Teaching Online

Tips and Resources to Help You Bring Learners into Your Lessons and Courses

Recently, I’ve been going live on Facebook 2-3 times per week to share information on how to better market your lessons and courses.

As a side note, if you’re struggling to make videos, consider going live.

There’s something different about pressing “go live now” instead of recording a video and then uploading it. For me, it brings out a different style of presenting. It also helps me get something out there. I highly recommend you try it.

Anyway, back to the video….

… in this lesson, I go through various tips and strategies that will help you better promote yourself as an online teacher. I talk about affiliate programs, checkout software, focusing in on your niche, creating micro-content, and other useful tidbits.

Useful notes below.

Producing Micro-Content

A TEOC member asked if it’s necessary to create new blog posts frequently in order to attract learners.

My answer?

No, it’s not necessary. What you can do instead is this:

  • Create micro-content on social media sites
  • Add a call-to-action (CTA) at the beginning and end.

The old way of writing an article and posting links on social media isn’t exactly dead, but it’s not as effective as it used to be.

Facebook and other social sites want you to create native content. They want you to upload videos to their platform.

Users want this too. Think about how much more likely you are to watch a video on Facebook rather than click a YouTube link.

Use this to your advantage by creating micro-content on these platforms. And remember to include a relevant CTA.

(Learn how to use email with any CTA you have)

Over the long-term, you’ll most likely want to include blog posts too. This way, you will be found by Google. But as I say here, this takes time.

New Checkout Software, Getting Help From My Wife, and My New Affiliate Program

I’ve had a couple of problems recently with people trying to register for my course.

This was an old problem that I thought had gone away.

Certain people were getting a timeout message when they submitted their order. They couldn’t register and I was missing out on new members. I tried to talk with my hosting account, software people, and hosting service, but they couldn’t pinpoint the problem.

On a related note, I also wanted to add an affiliate program for my courses.

I tried one piece of software, but it was a nightmare to set up. The support was decent, but it was overly complex and confusing.

My wife knew I was struggling with these problems (I was sighing a lot, apparently) and asked what was wrong.

I told her about it and said that there is this software that, although expensive, looks like it could solve everything.

She told me to go for it.

So, I did.

It took a couple of hours to set everything up. I’m very pleased with the initial experience and now I have an affiliate program.

There are two main takeaways here:

  • If you are currently stuck with something, talk it through with someone. Although my wife told me what to do, just talking it over with her made me realize what I needed to do
  • Investing in the right products, services, and people helps you grow faster and makes life easier. Don’t put this off.

As for my affiliate program, get in contact if you would like to join.

A New Success Story and Lessons About Niches

A couple of days ago, I got an email that made my day.

It was from a teacher who had gone through my course and had something exciting to share. Here is part of what she said:

“The course has focussed me on finding a niche, and as a result I have hit some important financial and personal milestones.

I come from an RAF family – my father was one of the first six link instructors in the UK – and as a journalist I specialised in writing about flight simulation. Also, I am an Accelerated Learning trainer, a Master NLP Coach, an Advanced Reading Instructor and CELTA qualified. When I started putting all these skills together to teach a senior airline pilot, we struck gold.

He was the only one of 100 pilots tested last month to be given level 6 in his aviation English exam (EALTS). I also helped him secure his dream job for a Saudi Airline on an amazing package. He is championing me to colleagues with similar aspirations, and so now I am teaching a handful of pilots, all by referral. I couldn’t be happier about this.”

Ingrid focused on what she was specialized in and brought all this together. This focus on what she does best resulted in one of her clients fulfilling his dream. When this happens, you’re going to get referrals.

If you’re struggling to resonate with learners, think about what your strengths are and what interests you, and then find ways to create lessons and teach those who you are going to best connect with.

New Video Training

Last week, I put together a new video training series.

I highly recommend you go through it. It might be exactly what you need to get your teaching business off the ground.

Click here to get instant access to the videos.

Over to You

Please share any thoughts you have in the comment section below.

Oh, and if you have a lesson plan that you want to share with the world, get in touch here.

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Two Sigmas Review - Platform for Teaching Online

Two Sigmas: a Platform for Online Teachers

A few months back, I interviewed Teacher Diane.

It turned out to be one of the most popular interviews that I have done on this blog.

We have kept in touch since and a few weeks ago, she sent me information about a new platform she is using called Two Sigmas. Diane connected me with Alice from Two Sigmas and I tried the platform out.

The video below goes through why you might consider it for your online lessons.

A Review of Two Sigmas and How to Use It

To open a new lesson, just click this link.

You will be taken to a new room automatically. You can use this same link with your student moving forward.

You will see a chat box and your webcam. You can resize these boxes and move them around your screen.

The platform is all about pages. Click the box in the bottom left-hand corner to create a new page. From here, you can add text, images, pdfs, and use other whiteboard applications.

