Online teachers are lucky in that they can work from home almost anywhere in the world but they also encounter a unique set of problems.
Of course some issues are similar to problems experienced in classrooms however online teachers will have to deal with them differently. Here are some common mistakes that online teachers make.
5 Most Common Mistakes When Teaching Online
If you use a webcam for your classes, please give some consideration to your appearance and background. Just because you work at home does not mean that you can wear your pajamas during classes. Dressing appropriately, in a professional manner, will help earn your students’ respect and set the tone for your interactions with them. Keep in mind that students will not only see you but also everything behind you. Beds and bathrooms should not be seen in the background. Find a quiet, neutral place that reveals little personal information. It is great getting to know students but they should not see certain parts of your house, family members walking behind you, or pets. You need to show that you have a professional approach to your work and take their education seriously.
Microphone placement is also another important thing that teachers need to think about. Online teachers must use a headset. If you do not, students will be distracted by your typing, clicking, and other sounds but using a headset reduces the amount of other noises they hear and allows them to focus more on what you are saying. Microphone placement is important because it will affect the sound quality of your classes. If it is directly in front of your mouth, your breathing and speaking will cause students to hear sounds like those you would expect to hear if a caller is outside on a windy day. You should test your microphone placement by recording yourself speaking into it or by asking a friend or family member to test it out with you using a program like Skype or Google Voice. This will give you some insight as to where it should be placed. Generally the microphone should be off to one side and either a little above or below your mouth.
Online teachers often spend too much time speaking during lessons especially if they are not used to teaching one-on-one lessons. Since online classes are generally short, teachers should really maximize student talking time. If you use certain teaching material, allow students to read directions and anything else you may be tempted to read for them. Use your speaking time to ask questions, prompt longer responses, give feedback, and model pronunciation. Encourage students to ask questions. For example, instead of having a student say each word on a vocabulary list after you, have him read the words aloud, practice the pronunciation of any words he had difficulty with, and ask if there are any new words on the list. This saves a lot of time because you only have to focus on what the student needs help with.
Lack Of Variety
Online teachers focus most of their attention on speaking and listening. These are very important skills but in order to learn English, students should focus on all aspects of the language which includes reading and writing. In order to make the best use of your time, you can ask students to read materials before class to prepare them for lessons and assign written work occasionally as homework. Some students may not be interested in improving their writing skills but be sure to establish what they want to get out of their lessons so that you can plan classes appropriately. Encourage students to consider the importance of these skills and explain how including them in lessons will not take significant time away from other activities.
Not Enough Feedback
It is important to provide students with written feedback and evaluations. It can be hard to structure this without homework assignments or tests but students should have a record of their progress and be able to review their mistakes on their own time. Online learners must do some self study activities in addition to taking online classes but without direction it may be challenging for them to know what to focus on. Providing students with feedback will help you both identify which areas they struggle with and you can recommend additional practice exercises to help them.
These are just some of the things that online teachers should be aware of.
Bonus Tip: It is nice to know what time of day it is for your students. This is a very simple thing but the class you teach in the morning might be in the evening for your student so you should adjust your greeting accordingly. This can be a challenge but it lets students know that you are invested in them enough to know what time and day your class is in their country. It just personalizes your experience a little more. Good luck!
For more information on becoming a better online teacher please see our other articles ‘Teaching English Online – What You Need to Know’ and ‘How to Teach Online Lessons - And Be Proud Of Them’.
Do you teach online? Please share you experience, problems, or tips and tricks with us! We’d love to hear from you!