Ever wanted to make money using your language skills? Teaching English online could the perfect career for you. In this post, we cover everything you need to know about teaching English as a Foreign Language online, including what qualifications, skills, and equipment you'll need.
The tutoring market is continuing to shift its presence online, with students attracted by the flexibility of lessons delivered straight to them via the internet. One subject that’s always popular with students of all ages and abilities, is English as a Second Language (ESL). Whether teaching foreign who have moved to the UK, or adults needing English for business, working as an in-person English tutor or online English tutor can be a varied and rewarding career choice. To help you get started, we’ve created this guide on how to teach English online.
Choosing an Online Teaching Platform
The first step in teaching English online is to choose the platform you’ll use to conduct your lessons. Some of the most popular platforms are:
- Google Hangouts
Of all the above, Skype will probably be the most familiar to you, and therefore the easiest to grasp. You can easily call, message and share documents with your students, and there is even a group call feature, should you need to use it.
Google Hangouts is also a great option, as you can use it in tandem with Google Drive. Google Drive allows you to create a shared drive, and folders, for each student, where you can store documents and videos, and any work you do during your lessons. Just like Skype, Google Hangouts is very easy to use.
Each platform has its benefits, so it’s definitely worth taking some time to research them before you decide on one.
Getting Set-Up and Choosing Your Target Market
Once you’ve chosen your online platform, you’ll want to make sure that you have an optimal teaching set-up. You’ll need to consider things like:
- Your teaching environment – is it a quiet and well-lit area?
- Your audio and visual set-up – is the sound and picture quality a good standard? A quick test call with a family member or friend using your chosen platform can help with this.
- Screen sharing and document sharing – do you know how to use your chosen platform well enough to share your screen with students, and send links and documents? Make sure you have these skills mastered before you begin lessons.
Once you’ve considered the technical set-up, you can think about your target market – who exactly are you looking to teach? With ESL there are a few options:
- Foreign students of school age, who need support with their language skills
- Corporate learners who need English that is more tailored to a business environment
- Adult learners who have moved to the UK and need to improve their English, not just necessarily for business
You can choose to carve out a niche with just one particular group of learners, or you can choose to teach more than one – it’s entirely up to you as a tutor.
Skill Areas and Learning Materials for Teaching English Online
With your online teaching set-up and target market finalised, you can start to create the learning materials you’ll use to teach English online. As with all languages, there are four main skill areas that you’ll want to cover. These are:
For each skill area, some materials and resources you could think about creating and using are:
- Listening: Videos, podcasts, and YouTube
With online English tuition, you have a whole internet’s worth of resources at your disposal. Using videos such as news or weather reports, listening to podcasts or watching YouTube clips can be a great way to develop your student’s listening skills. One resource that is particularly good is the BBC’s ‘Learning English’ website. It has short videos on a range of ESL topics, and news round-up videos that would be great to screen-share with your students during lessons.
- Reading: News articles, short stories, and blogs
For reading skills, sending your students articles in advance that you can then discuss during your lesson can be a great learning tactic. You could also use blogposts, short news articles, or side-by-side stories in English and your student’s mother tongue to practice their reading skills. Taking turns to listen to your student read, and then have them listen to you read, is useful to simultaneously develop their listening and reading skills
- Speaking: Discussion topics and presentations
Many of the resources mentioned above can be used to spark discussion in the target language and incorporate speaking into your lessons. You could also use news headlines as conversation starters, or use role-play scenarios to practice speaking. A fun way to get talking is to use dice – every number on the dice relates to a different topic that the student must talk about. You could have a list of prepared questions to go along with each topic, making it a fun way for your student to gain confidence in speaking English.
While writing can be a trickier skill to develop through online English lessons, it is by no means impossible. You could send to your student worksheets beforehand, or share them through your Google Drive, then screen-share together as a way of incorporating writing into your lessons. Using Google Documents during your online sessions to practice writing skills, for example with the help of ‘story starter’ sentences that the student must continue, is also a great way to help to develop their writing style and accuracy.
Games are a great way of keeping lessons fun and interactive, and some that you could consider when teaching English online are:
- Vocabulary flashcards
- Hangman (which you could do in a Google Drawings document)
- Word association
There’s lots of inspiration online, so take some time to research games that you feel will best benefit your students.
Set Your Online English Teaching Rates
With your online teaching set-up finalised, you can start to think about how much you’ll charge for your ESL lessons. Although online English tutoring rates can vary widely, here are some tips to help you decide how much to charge:
If you have never tutored before, or are planning to tutor English exclusively online, it’s a good idea to do a quick Google search of what online English tutors with similar experience are charging for their online lessons.
If you are already an English tutor, and want to include online lessons in your repertoire, it’s generally expected that online lessons will be cheaper than in-person tuition. For example if a tutor charges £35 per hour for face-to-face lessons, online lessons may cost around £25 per hour.
However, there’s no industry standard for teaching English online, so taking time to do some research will help you decide on your rates. Don’t set rates too low, but do remember that by teaching online you are not incurring potential costs, such as those for travel.
Finally, you’ll need to consider how you’ll receive payment for your online lessons. You can choose to do this through bank transfer, or through PayPal, but make sure that you use invoices and receipts to keep track of payments safely received.
How to Find Online English Tutoring Jobs
Marketing your services as an online English tutor can be one of the most challenging parts of tutoring. You might want to have a read of our post, 7 Steps to Effectively Market Your Tutoring Business Online, which will give you useful tips to spread awareness of your online business.
Ideally, once you’ve established your online tuition, students will come to you, but until then, you might want to keep an eye on tutoring jobs boards like the one we have at The Tutor Website. Finally, in order to maximise your chances of being found in your local area through online searches, you should think about signing up to our private tutor directory.
For more advice on how to teach English online, check out this video from Teaching ESL Online:
At The Tutor Website, we provide advertising to both in-person and online/Skype tutors through our tutor directory – so feel free to sign up and create your profile.