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4 Essential Tools For Teaching ESL Online

4 Essential Tools For Teaching ESL Online | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Do you dream of using your TEFL certification to teach online? Online teaching is booming, and it’s an amazing opportunity, but working for an online teaching company also has its pitfalls: it’s hard to tell which companies are legit, wage information can be scarce, and you can be treated like a number rather than a person. The internet is unfortunately full of online teachers’ horror stories of being treated like replaceable commodities. To make matters even more confusing, social media is crawling with recruiters and teachers posting referral links to work at their companies. It’s hard to know who to trust!

It’s easy to say: “work for yourself,” but it can be daunting if you don’t know where to start. This post will show you the 4 essential tools you’ll need to get started teaching for yourself. It doesn’t matter if your goal is to simply have a part-time schedule, or if you want to eventually become a full-fledged online school -- these tools will get you started!

1. Lesson Content and Student Management: Off2Class

Off2Class.com is a collection of tools made specifically for ESL teachers to help you save time on your lesson plans and manage your students. The lesson library contains over 800 ready to teach lessons so you always have something to teach. Each lesson includes teacher notes, homework, and an interactive whiteboard so everything is all in one place. When it’s time to teach, both you and your student(s) log in to the synced classroom where you’ll both see the slides change, and your student can complete gap-fills and other interactive exercises.

In addition to the classroom, you can also give students a comprehensive placement test that will match each of their grammar errors up with the lesson in the library that will correct it. You can customize your student’s learning plan to teach them exactly what they want, without having to go through the work of planning each lesson yourself.

Finally, once you grow, you can take advantage of Off2Class’ whitelabel feature to add your own logo to the website. You can also host it on your own domain so that it appears to students as your own, custom built solution. You can use Off2Class with as little as 2 students, and it can grow with you until you have thousands!

2. Video Communication: Zoom

There are a lot of choices of video platforms out there, and your students will probably be most familiar with Skype. Although Skype is a fine choice, I usually recommend Zoom for a few critical reasons.

For reasons that probably have to do with back-end engineering, Zoom seems to work better than all its competitors in low-bandwidth environments. That means that if you or your student (or both of you), have weak or slow connections, Zoom tends to perform best. You can also dial into the audio of your Zoom meeting using your phone, which is a real life-saver if the internet connection just isn't cutting it.

Zoom also has built-in recording if you want to allow your students to re-watch your lessons later, and it’s also easier to do group calls.

Finally, one of the great benefits of Zoom is that meetings open with links. Rather than have to find someone in the app and then call them, you can simply have one “classroom” that you open each time with the click of a single link. It also integrates seamlessly with Off2Class, described above!

3. Scheduling: Calendly

If you want to teach for yourself, you need a way for students to book lessons with you. There are many options, but Calendly is great when you’re just starting out because their free plan is very good.

All you have to do is send students your booking link and they can schedule their lessons in their own time zone according to your availability.

Best of all, it integrates with your Google calendar, so that students will never be able to book you at times you’re already busy.

4. Payments: PayPal

If you want to teach online, you need a way to get paid, and in most instances, you don’t need to look any further than PayPal. Although there are some countries where it doesn’t work yet, it’s the most universally known and trusted payment processor out there.

The great thing about PayPal is its versatility. You can invoice students for any amount, or they can just send you money. My favorite feature is PayPal.me which allows me to use a single link to request money anytime, from anyone.

Conclusion: Get Started

I see a lot of teachers who want to get started teaching online but get stuck in the “planning” phase. They don’t know what to do, or what they need, or they want everything to be perfect. Unfortunately, most never escape this planning phase, and eventually, give up!

If you want to succeed as an online teacher, the best thing you can do is jump in with both feet. Don’t worry if you don’t have it all figured out just yet. Get started with the bare minimum of what you need (like the tools in this article), and see if you can get your first paying student (the first one is often the most difficult)! You can always modify things as you grow, but this article will help you get the momentum you need to get started!

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