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Some pros and cons to teaching English online

Analia RTEFL Contributor
ESL Lesson Handouts - Some pros and cons to teaching English online
Photo by Armin Rimoldi

In the last few decades, we have seen a massive change in the world of education and the role of educators. Teaching is now no longer limited to face-to-face situations. The Internet has brought about a paradigm shift in the way in which teaching and learning takes place. With the advancements in computing technology and communication services, distance education is possible and, in some cases, preferable.

The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of our face-to-face lessons to stop abruptly. Teachers and students stayed home. This precipitated a crash course in online teaching and technology for both teachers and students. Education changed dramatically, with a significant growth in online teaching and learning. There was also a substantial rise in the uptake of language apps, video communication tools and platforms, and online lesson libraries such as the one you have visited today, ESL Lesson Handouts.

Although many of us were already using technology in the classroom, due to the pandemic, we had to rethink our teaching strategies and methods. It felt like a “sink or swim” situation. It was crucial that we used technology effectively when teaching online.

I always endeavor to use variety, movement, and humor in my classes. I had to be even more creative to keep students motivated in our online lessons; something that proved particularly difficult with adults who were unfamiliar with modern day technology. Fortunately, there are sites like ESL Lesson Handouts which offers ready-made lesson plans and worksheets with detailed teaching notes and answer keys. The Internet also allows us to find ESL and EFL teaching jobs anywhere in the world and our students can live anywhere as well.

Some pros and cons of teaching online

Freedom is one of the main advantages of teaching English online. We can work from our kitchens or gardens, in a cafe, or at the beach. We can travel or move abroad and continue teaching without interruption. The only concerns become time zones and access to reliable Wi-Fi.

In addition to being a location-independent job, there are plenty of benefits to being an online English teacher, such as the usually flexible working hours, short term contracts, and the abundance of teaching positions available. Earning an income while working from home is most definitely a perk.

You might find it slow to start, but once you’ve built up a list of consistent and reliable students, you have the ability to earn a living with your knowledge of the English language. Remember that for some students, technology can be intimidating with too many buttons to press or fear of failure; while for others, it is the preferable way to engage in their English education.

You have probably already experienced and panicked during a sudden loss of internet connectivity, microphone failures, or video blackouts. These technological problems can result in missed lessons, dissatisfied students, and might mean you don’t receive a payment. This is why it is vital to double-check your equipment and ensure you have a reliable internet connection before each class. Have a backup plan in the event of an unexpected problem; consider an additional source of Wi-Fi, perhaps internet tethering on your phone (remember to upgrade your phone’s data plan), and a backup tablet or computer.

You might have considered joining an online service that matches students with teachers. One of the downsides of these services is that they don’t all pay on time and many of them don’t pay well at all. Ensure you check your contracts, teaching agreements, and lesson cancellation policies thoroughly before joining any of these services. Charge the same for your online classes as you do face-to-face lessons. It is important to value your experience and your time.

Teaching in front of a webcam makes it difficult to use gestures and movement and this may have been something you relied on in the classroom especially for getting the attention of and motivating your students. One thing you can do is to keep a smile throughout the online lesson. Your students will most likely appreciate this.

Despite the drawbacks of teaching online, it can be as effective as a face-to-face class. A lot depends on how much you prepare for your lessons and how reliable the technology you use is. Moreover, online learning complements the traditional learning environment with features that make it an even more appealing option in some cases. Additionally, learners often find it easier to actively engage with their teacher and other students in an online lesson.

Increase the value of your teaching

Take advantage of the technology you use and consider “value adds” to increase student engagement. You can increase the value of your teaching by suggesting students record the lesson. Many of the market-leading video communication platforms offer a recording feature. Students can record the lesson and replay it in their own time and by encouraging this, you are adding value to your online teaching business; hopefully resulting in satisfied students, recommendations and referrals, and more income.

In addition, students can do some of the work in their own time, so you can spend your lesson focusing on discussion and presentation of the material you are working with in the lesson plan. You and your students can do the pre-reading or pre-listening activities during the online class and assign the reading or listening as homework. In the following class, students can share and discuss the results of their work and you can do the post-reading or post-listening activities together. To increase the amount of English that students are practicing in class, why not have students send you a recording of any speaking or reading tasks they do in their own time and you can offer feedback during the lesson. This way your students will feel like they are making the most of their time with you in their online lesson.

We need to focus on the quality of the teaching we provide, both in the classroom and online. We also need to use any technology available to teach and motivate our students. I believe that traditional face-to-face based teaching and online teaching will combine to create a new hybrid model of teaching and learning and we are all here at the start of it together now.

Analia RTEFL Contributor
Analia is a recently retired EFL teacher with over 40 years of teaching experience and is now an educational writer. She has taught every age of student at every level of competence.

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.

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