Advantages and Challenges Teaching Online

The Advantages and Challenges of Teaching Online

The following is a guest post by Elena Mutonono. You can find out more about Elena at the bottom of the post. Take it away Elena…

This weekend my almost-three-year-old son had his first language lesson … online. My son is growing up bilingual in a largely monolingual country. He goes to an American pre-school, talks to the majority of our friends in English, knows the entire English alphabet already and is learning to read… in English.

Since my mother tongue is Russian, I decided early on that I would talk to him in Russian only so he becomes fluent in both languages. As he is getting older though I’m realizing the challenge of keeping him bilingual and finding a face-to-face professional teacher who wouldn’t mind driving across the town to work with him for 30 minutes.

That prompted me to begin looking online. Being an online teacher myself I realize how insanely hard it is to teach teenagers online, not to mention kids! But I decided to send out my request to several teachers, and received two brave positive responses. We ended up going with one of them.

The lesson turned out to be so much more than I expected: my son was engaged, enjoyed meeting a new teacher and talking to him in Russian, showed all of his toys to him and even learned some letters of the Russian alphabet. Obviously, there were a number of limitations to such an online teaching experience, especially for a two-year-old, but in my case there was no other choice. The teacher did an excellent job, and he is definitely hired.

Diving into the Online Teaching Environment

I began teaching online in 2008 when a good friend from my hometown (about 70 km away) asked me to help her with pronunciation and fluency training. It was a similar situation where we had no other choice. I couldn’t be driving to my hometown every week, nor could she come all the way to see me for lessons.

So she installed skype, and we thought we’d give it a try. It worked. She began learning online and really enjoying the additional bonuses of such format: she was saving a lot of time and could have her lessons directly at her work place at the end of her working day. 

After a few years, I was laid off, and so again I had no other choice but to begin growing my online clientele. At the time I only knew one-to-one teaching via skype, but I would soon learn many more formats and become an expert in the business aspect of online teaching – something I’d never imagined myself doing.

The Similarities with Face-To-Face Teaching

Teaching may take different formats, but the essence of it still remains the same. According to the dictionary (dictionary.com), teaching means imparting knowledge or skill, or causing somebody to develop a set of skills or knowledge.

No matter where, what, who and how we teach, our goal is never the method for the sake of the method, it’s always imparting the knowledge and developing skills using whatever method appropriate for a specific age group and available at a specific time.

As experienced teachers, we know that there is a difference between teaching a child, a teenager, a College student, an adult or a senior. There are challenges and there are advantages. And certainly there is our own preference factor. But no matter how, our intention is always on helping the student achieve his/her results.

Online Teaching: Most Common Fears

When teachers consider switching to working online, there’s a series of questions that they keep asking themselves, and those questions are usually prompted by, what we will call, the fears of the unknown:

What if my Internet is down?

This certainly does happen, but it doesn’t make online teaching less reliable that way. Think of the times when you taught regular classes and you weren’t feeling too well, so you had to call in sick for fear of contaminating disease. When you teach online minor colds or temporary sickness/disability will not always keep you away from the classroom. Interestingly, colds happen more often than the Internet/power outages.

What if Skype doesn’t work?

In my 5 years of online teaching I only remember 3 epic skype outages. The first two made me panic. The last one was a breeze because by then I had a back-up plan (Google Hangouts) and was able to use it quite successfully.

What if a Student misses his/her class?

There are different ways of getting in touch with your students, and with the rise of portable devices, and phone-based internet services, my students can send me a quick text message if they are stuck in traffic or if there’s an emergency. Also, after a few months of teaching I knew I had to come up with specific terms and conditions so students wouldn’t “get used” to canceling their lessons all the time.

Today when a student signs up with me, he/she gets a document with terms and conditions, and he has to abide by them, and that means that no skipping-lesson excuse except for emergencies listed in the contract is considered valid. So the so-called no-shows are very rare.

How can I talk to a student whose mother tongue is different from the target language?

This one may sound like it’s tricky, but it isn’t for seasoned language teachers. If you know the mother tongue of your students you’ll be able to teach them from the beginner level. If not, you’ll just be there to help them develop their fluency.

Do I use ____________ (camera/headphones/microphone/iPad/iPhone, etc.)?

