Some pros and cons to teaching English online
Translanguaging in ESL

Get started teaching English online

Amy GTEFL Contributor
ESL Lesson Handouts - Get started teaching English Online
Photo by Karolina Grabowska

The adoption of online teaching, on the rise prior to the pandemic, has grown even more in recent years. [1] It seems everyone wants to get in on the trend, and who can blame them? It’s hard to miss the appeal of doing away with the daily commute and teaching in pajamas or sweatpants. However, if you’re new to teaching online, you’ve probably already figured out that it’s not all fun and games. As a remote ESL/EFL teacher, you’re sure to encounter some challenges.

Here are three simple rules to help you get started teaching English online and create fun, engaging, and interactive classes for you and your students.

Choose the right platform

When it comes to teaching online, you will need software to connect you with your students. This software should be easy-to-use for both you and your students. In addition to video calling, the software should include the ability to share screens, share files, and chat with participants.

Speaking of sharing files
Unlike textbooks, ESL Lesson Handouts can be shared with your students in an online class. Check out the ESL Lesson Handouts Library.

Fortunately for freelance English teachers, there are a variety of reliable and easy-to-use software platforms that can be used… for free.

One popular choice is Google Meet. It’s user-friendly, so you can get started with it right away. It’s also web-based, which means you won’t have to download an app to use its features. It works nicely with other apps in the Google suite as long as you have a Gmail address. It’s easy to share files or send out calendar invites via email. Google Meet even has the ability to add captions to video conversation, a feature that opens up all kinds of possibilities for teaching ESL/EFL.

Other free market leading platforms worth checking out are Skype, Zoom, and Microsoft Teams.

Be clear about your expectations

Even though online learning has been around for a while, many students still feel uncertain about what is expected of them in an online private or group lesson. [2] According to a 2017 study from Duke University, clear learning objectives are essential for the success of your students. So, it’s worth spending some time at the beginning of your course to establish clear objectives and expectations with your students.

In addition, it’s a good idea to spend a little time at the beginning of each online lesson identifying the learning objectives. You can do this on an interactive whiteboard or in a chat window. At the end of the lesson, review the objectives and show what you and your students achieved during your time together. This will give your students a clear picture of what they are achieving, motivating them to continue with your lessons. Remember, motivating your students will have a huge effect on their learning.

Use the right technology

While teaching from home has a more casual and informal feel than teaching face-to-face, making a professional impression is still important. Smooth, effortless use of technology is a component of being professional and can reflect on your reputation. Whether fairly or unfairly, students will formulate a judgment of your professionalism based on the technology you use. In fact, your students might not even take your lesson again if they had a bad experience or read feedback about someone else’s bad experience. So, invest some money at the outset to prevent blurry video and poor-quality audio from hijacking your lessons.

At a minimum, you need a reliable laptop or desktop computer and a good-quality headset. And your students should be required to have these items as well.

With the right preparation and mindset, taking your ESL/EFL instruction online can be an amazing opportunity to reach learners all over the world. With the right technology, you’ll be ready to successfully take on this challenge and don’t forget to keep learning about the tools available to you.

[1] Li, Kathy and Farah, Lalani. The Covid-19 Pandemic Has Changed Education Forever, This Is How. World Economic Forum, 29 Apr 2020.

[2] Zhou, Haiyan. Why Does Writing Good Learning Objectives Matter? Duke Learning Innovation Blog, 1 March 2017.

Amy GTEFL Contributor
Amy is an experienced English, French, and Spanish teacher. She now studies and writes about trends in education and is a course content creator.

Disclaimer  We aim to provide useful ESL and EFL teaching resources and educational ideas. Our articles are written by educators with extension TEFL experience. They contain only general information about teaching English as a foreign language and are meant purely for informational purposes.

You might also like…

Visit Library


Visit Library

Visit our Handout Library and download ESL Lesson Handouts to teach in your next English class.