At the time of recording, there wasn’t an option to embed video or to share a screen. I have been told that they are working on this.

When I connected with Alice from Two Sigmas, the connection was fantastic. Very clear and no lag.

Over to You

Two Sigmas is a great alternative to other platforms available.

I particularly like it for its simplicity and because it keeps everything you have done with your student for the next lesson.

What do you think of the platform?

Try it out and let me know how it goes in the comment section below.

Here are other platforms that I have reviewed:

Skype
Google Hangouts
Zoom

Leave comments below. Thanks for reading.

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Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

Three Tools to Help You Teach English Pronunciation (and How to Do This Asynchronously)

Tools for Teaching English Pronunciation

I often get emails from teachers worried that online tools and resources are going to replace them.

My opinion is that this won’t happen anytime soon. Additionally, we shouldn’t see these resources as competition but, instead, as potentially useful tools to help us better help our learners.

And in this post, I want to look at three resources that you can use to improve your pronunciation lessons. I will focus on how I use them to help my students with English sounds but, as I mention later, they can be used for all areas of speaking.

Firstly, I want to go into how I approach this area of English as this will give you an insight into why these tools are so useful.

A Quick Summary of How I Teach English Sounds

One of the biggest problems English learners have is being able to pronounce sounds correctly. One reason for this is that there are 14-21 vowel phonemes in English (depending on the variant), many of them not present in other languages.

Therefore, learners will default to sounds in their own language if they can’t produce it correctly.

When working with a learner who has a problem in this area, I go through a three-step process:

  1. Show them what they need to do with their mouth to make the sound
  2. Create/give drills for them to build muscle memory
  3. Give feedback throughout the process

Online tools make this much easier and allow you to work asynchronously with your learner. Let’s look at step one of this process and the relevant tool.

Sounds of Speech App: How to Make Different Sounds

This handy app has an animation of what happens inside the mouth when different sounds are made.

Here is what it looks like:

uiowa

http://www.uiowa.edu/~acadtech/phonetics/english/english.html

This, along with any explanation, allows your learner to see what’s going on inside the mouth so that they can then experiment with their tongue, lips etc. to mimic the speaker.

I’ve found that this comes more naturally for certain students but, with enough practice, everyone will finally get there.

Outside of class, encourage your learners to play around with this app. If they struggle with certain sounds, then suggest that they start with those.

In addition to the visual representation, there is also a video showing a real person saying the relevant sound. This made all the difference for my Spanish-speaking student and his ability to correctly say the ‘w’ sound. I told him to watch the video, repeat after the speaker while looking in a mirror, and then to compare the two, and this solved the problem for him.

Let’s move on to stage two.

Audacity and File Sharing Apps for Drilling

In order for your learner to get this right over the long-term, they are going to need practice.

I prefer to make drills relevant to each student and, when I’m teaching one-to-one, I send over personalized audio based on the lesson/conversation we’ve just had.

This isn’t difficult to do. You just need 5-10 minutes, Audacity (or any sound recording app), and a file sharing application. To record the relevant drills, I go through my lesson notes and record sentences. I ensure that the sounds that we have been working on are included in these sentences, and will also add some specific pronunciation drills where needed.

Once I have recorded those sentences, I simply drag them into the relevant folder on my computer. This is linked to the DropBox folder that I share with my learner.

The student then downloads the audio and – in theory, at least! – repeats each sentence out loud during the week. This builds muscle memory inside the mouth.

If you create sentences, this not only helps learners with English sounds, but also with the different areas of pronunciation like stress, rhythm, intonation, and so on.

I also send learners to the drills over at the Mimic Method website where there are some really useful comparisons.

Using SoundCloud/Google Drive/DropBox to Give Feedback

There are two ways to give feedback: live in class or asynchronously. I’m going to focus on the latter here.

I’ve used a variety of different tools to give feedback asynchronously. SoundCloud is my first choice as you can leave comments at specific points during the audio.

In addition to pronunciation, I’ve used it to give feedback on IELTS speaking questions and on presentations.

SoundCloud

Giving IELTS feedback on SoundCloud

Another option is to use Google Drive and the Kaizena app or to have the audio sent to your DropBox using the DBinbox application.

Working asynchronously has a couple of benefits: firstly, it allows you to be more flexible with your schedule and, secondly, you can take your time with the feedback and listen more closely.

Over to You

In addition to teaching sounds, I also use this method and the relevant tools to help my learners with connected speech, intonation, rhythm, stress, other parts of pronunciation, and speaking in general.

I have used this both in one-to-one lessons, group lessons, and in my online courses.

If you have used other tools to help your learners with their pronunciation, please share them below. Thanks for reading!

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3 Apps for Online Teachers

Three Amazing Apps for Online Teachers (Part Two)

3 Apps for Online Teachers

A few months back, I wrote an article looking at the benefits of using Evernote, Asana, and LastPass as an online teacher.