You can use all of the above, or very few of the above (just a headset and your computer). It depends on what you’re comfortable with and what your student can work with.

How do I teach a lesson?

The most common mistake is to think that once you begin your online teaching career there’s a set of many tools that you will need to learn how to use. It is true that over time your knowledge will most likely go beyond the use of Skype and Google, but you don’t need to know it all before you start.

My advice to beginning online teachers is to be as simple as you can: call via skype, use the chat window as your board and turn on the camera if you want your student to see the props that you have put together for the class. You can email the worksheets and the homework assignment prior to the lesson and use the relevant tools to make this process a simple one.

Most of these fear-based questions have to do with the technicalities, but they have nothing to do with the teaching itself. If you know how to teach, all you need to do is learn a bit about the basic online tools available for online teaching, and begin using them.

In What Ways is Online Teaching Superior to Teaching Face-to-Face?

Though there are some limitations to the online learning environment, I can think of at least 5 ways in which online language learning, for instance, can be superior to a classroom lesson. Naturally I’m biased, but I think that a lot of teachers are so put off by the fears and the slight learning curve involved that they forget about the generous benefits of online teaching.

Greater focus on listening comprehension skills. If you’re an online language teacher, working online with video camera off will prompt your students to be more alert and attentive, and thus develop their listening skills much faster than in a traditional classroom environment where listening is aided by other types of communication.

Greater focus on learning. In a traditional classroom, there are lots of distractions that may take away your student’s attention and then will take time to bring it back. It’s more difficult to do so online when a student is working on a task, talking or writing.

Wider range of materials, easily accessible on all devices. Having taught online for 5 years, I find traditional classroom somewhat limiting when it comes to retrieving information and accessing a wider range of assignments within seconds. There are plenty of resources on the internet, and that makes your materials more versatile and customized.

Better quality student support. Being online means you are more available than in the classroom and/or during your office hours. You will obviously have to develop some guidelines so you’re not writing/responding to emails non-stop, but better support means better results.

The time saving and comfort factor. There is no commuting involved into online teaching. It’s comfortable, convenient and easy for everybody involved. That increases the happiness factor, which makes the environment more conducive to teaching and learning.

The Challenges of Online Teaching

There are several big challenges to online teaching as well, but it doesn’t mean that they cannot be overcome. With the right training and basic marketing skills, you will be able to tackle those as well. Here are just the top two that I mostly write about when I participate in forums.

  • Finding and retaining new students.
  • Developing your own brand.

One of the best answers to these two issues is writing content. Content will bring people to your website, content will answer your readers’ questions, and content will prompt them to book your services rather than anybody else’s. Creating content takes time and practice, but as you keep looking and trying different means of conveying your unique message, you will find your voice that will speak and win the heart of your future customers.

I hope that this article has inspired you to test out the waters of online teaching and enjoy the pleasure that comes when you move your expertise beyond the walls of a traditional classroom and impact the lives of people all over the world.

More about Elena:

Elena Mutonono transforms traditional teachers into online teacherpreneurs. Visit www.elenamutonono.com for details and deals.

Want to become an independent teacher who is in control of their income and their teaching? Join TEOC today!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


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.

Want to become an independent teacher who is in control of their income and their teaching? Join TEOC today!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


Build Teaching Business on the Side

How to Transition into Online Teaching while Working a Full-Time Job

Build Teaching Business on the Side

Each month, I speak to dozens of teachers about making the transition into online teaching.

While some are able to work full-time on their new business, others have other things – jobs, young children, university, travel etc. – that get in the way.

I often get asked questions like, “Should I quit my job and just go for it?”

In most situations, I don’t recommend doing this. I believe the better option is to build your online teaching business on the side and then make the transition when the time is right.

Before I talk about how to do this, I want to start with a story.

How I Transitioned into Online Teaching

When I was in Bilbao, I created a website called Inglés Bilbao. Although I was teaching in a language school at the time, I wanted to get some private students to earn extra money on the side.

I stuck up fliers throughout the city, posted on classified websites, and invested about $50 in Google Adwords.

After a few weeks, I had a group class of three (earning $50 an hour), and 3-4 other private students ($32 an hour – but usually 90-minute lessons).

