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Top 10 Mistakes of an Online English Teacher

Top 10 Mistakes of an Online English Teacher | ITTT | TEFL Blog

Ever since online English teaching became a common means of delivering lessons, every online English teacher must strive for excellence to guarantee their students' best learning experience.

In this article, we will consider ten common mistakes that English teachers make when teaching online.

1. Imbalanced Lesson Planning

This problem is fundamental to both in-class and online teaching. When it comes to distant learning, it is more challenging to choose a suitable approach. Some teachers tend to include too much information, which influences the overall quality of the materials. Others prefer to focus on more particular points in terms of one session but finally realize they lack some lesson stages (e.g., too much theory, too little practice).

Online lesson planning should be well balanced. It is better to choose an appropriate teaching methodology and plan your lessons based on it. For example, if you stick to the ESA method, you would need to develop three general tasks for each lesson stage (engage, study, activate) and some additional activities if your students are fast.

This way, you will achieve balance in the quantity and quality of your online instruction.

2. Lack of Equipment

The online job may seem pretty simple. It is quite simple, indeed. All you need to start is a laptop and a stable internet connection.

However, if you want to deliver ESL classes online, it would be a great idea to invest in a quality headset and a decent webcam. It will increase your chances of establishing a better relationship with your students and enjoy the lessons.

Among other necessary equipment is lighting. Many online English teachers don't take care of their home offices and work the way it is instead of making crucial adjustments. If you can't afford special lighting equipment, you can organize your workspace so that you face the window during the day, and there's no artificial lighting behind you when you have night sessions.

3. Poor Lesson Design

Another critical point is how your lessons look. Online English teachers would benefit from knowing some basics of visual design.

If you prefer using visual aids, make them look nice! There are a lot of templates on the internet that can help you organize your content aesthetically. Your students will notice it and appreciate your work.

Moreover, your online content design might play a significant role in motivating and inspiring learners. So, if you haven't been designing your lessons yet, start it now.

If you don't know what services to use, start from Canva. But don't limit yourself and find more tools on the search. For inspiration, you can log in on Pinterest and see thousands of ideas there.

4. Inappropriate Teaching Content

One more issue in an online ESL classroom is when teachers select materials that don't make much sense. For instance, activities do not support lesson aims, or tasks are not understandable.

I suggest that it is always much better to stick to a coursebook or another particular curriculum. An online English teacher can create their authentic materials, but they must be complementary. Please don't underestimate the value of well-known publishers such as Cambridge or Oxford and read through their teacher's books when planning.

Lack of Interaction and Personalized Approach

These two problems stem from the ones mentioned above. When an online English teacher ignores planning lessons and chooses inappropriate content, not paying attention to students' needs and interests, they are likely to fail online teaching.

Moreover, the wrong choice of materials and improper planning, together with poor design and insufficient equipment, lead to complicated interaction. It becomes difficult to communicate with a student, and they start feeling daunting and not involved in the class.

Increased Teacher Talking Time

Avoid talking too much as a teacher. When a student fails to get engaged in the lesson, online English teachers get equally frustrated and have nothing else but become the star of the class.

Unfortunately, ESL learners have no chance to get much language practice when this happens.

This problem often happens on its own. Sometimes you do all well, plan lessons properly, but still fall into long periods of TTT. For such situations, don't forget to use teaching techniques like elicitation. This way, you will guide students in finding answers based on their previous learning experiences and thus decrease your talking time.

Insufficient Lesson Flow

Again, this situation may happen even if you plan everything carefully. Online English teachers often consider the best of all possible worlds. But in reality, there are different types of learners. Some of them understand everything fast and finish tasks quickly. Others need to a slower pace.

Of course, you need to pay attention to timing, but don't be afraid to prolong or shorten any stage of your lesson if your student needs it. For fast-finishers, prepare more practical activities and also use time-fillers.


In the online setting, you can't help avoiding some distractions. When you work with young students, they can lose attention because of some objects around them, or vice versa, notice something on your end. With adults, devices like smartphones can be disruptive.

To prevent it, instruct students and their parents ahead of the class that their environment must be comfortable for studying. You can also recommend to switch off mobile phones or turn off notifications.

Also, make sure your workspace is quiet, and there's no mess in the background.

Not Enough Feedback

Online English teachers usually forget about giving feedback. It is challenging to test and evaluate students as you can't have the same checks as in the real-classroom.

When you finish your online English class, always try to give feedback and ask your student to give it to you as well. Point out some important things to pay attention to, don't forget to praise for students' efforts. Thank them for working hard, even if it didn't seem so. You, as a teacher, want to make sure your student stays motivated anyway.

Ask questions appropriate questions to find out what students think of your work. It will help you in future planning and self-development.

Miscommunication With Students and Parents

Online English teachers avoid communicating with students' parents, and that's a shame! It would be best if you cooperated with parents to achieve better teaching results.

If you work with young learners, try to reach their parents regularly. Provide them with reports, suggest how to support children's' learning, and recommend how to approach home assignments.

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To sum up, online teaching has a lot of pitfalls. However, if you consider these ten mistakes and avoid them as recommended, you would definitely become more successful in this online job!

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