Since then, I have started using other useful applications, and today I want to share three that I’m sure you’re going to love.

These apps have helped me save time and become more organized; one has even helped me improve my writing.

So, let’s jump right in and start with my favorite.

Text Expander

Click here to check out TextExpander

This application has saved me a lot of time, and I can’t recommend it enough.

It works like this: you assign snippets to commonly used text and pictures, and when you type out those snippets, they transform into the pre-assigned text.

Here is a quick video showing how it works:

 

As an example, I get asked the same questions from English learners over again. If someone asks me to help them with their grammar, I have a 5 paragraph response with relevant links that I like to send. All I need to do is type ;tfgrammar and then personalize the email.

I have around one hundred snippets for URLS, stock email responses, email signatures, codes, post outlines, YouTube descriptions, and much more.

TextExpander is a Mac application – PhraseExpander is the Windows equivalent – and syncs across all Apple devices.

It works in every writing application, so you can use it when responding to emails, writing blog posts, and posting on Facebook.

The more snippets you add, the more you’ll get out of this application, and I highly recommend you give it a try. It’s $34.95 for a lifetime license.

Sunrise Calendar

Click here to check out Sunrise Calendar

Sunrise Calendar is the best online calendar I have come across.

It syncs with other applications meaning that you can have everything on one calendar. For example, it syncs with:

– Google and Apple Calendar (iCloud)
– Facebook events
– Asana
– Evernote
– LinkedIn
– tv Shows
– sporting fixtures (I integrated it with Preston North End’s fixtures, in case you were wondering)

Due to these integrations, I can avoid double booking myself without having to check different sites. As an online teacher, this is invaluable.

Personally, I love how it integrates with Asana, showing the different tasks I have for each day. If you use a different application for task-management, there will most likely be an integration for that too.

There are lots of little things that make the application so useful, for example, you can respond to Facebook events within the app.

It’s easy to use, looks great, and works on all devices. And it’s free.

Grammarly

Click here to check out Grammarly

With all the articles, social media posts, and emails that I write, I often make silly mistakes.

Grammarly, a grammar checker that works best through the Chrome extension, has made writing much easier for me. It claims to spot ten times the mistakes than common word processors, and from my experience, I have found that to be true.

This is what it looks like within WordPress (with the Chrome extension):

Grammarly Within WordPress

16 Advanced Issues!

When you click the red correct button, a pop-up window appears with suggested corrections and explanations, and you can make changes within the pop-up.

In addition to checking your writing, it detects plagiarism and helps you improve word choice with vocabulary suggestions.

I’ve improved my writing quite significantly since first using it. And as I mentioned before, having something highlight silly mistakes and typos has made a big difference.

It’s not perfect and can’t be compared to a professional proofreader or editor, but it’s fantastic if you need something that works wherever you write.

There is a free and a paid version available.

Over to You

Have you used any of the applications listed here or in my first post? If so, share your experiences using them.

Additionally, if you have any app recommendations for online teachers, please share them below!

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Email Marketing

Why Email Marketing Is so Powerful (and How You Can Get Started)

 

Email Marketing

Over the past two years, email has been at the center of my online marketing efforts for my different brands.

But just like designing my site with WordPress, it took me a while to take the plunge and start building an email list.

I’m not sure what put me off; maybe I was scared of taking the next step. But after signing up for an account at Aweber, I haven’t looked back since.

In this post, I am going to talk about why having an email list is important for independent online teachers (or anyone selling their services and products online), give you an overview of how to use email in your teaching business, and then show you how to get started.

Why You Need an Email List

There are a few very strong reasons why it’s a good idea to start an email list; here are the two main ones:

  • it’s the best way to communicate with your audience, build trust, and sell your services
  • you own the email list

Let’s look at this in more depth.

Using Email to Communicate, Build Trust, and Sell Services

Email is still king when it comes to communication, and to bring learners into your lessons –  and to offer other services and courses to your audience – you will need to communicate.

Here is an example to bring some context…

In March 2014, I created a course for my English learners on an external platform. As a featured teacher on their platform, my course was advertised and pushed heavily on social media.

In addition to their efforts, I sent out emails promoting my course to those on my email list.

Out of everyone that signed up, 90-95% came from my list.

What made the difference?

Well, in addition to emailing my list with information and reminders about the course, in the months prior, I had sent out lots of free content. I had also replied to all emails that I received, meaning that I had slowly built trust through a medium that allowed me to communicate one-to-one on a massive scale.

Sending out free content (emails, links to articles, videos etc.), and engaging with your subscribers, gives you the solid foundation on which you can start promoting what you offer. It builds your brand and the trust of your subscribers. And once you have built that trust, email is the best way to promote your products and services.

At this stage you might be thinking, “Why can’t I just do that on social media?”