As the year progressed, my website started to show up in the rankings and I got more and more requests. I received plenty of referrals, too. If we had stayed in Bilbao, I would have gone full-time with this. But we moved to Valencia and I started the process again.

In Valencia, I added a page for Skype lessons and expanded my reach to other cities in Spain and Italy.

To finish the story: I realized the potential for online lessons and started a new site that wasn’t restricted to Valencia. I built this up while I was living in Spain and then started full-time when my wife and I moved to the U.S.

I managed to build these sites and build up my online presence while working a regular teaching job.

And you can do this too.

How to Transition into Online Teaching

Hopefully, my story highlights that there are ways to get into online teaching without having to quit what you’re doing now.

Although there will be situations where ‘just going for it’ might be the best approach, I feel that for most cases, building something on the side and transitioning when the time is right is the safest option.

Here are some tips to make this process work for you:

Set a Date When You Want to Make the Transition

When I knew I was going leave Spain and move to the U.S., I had a specific goal (20 hours of online teaching) with a specific deadline (January 2011).

If you have something going on at the moment, it can be very easy to have a ‘someday’ mentality and keep putting things back..

For example, after reaching my initial goal, I had plans to expand my online business (products, courses etc.) but I kept putting this off.

It wasn’t until I started setting deadlines again for my specific goals that I actually made progress.

Write down when you want to make the transition and set a deadline for this. Create breakthrough goals too. This helps you break things down so that you can build momentum.

Use Project Management Software

Getting things down on paper (yes, I know, software isn’t technically paper!) takes the pressure off trying to rely what’s in your head.

I use Asana for every new project I embark upon. To give you an example, I’m writing a free ebook for English learners that will fit into my email responder. There is a lot to do here. However, all the tasks, ideas, files etc. are organized inside this app.

I highly recommend using Asana or a similar app to help you stay organized and on top of things. After going through your plan of action, create separate projects in your software and give deadlines for each one.

Build Your Online Presence and Your Audience

You will need an online presence if you teach online. The earlier you start building this, the better.

Don’t get overwhelmed with having to create a Facebook page, YouTube channel, Instagram account etc. right from the get-go. Instead focus on the basics: get a website/web page up there, a business email account (this will come with your hosting), and an email marketing account.

Start bringing people onto your site and into your audience and write for this audience on a consistent basis through email and/or a blog post.

What you write about will ultimately come down to the type of English you want to teach and who you want to target. Understand the problems your audience has and be valuable by solving these problems.

Get Teaching

Write down times during the week when you are available to take lessons. Then, get teaching.

You will learn so much from giving lessons online, even if it’s only one hour per week.

It makes everything real. It helps you practice what to say in a trial lesson. It will make you a better online teacher.

Use the methods that I used in Spain (I go into much more depth with this inside TEOC) and bring in your first learners as soon as possible.

Find Time to Work on This

A job, partner, kids, friends, hobbies, TV, sports… there is a lot going on in our lives that make it hard to work on building your business.

That is why I recommend taking a look at your schedule to find slots during the week that you reserve for this project.

For most, this will be mornings, lunchtimes, evenings, and weekends. You might find time during your working hours too – for example, if your student cancels, get to work. But I recommend setting boundaries, otherwise, your work could suffer.

There might be weekends when you spend hours working but, over the long-term, you will want to make it sustainable.

Beware of Legal Implications

I receive messages from teachers working for certain companies telling me that their contract states that they can’t do their own thing while working for these companies.

In fact, I heard from a teacher that one company bans anyone doing their own thing one or two years after leaving. Crazy!

You don’t want to find yourself in trouble further down the line. Therefore, know if you are legally allowed to do this while working your current job.

In most cases, it’s fine. But it’s worth checking.

Enjoy it and Celebrate Your Successes

There are times when I do get stressed about my online business. When I do, I just ask myself, “How can I do this while having fun?”

Switching off from it all helps too. Turn off notifications and set boundaries for when you do your work.

Celebrate your successes no matter how small. And enjoy it. This is a lot of fun and I’ll never take the freedom that comes with having my own online business for granted.

Over to You

Have you made the transition into online teaching? Are you currently making this transition?

Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thanks for reading!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


Batching Tasks

Batching Tasks when Teaching Online

There is so much to do as an online teacher.

This includes the teaching, planning, admin, responding to emails, creating content, website setup etc. And with all this comes a lot of distractions.

In this video, I talk about how batching tasks will help you become more productive and focused.

Useful Links

How to Organize Your Time

How to Become More Productive (there is a link to the project management software I use)

Over to You

Do you batch tasks? If so, how do you do it?

Thanks for watching!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


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!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


How to Become an Online Teacher

Three Things You Need to Do to Become a Successful Online Teacher

How to Become an Online Teacher

Working closely with online teachers has given me a great insight into what ultimately makes someone a success online.

Having a plan in place is crucial and, recently, I discussed the importance of building trust with learners online.

But in this post, I want to highlight three things that you need to do to ensure that you reach your goals, allowing you to take control of your teaching and income over the long-term.

Let’s get straight into it.

Commit to Your Goal

When I made the transition into online teaching, I was fully committed to making it work.

My goals were different back then; I was very content teaching around 25 one-to-one lessons per week. I had no set plans to teach group lessons, create courses or earn more of a passive income. But I was pretty single-minded about reaching this initial goal.

There were so many ups and downs in the early days: the high of my first student; the low of my second student going AWOL after a couple of weeks.

I also had problems with my website – I knew nothing about coding or WordPress in those days – and these early setbacks and challenges can make a big impact on your confidence. It’s easy to give up when something goes wrong. It’s easy to think that each setback is a sign that it won’t work for you.

But the good news is this: if you are committed and consistently do the right things, then you will achieve your goal. It’s just a matter of when.

If you have this mentality, your YouTube subscribers, email followers, and lesson requests will keep increasing. And if you manage to build some momentum, then there is the potential to see exponential growth.

On the other hand, if you take small setbacks to heart and don’t have the mentality to keep improving and keep consistent, then things will most likely not work out for you.

I’ve seen some teachers achieve their goal of having a full schedule in a matter of weeks. Some take longer. Others never get there. Everyone is different and there are many factors at hand. But those who end up being successful are those who are committed to making it work.

When you have this mentality, it shows in the way you communicate, on your website, and in your videos. It’s contagious and something that learners will pick up on.

Commit to your goals. Commit to overcoming obstacles along the way. And commit to your improvement as a teacher and and as a marketer.

Connect and Collaborate

As I mention in my webinars and interviews, I was a lone-wolf when I first started online.

Whenever I came across another site offering online English lessons, I would worry about my learners finding it. Competition made me anxious and I thought that there was limited room for online teachers.

But I have since learned that there is no competition if you set things up correctly.

I saw massive growth in my online business once I started reaching out and collaborating with other teachers. It was incredible to connect with others who were doing something similar; we learned from each other and also offered support and advice when it was needed.

I’ve been part of two wonderful mastermind groups over the past year. Sharing my goals, and being held accountable for them, has given me the motivation and the commitment to keep progressing. And I’ve gained so much from seeing how others are achieving their goals.

Since first putting myself out there and reaching out to others, I’ve seen an online community of independent teachers grow stronger and stronger. There is a definite sense of togetherness and collaboration. And this is only a good thing for us teachers and our learners.

So, get out there and make connections.

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

When I made the decision to expand my business, I had to get out of my comfort zone.

At the time, I was comfortable with my income and daily routine. In fact, I’m very comfortable right now, too. But it’s important to be always moving forward otherwise things can quickly go stale.

If you’re new to online teaching, then you will most likely have to get out of your comfort zone too.

Why?

Because it involves doing things that are different. The majority of teachers won’t know much about making videos, online marketing or creating a website that converts.

I knew very little about these areas back in 2010, but I invested in myself and made the commitment to make it work.

Along the way, there were many instances of when I had to get out of my comfort zone. But each time, I’m glad I did. Sometimes things worked out (great!), sometimes they didn’t (I still learned something).

And today, as I look to grow a large audience and move into new areas of online teaching, I need to keep doing things that are a little bit scary. I need to keep experimenting.

Because as the popular meme states, this is where the magic happens.

Over to You

Moving online is a journey with so many future possibilities but, as I mentioned, there are certain things that you will need to do to make it work.

