If you are already teaching Business English face to face, you may want to look into teaching BE online as well. There are a lot of things that need to be considered and this post presents information about starting an online teaching career, it gives suggestions about where to look for material and about how to deliver online sessions. It also presents some useful ideas on how to deal with technology and how to be an effective online teacher.
There are two ways to go. You can apply for a job at a company that offers online lessons, so they find the students for you, or you do it on your own, as a freelance teacher.
If you decide to go for the second option, then in order to find students:
- Use different types of social media to spread the word (Facebook, Twitter, your blog).
- Advertise in local newspapers or online ones.
- Approach small business and present what you can offer.
- Connect with other teachers.
Platforms you can use when teaching online
There are a lot of platforms to use like Skype, WizIq and Adobe connect. Try them out and see which ones work for you and your students. Some are free, other platforms come with a charge.
Learner management system
Because you are not in class and you do not come into contact with your learners, it is a good idea to set up a leaners’ management system. This is a platform you can use with your learners and here you can upload all your lesson notes, lesson recordings, create a forum and whatever else you want. There are a lot of learning management systems online. You could also make a WiKi and share things with your learners there.
The first lesson
Before the first actual lesson, I suggest doing a few things:
- Have some sort of getting to know you form and have your learners fill it in with their contact details. Losing an online learner is easier than a learner who comes to class and who lives just around the corner!
- Send your learners your contact details and any other documents that may be useful to them as well. You can for example, send them a go to document which explains the features of the platform you are using or a document that explains your cancellation policy. Make sure that whatever has to do with the cancellation policy and technical difficulties is very clear and written in the document. If you prefer, you can make a video and share this with your learner.
- Also, be very clear about what you expect from them and tell them to tell you what they expect from you by having some sort of a learners’ contract.
Some tips about sessions in general
One of the benefits of teaching online is that you can record the sessions, so your learners can listen to the lessons again if they have a question about something or if they want to see how they have progressed since they first started their lessons. If you decide to record the sessions though, make sure you ask for permission to record.
In terms of materials and what to use when teaching online, your options are endless. You can use material from books which you scan or (find online) and upload on your platform or you can share links with your learner and work on them. Make a folder with all your favourite links so that you can find them straight away.
One of the downsides of teaching online is that you cannot actually write anything on your students’ notebooks. You do share a screen or a whiteboard though, so, if the learners want to keep something you have written on your platforms whiteboard, then ask them to take a screen shot and save it in a folder.
Finally, during sessions remember to ask your CCQs (concept checking questions), your ICQs (instruction checking questions) , and your TRQs which are your technology related questions!
Webcams are very important and I strongly suggest that you always have yours on when teaching online. That way you are not just a voice on the other end of the line but someone they can see. It is also a good idea to ask your learners to turn their webcam on as well. Webcams help avoid passiveness and it may also help minimize the distractions because you can see your learner.
Dealing with technology
Technology is great, but very often it does fail, so you need to be prepared for when you might have a power cut, or when your connection is refusing to work. As mentioned earlier, send your learner a document with information about the platform you are using, something like a manual. You can also make a video or a recording and send it to them. Because technology can fail, make sure you have some sort of backup plan. So, ask for your learners’ land lines so as to hold a conversational session if the technology fails.
Another important issue you need to think of is what happens when technology fails. You should clarify the cancellation or ‘wasted time’ policy. Will you charge your learner for lessons they miss due to technical glitches? Will you offer a cover session if the technology failure is due to a problem you, the teacher, is having? All these questions need to be answered at the beginning of the course.
Another benefit of online teaching is that the internet is your course book. There are so many websites you can use to find material for your students.
Online dictionaries: if your learners are having problems with pronunciation, you can send them to the Cambridge online dictionary for example. They can hear the pronunciation of the word and practice. You can also ask them to record themselves saying these words on Vocaroo and then send you the recordings.
Articles: BBC capital has short articles that are often accompanied by videos. You can also share articles from other online newspapers. Newsmap is another webpage that has titles of articles from all over the world.
The British Council, Business English site, Breaking News English, English to go, The Grammar bank, Business balls and the BBC (have a look at BBC one minute news) are also websites you can look at in order to find material for your online (and offline BE lessons).
Remember that teaching online allows a lot of flexibility, so if one of the websites/ links you have chosen does not work or is something your learner does not enjoy, then change it to something else! If your learner has had a very long meeting and is not up to having a grammar lesson or something ‘heavy’, just move on to a lesson based on an article, choose something lighter. It is as easy as sending a link.
Your Business English students are people who do not have a lot of time, so assigning and getting your students to commit to doing some homework, may be a bit challenging. You can make it sound less like homework and more like a fun task by sending them an email and labeling it: something for your coffee break. As time is of the essence, choose tasks that are quick and related to the learners’ needs and work. Ideas for tasks: reading an article, watching a short video, creating a PPT or writing an email to you, their teacher, about something work related.
Just like any type of teaching, in order to be successful at online teaching, you need to be professional, informed and take your learners’ needs into account. Online teaching may sound a bit scary in the beginning, but once you are acquainted to the platform you will be using and have all your material and documents ready, you are good to go. Welcome to your online classroom!!
I wrote this post for the Tesol France Newsletter and that’s where it originally appeared.
Till next time….