You should use social media in this way too. But email performs much better than social media when it comes to reach (click through rates, open rates etc.) and ROI in general.

To highlight why, think about how long you have had your email address and how often you check your emails. Most people will process every email they receive (even if this just means scanning the title).

On the other hand, social media sites come and go, usage levels vary, and algorithm changes can make reaching your followers much more difficult.

This is why email is so powerful.

You Own the List (And Email Is Here to Stay)

If you’re solely building your brand on platforms you don’t own, you’re making a mistake. As you have just learned, email has the best ROI, and beats social media pretty comprehensively.

But in addition to that, an email list is something that you own, no matter which email provider you use (options below).

The Real Life English team knew this and put their focus on email from the start. That is why when their Facebook group of 120,000+ learners got deleted it wasn’t a disaster for them.

Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and other platforms are amazing for reaching learners and building your teaching brand, and should be part of your marketing efforts. But building your brand solely on these platforms is risky.

(Note: In addition to your email list, having website that you own, preferably on open source software, is important too.)

Getting Started with Email Marketing

The first thing you will need to do is sign up with an email marketing provider.

My recommendation is Aweber. It’s very similar to its rival MailChimp in many ways, but the reason why I am prefer Aweber is down to their support.

Aweber offers free support (phone and online chat), and I have used this numerous times over the last couple of years. When I was thinking about making the switch to MailChimp, it took their support team over a week to answer a couple of simple questions I had, and there was no telephone number to call.

One reason why many teachers choose MailChimp is because it’s free for the first 2,000 subscribers. However, the free account is limited, and you will need a paid account to use even some of the basic features (like automation – more on this later).

However, the important thing to know is that both options will work fine in most cases, and they both will end up costing more or less the same. So just pick one and go for it.

One thing you will need, no matter which provider you choose, is a postal address. This is due to the CAN-SPAM Act, and you won’t be able to send out emails without including an address. If you’re uncomfortable putting your home address at the bottom of emails, you can get a P.O. Box or something similar.

Let’s move on now and talk about the types of emails that you can send to your subscribers.

The Three Types of Emails You Can Send

Let’s say that you’ve just written a new post on your website and want to share it with those who signed up for updates.

There are two ways that you can do this: send a blog broadcast or a regular broadcast.

The difference is that a blog broadcast goes out automatically when you publish your post (you connect your site to your email provider), whereas a regular broadcast allows you to write anything you want to write.

Personally, I never send out blog broadcasts, and use regular broadcasts instead (including the link to the article in the email).

When promoting your lessons or courses in a general sense, you’ll do this through a regular broadcast too.

The third type of email is an automated email.

For example, when someone subscribes, you can send them a welcome email that goes out automatically. In addition, you can send a series of follow up emails that go out automatically when you want them too. This is very useful if you want to promote your lessons or course through a series of emails in an automated way (see example later in the post).

Let’s now talk about how to get subscribers.

Getting Learners to Join Your List/Newsletter

Once you have everything set up, it’s time to start getting learners to sign up to your email list.

Generally speaking, you’ll get higher conversions if you give something away for free instead of just asking people to subscribe to your newsletter.

I’ve given away mini-ebooks, free 7/14/30 day courses (using email automation), and resource guides. When deciding what to give away, just think about what would be valuable to those in your niche.

Once you have your giveaway (or lead magnet in marketing language), there are many ways to get learners to sign up, including:

  • having an opt-in form (sign up form) at the bottom of your posts
  • having an opt-in form in the sidebar or in the menu bar
  • using a pop-up when someone comes onto your site
  • sending people direct to a landing page where they can sign up

On this blog, I use a plugin that is no longer available. But on my site for English learners, I use LeadPages for everything email related. I use it to create opt-ins on my posts, for pop-ups, and also for landing pages (explanation below). Alternatively, you could use the sign up forms that come with Aweber/MailChimp which are easy to set up and integrate.

For those that don’t know, a landing page is a specific page that you create to encourage visitors into signing up to your email list.

Here is what one my landing pages looks like:

Landing Page Made by LeadPages

Here is a landing page for my English learners. Visually, it’s not that great, but it converts really well.

I send learners to this page from social media, any advertising I do, YouTube, and other platforms. Once they enter their details, they receive a welcome email with a question, and then over the next few weeks, 17 automated emails.

Once they go through these emails, they are added to a list where they receive regular email updates (new posts and videos) and promotional emails.

Best Practices

Although there are many ways to use email marketing in your online tutoring business, here are some best practices from my experience and research.

Email on a Consistent Basis

As I re-branded my site for English learners, I made the mistake of not sending out an email for around six weeks. I’ve also been inconsistent at other times too.

I recommend that you post on a weekly/bi-weekly basis, but feel free to send more emails if you can make it sustainable. If you are promoting something, then you will want to send many emails around this time as this leads to more sales.