In the comment section below, please share your journey and let me know if this post resonated with you.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


Put Yourself Out There

Why You Should Put Yourself Out There as an Online Teacher (And How to Overcome this Fear)

 

Put Yourself Out There

Are you nervous about putting yourself out there as an online teacher?

If so, you’re not alone.

I speak to a lot of English teachers who want to move online, but fear is holding them back.

I know how inhibiting this can be: it affected me for a long time. In certain ways, it still does. It’s scary creating something that is centered on you, especially when it has the potential for the whole world to see and judge.

Overcoming this fear is important; if you want learners to take lessons with you online, you’ll need to put yourself out there.

Learners want to be able to connect with their teacher before signing up to lessons or courses, and the best way to do this through your words, pictures, and videos.

I’m going to have some advice for you if you are apprehensive about all of this, but before I do, I want to quickly share my story.

My Battle With This and How to Overcome Fear

I’ve gone from someone who was really apprehensive about posting a photo on my site – you couldn’t really see my face on the first photo that I posted – to someone who now creates videos and does live webinars.

Looking back, getting started was scary. I was nervous about what people would say about my pictures, my voice, and my content.

It took me a long time before I made videos, started an email list, and really got things going. I think the following explains why:

– I was worried that my content wouldn’t be good enough
– I was worried about what my old friends would say if they saw my videos
– I was scared of it all failing
– I hated hearing my own voice
– I was worried about trolls

However, I managed to slowly overcome these fears, and now I want to share my experience and some advice for you if you are apprehensive about moving online.

What to Do to Overcome These Fears

I’ve been asking teachers in my recent interviews if they felt nervous when first putting themselves out there.

If you have watched these interviews, you will know that all the successful teachers that I have talked to were apprehensive when first starting out, especially when it came to posting videos.

They had the same concerns as I did. But what did they (and I) do?

They wrote their first post/created their first video/recorded their first podcast for those who they wanted to serve, and built on this initial post.

Baby Steps and Improving Over the Long-Term

Something that I think is really important to know is this: your first homepage/article/video is not going to be perfect. It takes time to find your voice and make something that people enjoy and derive value from.

But keep in mind the following:

– You don’t need to publish your first draft
– You can get feedback from others to help you improve on what you have
– You’re going to get better if you keep doing it

When I created my first video for English learners, it took about ten takes for me to be content with it. My website for English learners has gone through about 12 redesigns. I have edited/proofread this post on five separate occasions.

You are going to get better, and it will all get easier, but you still have to start.

If you’re really nervous about publishing that first post, send it privately to a few learners first and get the validation you need to share it publicly.

Putting Ideas Out There

I was a little nervous about starting this blog as I was talking about something that no one else was at the time. Putting ideas out there is scary too, especially if what you’re talking about can be divisive (input vs output in language learning, vegan vs paleo, religion etc.).

In my opinion, it’s all about gaining the confidence that your ideas and materials for English learners are going to help others. And the more you teach, write, and do, the more you will have to say, and the more you will improve.

Focusing on one area of English (IELTS, pronunciation etc.) will help you create things that others are going to really like. You will become an expert in this area, and therefore, the articles on your website, your videos etc. will be of higher quality.

Another concern that I’ve heard from other teachers, and something that I definitely felt, is when you see what is already out there, you might think that your materials won’t be beneficial. Making comparisons can be paralyzing.

But what you offer is unique, especially if you have one area of English that you enjoy teaching. The right mentality to have is to think about the problems your learners have and solve them. Don’t worry about what others are doing and how your materials compare, especially at the beginning.

If you dedicate yourself to this, then you will soon have valuable and unique content to share.

Dealing with Trolls and Criticism

I was really worried that I would receive a lot of comments from others who just want to be negative.

This hasn’t happened that often (there is one guy who uses has troll in his usernames and turns up every six months or so), and when it does, it’s not that much of a big deal. Sometimes, it can affect you, but this feeling doesn’t last long.

One of the best things about your site, YouTube Channel, and social media profiles is that you can delete comments and ban users. That is what I do now if someone is trolling: I delete it, ban them, and move on.

