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The Challenges of ESL Teaching Online


Teaching English as a Foreign Language or TEFL is a highly popular and excellent way to earn a living. At the same time, you’ll be meeting new people from all around the world.

If you want to teach English as a second language, there are plenty of opportunities to do so online with a range of different platforms. The great news is that you don’t need experience or have to speak a second language yourself because of the immersive techniques used in the teaching.

Of course, if you’ve taught in a real-world classroom before, you’ll understand that there are some challenges and differences when moving your courses online. While you have a much larger number of students to choose from, it can be a bit of a culture shock to find yourself communicating using just a camera and computer screen.

Most of the challenges when you teach English online, however, are easily overcome.

5 Challenges of Online ESL Teaching

  1. Internet Connections and Technology: Of course, you need a strong and reliable internet connection – the last thing you want when delivering a lesson is for everything to suddenly freeze up. You also need the right technology for delivering your courses and, more importantly, learn how to use it.
  2. Finding the Right Platform: Many teachers work from an ESL platform and there are plenty to choose from nowadays. These include VIPKid and Rosetta Stone that all tend to pay teachers hourly rates. If you’re planning to have your website and run your classes independently, you’ll need to pick the right video conferencing software and be prepared to market your services to the wider world.
  3. The Challenge of Time Zones: If you are teaching English as a second language, many of your students are likely to be living further afield. This can cause a huge issue with time zones and finding a suitable slot that works for both the student and teacher. Be prepared to be flexible, especially if you’re teaching someone in China.
  4. Putting Lessons Together: If you are teaching one to one, it’s important to tailor your lessons for the individual and keep track of progress. This can be a lot more difficult than, for example, teaching a weekly class where there are several students and you have a set curriculum. Especially for new teachers, this is certainly the biggest challenge and one that takes a good deal of planning.
  5. Charging for Lessons: If you’re running your online teaching independently and are not part of a platform, how much you charge for lessons is going to be critical. While you shouldn’t be lowering your costs simply because you are online, you do need to take into account the cost of living in any host country and whether you are pricing yourself out of the market.

Taking a TEFL Course Online

There are plenty of quality TEFL courses that give you the knowledge and experience to set up an online teaching business. These teach you useful skills such as classroom management, putting your lessons together and how to find work. Passing the course also gives you a respected and globally recognised qualification that many countries accept.

Finding Online Teaching Jobs

It’s important to think about what type of ESL teaching you want to offer your students. You might specialise in business language, for example, or you may be more focused on teaching younger adults who want the opportunity to study abroad in the UK.

The big challenge is always finding students online and building a relationship with them, whether you want to organise group lessons or face to face ones. There is a strong, growing market out there and several different platforms that help you find regular students if you don’t want the hassle of marketing yourself.

If you’re brave enough to go it alone and set up your own website, the great news is there’s a whole world out there and millions of potential students from all walks of life – all you need to do is reach out to them.