Be Yourself and Keep Things Simple

I used to send a more branded email, but now I keep things as simple as possible. At the moment, I don’t include a logo on my emails, and format them in more or less the same way as a personal email.

You might prefer to brand your emails, but try to keep things simple and easy to read.

Additionally, be yourself and let your personality come through.

Think Long-Term

I’ve had many English learners sign up to lessons or courses many months after joining my email list. One of the benefits of email marketing is always being there, meaning that when someone is ready to sign up to lessons, you will be on their mind.

This is key not only for one-to-one lessons, but for when you want to expand on the services you offer.

Overview and Resources

Here is an example of how you can use email marketing to get more sign ups for your one-to-one lessons:

– A learner comes across your video on social media, and clinks the link taking them to get their free download
– They go to your landing page, sign up to your email list, and enjoy your free guide
– The learner then receives emails from you (automated) that include free videos, advice, blog posts etc.
– They reply to one of your emails and you respond
– An email is sent out (again, automated) that outlines the lessons you offer
– As the learner likes what you have sent them, and because you have built trust with them over time, they sign up to a trial lesson

As you can see, this creates a way for you to give your potential learners value before you promote something. This works much better than just sending people to a page where you sell your lessons. And because the majority of this process is automated, it allows you to scale this process without having to put in any extra work.

Here are some of the resources that I mentioned in this post:

Email Marketing Guide: My free guide on getting started with email marketing
Aweber: My recommendation for email marketing (free 30 day trial)
MailChimp: An alternative to MailChimp (free for basic features up to 2000 subscribers)
LeadPages: If your budget allows, this is the ultimate software to create landing pages, opt-in forms etc. Easy to use and easy to integrate with WordPress and Aweber/MailChimp.

(Note: the above links are affiliate links)

Over to You

If you’re thinking about getting started with email marketing, I suggest doing this sooner rather than later, as email is king when it comes to ROI and building a brand.

Do you have an email list for your teaching business? If so, let us know about your experience with this.

If you have any questions, please leave them in the comment section below, or get in touch with me here.

Thanks for reading, and if you found it useful, please use one of the buttons below to share it.

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Equipment Tools Videos TESLO

How to Create Videos: The Equipment and Tools You Need

 

Equipment Tools Videos TESLO

With my YouTube Channels, social media profiles, and online courses, I’ve made around 200 videos over the last 12 months.

And in this post, I’m going to talk about the equipment and tools I use, along with alternatives to suit every budget.

A big part of my process recently has been to make it as easy as possible to start shooting a video; I have put my DSLR camera and lavalier mic away for the time being.

And because of this, along with speeding up the post-production process, I’ve brought down the time it takes to create a video for my English learners (from the initial idea to the uploaded video and post) from around 6-8 hours to about 1-2 hours.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at what you’ll need to create videos, what I use, and the alternatives out there. And we’ll start with something you’ll definitely need if you are going to feature yourself in your videos: a camera.

Camera Options

Most people already have a perfectly fine camera for shooting high quality video: a smartphone.

Using Your Smartphone

The benefits of using a smartphone are plentiful: you always have it with you, the quality is great (newer models), you can easily share video straight from your camera, and there are several apps that you can use on your phone.

If you do use your phone, then there are a couple of things you need to think about:

– how to improve the audio
– how to stabilize the camera

I have found that the iPhone earphones improve the audio quality (there is a mic on there), but there other options like this lavalier mic (cheaper options are available).

For some of my short and more relaxed videos, I just hold it up and shoot. But in most cases, you’ll need to think about where you can put it to get the shot you want. I’ve been using this tripod with my phone, and it’s a lot of fun as well as being functional. Alternatively, you can use a regular tripod with an adapter, or get a desk tripod if you are shooting from your desk.

If you are just starting out and have a smaller budget, and already have a smartphone, this might be the best camera option for you.

Webcam

Logitech C920

Photo: Amazon.com

I’ve been using my webcam for the majority of my videos recently.

The reason for this is because it’s the easiest way to start shooting; it’s always there just sitting on top of my computer at an angle that I like (it means I don’t have to tidy my room before recording!).

The quality isn’t quite as good as a smartphone (not with the webcam I have), but with a few tweaks, the videos look good – a big part of video quality from my experience is how you export your video (more on that later).

The webcam I use is the Logitech C920. It works best on a PC, but there are some tweaks you can make so that it works on a Mac too (this is the app I use). It normally sells for $70-90.

DSLR

The most expensive option is a DSLR camera. This is the camera I used when I first starting making videos (note: I have the t3i). Personally, I found it too much work setting things up and shooting this way, especially because I had to put everything away after recording. For me, it just created too much friction.

However, the video quality is amazing, especially if you get a good lens. Just like the smartphone and the webcam, you will need an external microphone as the sound quality is poor when using DSLRs.

I may go back to using this camera for future videos, but for now, my smartphone and webcam are perfect, and allow me to get more videos uploaded.