It’s very easy to get sucked into what they ultimately want you to do: feed them. This happened last week, actually. A guy emailed me with a bunch of abuse. I responded to his first email in a very brief way (mistake), he replied with an essay of attacks, and I was into my second paragraph when realized what I was doing was a mistake. I discarded the draft and moved on.

Constructive criticism, on the other hand, is different. It’s great to get feedback from others, and I encourage you to ask for it. I ask my learners what posts they like, what posts they don’t like, and how I can better help them, and this feedback is invaluable.

Fear of Failure and Committing to Success

Something else we all have an issue with is fear of failure.

I’ve talked to a lot of teachers inside TEOC and over email, and fear of failure is holding a lot of people back. The thought of investing yourself in something like creating a site for your English lessons, making videos or even a course, and then for you and everyone else to see it flop, can put you off starting.

One thing that I’ve been working on in this area is to see everything as a learning experience to detach myself from the results.

It’s easier said than done, but the idea is this: if you commit to making a success out of teaching English online, work through the obstacles that are put in front of you, and are willing to learn and pivot as you go, then you will get there.

If your first website doesn’t work, make it better. If your first video is terrible, rerecord it. If your student doesn’t show to the trial lesson, email them and do something to find other learners.

Success isn’t based on your first attempt – you may get it right early on – but on committing to this for the long-term. It’s beautiful seeing someone embark on the journey and making improvements over the weeks, months, and years.

Over to You

This post is based on my experiences and conversations with online teachers and online teachers to be. And as you will have picked up, the main theme running throughout this article is to get started, focus on your learners, and improve the content you produce as you go.

What I want to know is if you are nervous about putting yourself out there, and if so, why? Also, if you have overcome this fear, please share your story.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


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.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

Four Ways to Get Your English Learners to Do More

One of the biggest frustrations of teaching English is when your learners don’t do anything outside of class.

When a learner starts taking lessons, they say the right things and seem motivated. But this initial enthusiasm usually disappears after a few weeks.

I feel that as teachers, part of our job is to inspire our learners to do more, and to think about how we can help our learners to stay consistent over the long-term.

This is something that I’ve put a lot of emphasis on over recent years. In fact, I even have a course for English learners helping them specifically with this.

And in this post, I want to share four ways that will help your learners to consistently do more outside of class.

Please note: This is specific to teachers who teach one-to-one online, but the following can be adapted for traditional group lessons too.

I believe it all starts with a conversation and a plan.

Set Expectations and Come Up with a Plan

I believe one of the biggest reasons why intermediate speakers don’t become advanced speakers is because they don’t comprehend exactly what it takes to reach this level.

Taking two lessons a week and then doing nothing else will mean little progress. It takes much more than that to achieve a higher level of English.

You can approach this by doing two thing: Firstly, ask your learner what level they want to have and when they want to reach this level.

For example, you might have a learner who has a B1 level. And after talking about their goals, they say that they want to have a C1 level by this time next year.

This is definitely achievable, but they will most likely have to make some changes and do more. Therefore, the second thing to do is to come up with a daily learning schedule and general plan to ensure they reach their goal. Additionally, helping your learner get into the habit of using English on a daily basis will make a big difference.

One thing to bear in mind is that you need to make this sustainable and fun. If you ask your learner to do too much too soon, they will most likely feel overwhelmed and lose motivation.

They need to get into the habit of learning – and enjoy what they are doing – to keep this up over the long-term.

Do Things that Interest Your Learner

Making things relevant to your learner is incredibly important if they are going to do more outside of class.

A small percentage of English learners will keep up with grammar exercises and course books over the long-term; the majority need to do something that really interests them.

One way to do this is to have your learners send you things that they have enjoyed reading or watching in English.

One of my students was really interested in personal development. He read a lot of articles in his native language on this topic, so I encouraged him to learn about this in English instead.

We found a bunch of blogs and videos together, and he sent me articles that he enjoyed on a regular basis. I then created a lesson plan around what he sent, something that after doing a few times, didn’t take me too long to do.

Additionally, I encourage my learners to subscribe to YouTube channels and blogs that interest them. Getting this regular email with a link to an article/video in English gives them a reminder to do something in English. And because this is something that they enjoy, the motivation to read/watch something is stronger.

