can handle themselves.
Can I Fill in the Gaps?
Potential online educators must also ask themselves if they have what it takes to tackle all their students’ questions on their own. Where classroom teachers often have coworkers they can turn to when they run into a language conundrum, online teachers most likely will lack such resources. It’s important for teachers to think about their education and experience and whether they will be able to answer their students’ questions. Having a coworker to turn to can be very helpful. Even when you know the answer to the question, sometimes knowing the right way to explain it to your students can make or break your lines of communication. Online teachers need to have the background that enables them to answer questions without a buddy to turn to. In addition, online video chatting will still lack some communication clues that in person conversations make available. It’s important that online teachers be able to fill in those communication gaps without clues such as body language.
Do I Have the Gumption
Online educators, especially those who choose not to work through a larger company, need to be able to sell themselves. Keeping profiles updated and selling your skills is important. Though you may get some referrals from one student to another, you will have to remember that you are your own boss and your own marketing department. You will need self motivation and independence to keep your personal business, your English education business, growing and thriving. Students will come and students will go, but teachers who can market and sell themselves will find a steady stream of English students.
Teaching online can be a great opportunity, but it also has its drawbacks. Before you jump in with both feet, consider if online education really is the best move for you.
If it is, go for it, and watch success come to you! If it is not there are plenty of other teaching opportunities available to you if you take the time to find them. Besides, a great adventure may be waiting just around the corner.
Are you an online ESL teacher? What have you found to be the greatest advantages and disadvantages of teaching online?