Microphone Options

Whatever camera option you go for, you’ll need an external microphone. Sound quality is important, and you just can’t get high quality sound from a camera/webcam/smartphone alone.

Shotgun Mics (DSLR)

One option that came up during my research for an external microphone was a shotgun mic (it sits on top of your camera), and this option from Rode is a popular choice.

I know other teachers who use a shotgun mic, and it will give you great audio if you have the budget for it.

Lavalier Mics (DSRL + Smartphone + Computer)

Lavalier Mic

Photo: Amazon.com

An alternative is to get a lavalier mic (this clips onto your top). You can connect it to your computer, an external recorder, or directly to your camera.

I used to use a lav mic connected to this external recorder, and then I synced the audio to the video during post-production. Things can get really expensive here (especially with wireless systems), so getting a $25-40 mic that connects directly to your camera is something you may want to start with.

And as I mentioned earlier, if you are using your smartphone, there are lavalier mics available for this too.

Desktop Mics (Mainly for Webcam Recordings)

As I’m using my webcam at my computer, I now use my desktop microphone.

I’ve had the Audio-Technica ATR2100 for a few years now and I still love it. The only drawback is that you need to be physically close to your desk, or wherever your mic is, when recording video. My stand-up desk helps me stay close enough to my microphone when I record.

If you’re not going to create videos with your face in them, – for example, a presentation style video using power point – then a desk microphone might be your best option.

As you can see, there are many audio options available, and what microphone you get will largely be influenced by the camera you have and the type of videos you want to film.

Lighting

Photographers and video makers constantly talk about the importance of lighting.

Shooting outdoors usually offers great lighting for your videos, but background noise and the weather can cause problems.

Therefore, you will most likely prefer to shoot indoors. If you’re in a well-lit room, then this won’t be as much as an issue. However, even if you have great natural light indoors, you may want to shoot video at night where everyday lights won’t suffice.

I decided to buy the Cowboy Studios kit, which is a bargain for what you get. There are DIY options for $10-20, but I decided that spending an extra $30 or so was worth it.

When I film, I place two lights either side of my desk, and because I’m far away from the back wall, I don’t need a back light. If you are filming against a wall, you can use the third light just behind you to eliminate shadows.

Post Production and Presentation Style Videos

Let’s talk about editing now as this is a big part of creating videos.

I use ScreenFlow and can’t recommend it enough. You can record your screen or from your webcam, it has everything you need for editing videos, and then you can export a video directly to Facebook, YouTube etc. It’s for Mac only, but I hear that Camtasia is a good alternative for PC users.

Alternatively, the free video editing software that comes with Macs and PCs is getting better and better. I’ve also played around with iMovie on the iPhone, and there is quite a lot you can do with this app.

Earlier on in the post I talked about how you export videos is important for video quality; if your software allows, bump up the bitrate. I export mine at 10,000 – 20,000; the file sizes are bigger, but the quality on YouTube and elsewhere is much better.

One more thing that you might consider getting is presentation software, preferably something that allows you to record presentations and export them as a movie file. Keynote (Mac) and Power Point have these features. If your software doesn’t, you can get around this is by using screen capturing software like ScreenFlow.

So, What Tools Do/Will You Use?

There are other things that you might need (animated intros, music files, extra gear), but the above will suffice in most situations.

No matter what you use, content is still the most important thing. But with the cost of creating videos decreasing, the barrier to creating something that looks and sounds good has been blown away over the past few years.

What equipment and tools do/will you use to create videos?

Leave your answers below (and please feel free to link to your videos)!

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Personalized Audio English Learners

Create Personalized Audio for Your English Learners

Do you have English learners that keep making the same mistakes week after week?

If so, then sending personalized audio can help your students overcome these mistakes and internalize correct English. This works for pronunciation and grammar errors, and it can also help them remember new vocabulary.

I explain all in this video and the post below.

(Please note: this is based on my experiences teaching one-to-one online, but at the bottom of the post I talk about how you can apply this to traditional lessons)

Watch in HD!

Decide on What Audio to Send

I send sentences based on what we go through in the lesson and the mistakes my learner makes (grammar, pronunciation etc.).

When mistakes are made, I write corrected sentences into the chat box. This allows me to easily record audio after the lesson, and additionally, I prefer correcting learners at a specific time instead of interrupting them while they are speaking.

Adding one or two more examples helps your learner with the problem they’re having. For example, if a learner says, “I enjoy to go there,” then you can create the following sentences:

  • I enjoy going there
  • Jack enjoys playing football
  • I enjoy walking around the city

What you decide to record depends on many factors, but I suggest that you try to keep things as relevant to your learner as you can.

Record and Share the Audio

I prefer to use Audacity, but there are many other programs that allow you to record audio.