Set Long-Term Projects instead of Homework

Mark Barnes gave me the idea to this during our interview.

In a nutshell: you let your learner decide on a long-term project and you then collaborate on this together.

I did this with one of my learners last year; he wrote a book on a topic that he was interested in, and we used Google Drive so that I could correct his English and give feedback.

Using this approach gives your learner more authority over what they do, and again, because they decide what it is they want to create (a project, a video, a book, a presentation etc.), and in the area of their choosing, they are doing something that is relevant to them. And something that they are excited about doing.

Connect and Communicate with Your Learner

One of the benefits of teaching online is that you can connect with your learners in different ways; using email, social media, Google Drive, for example.

This means that you can send reminders about your lessons and keep the communication flowing with your learners outside of class.

You don’t have to spend a lot of time on communicating with your learner. A simple Tweet or email a couple of times a week will only take you a few minutes. And what this does is shows your learner that you care and that you are invested in their learning, and it will also send them a small reminder to do something in English.

If you want to make this more involved, like a daily email or support, then you can make this an added extra on top of the lessons that you offer.

But I’ve found that the more I communicate with a learner, the more they ultimately end up doing. And this is especially true with learners who need direction with their learning.

Over to You

Setting expectations, coming up with a plan, doing things that interest your learners, giving your learner more authority over their learning, and keeping the communication flowing will help your student do more in English.

What tips do you have to encourage your learners to do more outside of class?

Leave your comments below!

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online


Interview Gabby Wallace

Gabby Wallace on Teaching Online, Youtube, Podcasts, and Online Courses

In this latest interview, I speak to Gabby Wallace about teaching online.

Gabby has a very successful YouTube channel, co-founded a popular podcast, and has created various online courses for her English learners.

We discuss the above and much more in our interview below. Hope you enjoy it:

What We Discussed

We started off talking about our mastermind group. Now, a mastermind group is where you meet either online or in-person to brainstorm, share your successes and failures, give advice, share resources, and give each other support.

“For me, it’s been really motivating and it’s held me accountable too.”

Like Gabby said, it’s about collaboration, not competition, and we both recommend finding people who have something in common with you if you want to start your own mastermind group.

Gabby has been teaching language for over ten years in many different settings and age groups. About five years ago, she picked up a copy of The Four Hour Work Week, read other entrepreneurial books, and liked the idea of moving online and helping more people.

But before all that, she started making short videos that answered the questions she had in the classroom, and uploaded the videos to YouTube.

There was no business plan at this point, but she started receiving positive feedback, and made more videos. YouTube has now become a focus for her online teaching business (driving people to her website and to continue learning with her).

She was a little self-conscious and worried about putting herself out there at first, but it’s something she has got used to.

Gabby has also had a lot of experience with podcasting and has been very successful in this area. She was the co-founder of All Ears English. It was, and still is, hugely popular. But after a year or so, Gabby started her own podcast and concentrated all her efforts on her own brand.

Before starting the first podcast, Gabby admitted that she had never listened to one before. There were a lot of things that she had to figure out to get things going, but once she had gone through this process once, she knew exactly what to do the second time.

After creating around 100 videos on her YouTube platform, she posted her first course on Udemy. This year, she posted a new course on her own site, which is solely video based. She has a total of six courses with a new one on the way.

Just like Stephen, Gabby listens to her learners and creates her courses based on the feedback she gets.

In the past, Gabby couldn’t get things to work on her own platform, but changing the software she used made a big difference. When creating her courses, Gabby sets a deadline, pre-sells the course, and then gets the material out there.

Gabby’s plans for the future are to continue working on Go Natural English, and also wants to help online teachers become successful online through her blog, Laptop Language Teacher.

Here are some links to her social platforms:

YouTube for GNE
YouTube for LLT
– Her Facebook page

Thanks Gabby for sharing your story with us!

Over to You

Did you enjoy the interview?

Please comment/ask questions on anything we discussed. Gabby and I will respond to any questions you have.

WANT TO TEACH ONLINE? START HERE...

Well, hello there! I've been teaching online (independently) since 2011 and I'd LOVE to help you do this too. Curious about working from anywhere in the world and on your own terms? Just click the button below to get started!

how-to-teach-engish-online