Move Your Classroom to the Cloud: Pros and Cons of Teaching ESL Online
Is teaching ESL online right for you?
There is a lot to consider when making the leap from traditional classroom settings into an online forum. Assess the pros and cons below and make the best, most informed decision for yourself.
There are many pros of teaching ESL online,and in turn any pro could also be looked at as a con. Find the positives in each of the below arguments for why you may want to begin teaching ESL online.
What are the Pros and Cons for Teaching Online?
Teach From the Comfort of Your Home
One big pro depending on your circumstances, is that you can teach from the comfort of your own home. You don't need a lot of equipment, just a computer, web camera, internet connection, and microphone. Most computers come with built-in cameras and mics are cheap enough to buy and easy to find. A wireless internet connection works wonderfully for the best and fastest connection possible. It is a terrific advantage to be able to work out of your home simply for the convenience of it. It is comfortable and can enable you to host lessons early in the morning or late at night if you choose. In addition, there is no commute, so you will never be late to class.
Set Your Own Schedule
Teaching online enables you to set your own schedule, devise your student base, and choose what types of lessons you will provide. This can be very freeing and if you are juggling other commitments, this arrangement makes it easy to set a schedule that works to your advantage. Teaching ESL online enables you to decide the combination of students that will work best for you, what levels you would like to teach, as well as what subject matter you are interested in focusing on.
Teach Students in Various Places
One interesting advantage to teaching ESL online is that you can teach students from many different locations. You could have students that are spread across a country, or you could mix students from many different countries. Teaching multi-cultural classes has a lot of benefits as well as students of varying ages and cultural backgrounds. Depending on where you are located and the time difference of your focal countries you may be able to manage having many countries represented in your classroom.
When deciding whether or not an online classroom is good for you, you want to be honest with yourself when it comes to the challenges and negative aspects. As with the positives, negative aspects can often be flipped to a positive depending on how you examine the circumstances.
More Challenging to be Interactive
It can be more challenging to host interactive activities when you are teaching online. This is not to say that it cannot be done, it just takes a different mind-set and more planning. Many interactive activities and games just won't work simply because you are not face-to-face with students. You will have to come up with alternatives and find other ways to have students interact, communicate and learn from one another.
Difficult to Share Assignments
A point a lot of teachers overlook is the subject of materials. You have to figure out what books and materials will be utilized in the class and how students will gain access to them. This will most certainly impact your interactions on a whole. Another difficulty you face is disseminating and sharing information and assignments. It is pretty easy to be able to email all the students a handout or assignment, but you can't be sure that all of them will be able to access it during the class or remember to have it ready to go. Also, it is more difficult to have students share writing assignments, homework or other exercises. You will need to devise a way to share documents that all students can access and understand. Consider hosting a bulletin board or creating an email group to get students in the habit of communicating in this way.
Discipline Can be an Issue
Generally speaking, ESL classes are pretty manageable when it comes to behavior and discipline. However, the online environment changes this dynamic, and may make it a bit more difficult to monitor all students and enforce requisite behavior. One example of this might be that students could get away with taking a back seat in the participation department. If a student is particularly quiet, reserved, or shy, it may be difficult to break through those barriers in the online environment. The opposite may also hold true. If you have a student who monopolizes the conversation, it can be problematic to enforce class guidelines. You will have to approach these problems as they arise and think about how your classroom management style will be different online. There are ways to reach students in cyberspace, but you may find this to be particularly challenging.
Technical difficulties may perhaps be the most daunting problem you will face in an online classroom. No amount of troubleshooting and preparation can control the inevitable. Students will have problems with their connections; someone won't know how to login properly; bandwidth in some countries can result in choppy videos, non-existent reliability for connection, or endless technical issues. You'll want to explore these issues and try out your technologies before you intend to use them for a full-time class. If you are in a country where the connection is almost impossible, you are out of the game completely. You may want to explore possibilities for how to troubleshoot problems when they arise. Consider having a chat capability ready to go if your video falls over, or enable some social media where you can communicate the problem clearly to all students at the same time.
Online teaching can be both challenging and rewarding.
Examine your own list of pros of cons to decide whether this forum is right for you.
I am an ex-ESL teacher who has transitioned from that industry into the field of adult education. I have a long history of teaching ESL in numerous countries and varied classroom settings. I’ve also taught a variety of learners, but found I loved teaching teens and adults the best. I spent three years certifying and training want-to-be teachers in China and the Czech Republic. I am also a writer and editor interested in anything to do with education, travel, and lifelong learning.
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