In a nutshell, it works like this:

  • You record the audio for your learner
  • Export the audio as an MP3 file and use the sentence as the name of the file
  • Upload it to a folder learner has access to

When recording the audio, you might want to extend the recording so that your student can listen to the sentence and repeat it out loud without having to pause the individual tracks. I did this in the video above.

I use both Dropbox and Google Drive (GD) to share the audio with my learners. And like I mentioned in the video, using a desktop client for these programs makes uploading the audio much easier.

Alternatively, you can open dropbox/GD and drag the files into the relevant folder.

Getting Your Learner to Listen to the Audio and a Review

Some learners will listen every morning, while others will forget to do it. This post will help you if your learner is reluctant to do work outside of class.

I ask my students to listen three times a week, and repeat the sentences two to three times. If you want to systemize this, then you can create Anki flashcards.*

I like to review the sentences in the following lesson and beyond. I do this by asking the same or similar questions. And I think it’s important to view this as a long-term solution, especially for ingrained errors (one of my students took a LONG time before she started saying “people are” instead of “people is”).

Working in Groups

If you are teaching in a language school and work with groups, then you can still create personalized audio; it just won’t be as personalized.

For example, let’s say you’ve done a class on the present perfect, and you spot some mistakes made by one or more of your students. You can create audio for everyone in the class – they download this at home – based on the present perfect and the mistakes that your students make.

Over to You

I have found this method to help my learners create correct sentences in English and to overcome errors that a simple correction won’t fix.

And once you have the system down, it should only take you five-ten minutes to record the audio and send it your student.

Please let me know if you have any questions or thoughts about this.

* Spaced repetition software helps you create digital flashcards (with or without audio) and review them according to an algorithm that you set.

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Interview Stephen Mayeaux

Hip Hop, Making Connections, and Online Courses: An Interview With Stephen Mayeaux

In this post, I interview my friend Stephen Mayeaux over at ESLHipHop.com.

Stephen started his blog after his experience teaching an elective course at UC Davis.

His main focus at the university was academic preparation, but in his elective, he was free to do something different. This is when he started using hip hop in the classroom.

In this interview, we go deep with his use of hip hop with his English learners, the feedback he has received on this, how he got started online, and then, we learn about a new course he is creating for a specific niche.

Watch in HD!

Interview Notes and Resources

We start off with how we connected, and briefly talked about the importance of making connections when working online.

I love how he talks about the struggles he had when he first started using hip hop in the classroom. This was mainly due to the cultural differences, and he gave the example about his Japanese students not understanding the social issues of the police in the U.S.

He had his friend help him create his site using WordPress (he is now quite adept with coding). The feedback he received from the lessons he created was really positive, both from teachers and students.

He blasted 100 lessons out in the first year, but has slowed down his output since to about one lesson per month.

Using Hip Hop in English Lessons

If you want to use hip hop in the class, he recommends going back in time to the old school era, for example, The Beastie Boys and MC Hammer. Additionally, he recommends using the hook and the chorus of modern hip hop.

I really wanted to know about the response Stephen has had about using hip hop in the classroom. I love his answer to this: he is focusing on his students and what they can get out of it, and that, haters gonna hate! But generally speaking, he hasn’t received much negativity.

A Course for a Specific Niche

We then moved on to what Stephen is currently doing; he is in Korea at right now working for a local school – we talked about how they are trying to introduce new teaching methods there.

He has a new video course coming out in March in a very specialized niche: OPIC. It’s not a very well known exam, but after seeing that his students were asking for more help in this area, he decided to create something for them.

He is completely engrossed in this process, and is learning new things each day about what creating a course entails. Stephen said something key about how he is creating the materials for his course:

“…Listening to my students, their concerns, and what they really want.”

He is creating the content for his course based on what his learners are asking for.

We then talked about deadlines and the power of setting a specific deadline (his deadline is March 14/15th – he wants you to hold him to this!).

He has hired a freelance marketer to help him with the marketing side of things. I then talked about outsourcing, and specifically, the two types of tasks to outsource: tasks that you are not skilled at and don’t want to learn; and also the mundane and repetitive tasks.

In my case, outsourcing the transcripts for my course helped me in a great way.

We then moved on to social media, and how he uses Facebook and LinkedIn. We focused on using these platforms to make and maintain connections. An example he gave was connecting with Gallery Languages and how they have partnered on many projects.

Here is an example of one of the video’s he mentioned:

Over to You

Have you used hip hop or other music genres in your lessons? Have you thought about creating a course for English learners?

Answer these questions and/or leave any other comments below…

You can connect with Stephen by using the contact form over at ESLHipHop.com. You can also connect with him on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.

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teach English online using Zoom

A Review of Zoom.us for Teaching Online Lessons

I was introduced to Zoom a couple of years ago from James Heywood at Off2Class.

I’ve used it myself when I experimented with group lessons in 2014, and I have noticed that more online teachers are using this software to deliver their lessons.

In the video below, I talk about the difference features that you can use with Zoom (including one that works like a whiteboard), and the advantages of using this platform.

Watch in HD:

Video Summary

The dashboard for Zoom is really simple and easy to use. Here is what you can do:

– Start a lesson with or without your video (you can turn your video on and off during the lesson/meeting)
– Schedule a meeting
– Join a meeting

When you schedule a meeting, you can choose to make it recurring. This is a great option to have for learners who take lessons at a set time each week.

You will receive a meeting ID and a link when you schedule a lesson, and this can be shared with your student(s). Additionally, you can automatically add it your online calendar.

Your learner will need to download Zoom to be able to connect with you.

Settings

There are many settings inside Zoom; the vast majority are similar to other video conferencing software (like audio, video etc.).

The recording feature is something I highlighted in the video. You are able to record your lessons automatically to a specified folder.

The Class Experience

Here is what you can do during your lesson with Zoom:

– Chat
– Use video
– Share your screen
– Use annotations while your’re sharing your screen (like a whiteboard)
– Share your computer audio; this is a great feature when playing a video

Zoom is free to use for most uses. The only reason to upgrade is if you are taking group lessons that last over 40 minutes and/or you want to use it for a webinar.

Reasons to Use Zoom

There are many advantages to using Zoom:

– The quality of the call is much better compared to other video conferencing software
– The annotations for screen sharing is very useful
– It is lightweight with no real problems/bugs
– You can create recurring meetings and use the same link for your learners

The one drawback is that it isn’t well known. This means that you will have to educate your learners on how to use it, and they will have to download the application first.

But this can be easily done through a one page PDF or quick video that you can give your learners with instructions on what to do.

Over to You

Have you used Zoom before? If so, is there anything you would like to add?

If you haven’t used Zoom, still comment and let me know if you are thinking about trying it in the future.

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Interview with Teacher Diane

Interview With a Location Independent Online English Teacher – Teacher Diane

Teacher Diane is someone who I have been following online for the last year or so.

So, it was a nice surprise when she reached out to me to connect. I soon realized that I wanted to give her the platform here at Teaching ESL Online to share her story and the valuable advice she has for other online teachers.

In our interview, Diane shares with us her experience of being a location independent online English teacher, and how she has managed to build up a large student base.

As you’ll see, she has some creative ways (and tools) to teach her lessons and make videos for her followers.

Here is the interview (watch in HD):

If you would like to teach English online, click here.

What We Discussed

Diane started teaching English five years ago, firstly in Brazil and then in Chicago. After two years of teaching in the language school in Chicago, she got the travel bug and decided to start her own website so that she could teach and travel at the same time.

Making the Transition

Diane was a little hesitant at first, but started with an old student and realized that she could do more online than in the classroom – screen sharing, links etc. – and she found that is was more comfortable to teach at home.

Diane uses a Wacom Tablet for her teaching, writing and drawing on this tablet. Her learners can see this on their screens along with her webcam.

She also uses the tablet to make her very unique videos for Youtube; here is an example:

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Bringing Learners onto Her Website and Into Her Lessons

Youtube has been one the best sources of students for Diane, and she places a link at the start of each video and also in the description box under the video to bring people onto her site.

We then talked about putting ourselves out there on video, and how it can be strange to hear your own voice at first. I know this can be a concern for teachers when starting out, but this does become easier the more you do it.

Diane now schedules her posts on Facebook and batches this work every Sunday. She has three types of posts: a question post, something humorous, and then a post with a link back to her website.

She uses Facebook to build her brand and also to give more exposure to her videos and other materials.

Planning Lessons and Hiring Other Teachers

Diane has a tailored approach to her lessons where she is specific to each student, although she does have certain students who fall into a similar category. She has build up many resources over the years.

Diane has contracted other teachers to help with her workload, hiring teachers who she has met on her travels.

Plans for the Future

Diane’s plans are to focus on marketing her website and learn more about SEO and social media marketing.

She plans to create other sites for specific types of learners (English for doctors, for example). And in the long-term, she wants to write a grammar book and open a language school in the US.

Summary and Over to You

It’s great to see how successful Diane has been with her online teaching and her site does a great job at converting learners into paying students.

One thing that I took away from our interview is this: if you put quality stuff out there, work hard at it, and stay consistent, you are going to get rewarded.

At first, it might seem like you’re doing a lot for small reward; but as you build up momentum, you’ll start seeing some really good results, and have opportunities to hire others and expand just like Diane has done.

Please comment below to let me know your thoughts on this interview. I’m really interested to read what you have to say about this.

About Diane:

Diane is an English teacher from New York with over five years of experience teaching English to students from all over the world.  She is the Founder of teacherdiane.com, a website that provides personalized English lessons on Skype.  You can watch her English grammar tutorials or follow her Facebook group, Learn English on Skype.

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