What Makes a Good Online Teacher?
Updated: Nov 8, 2019
Online teaching has been a booming business in the last few years. In the current gig economy, online teaching is an attractive side hustle because of the flexible hours and how little equipment is needed to get started. Others are using online English teaching as a main source of income as they travel the world. Whether you want to become an online teacher to supplement your vacation fund or to pay the bills, you are not alone.
If you want to get into online English education, or any other type of online teaching, you want to set yourself up for success. People often talk about the physical tools you need, like high-speed internet and a good microphone, but you also need to consider the mental tools you need to be an excellent online instructor. The following traits and tips are for everyone, whether you’re a classroom teacher or an online-only educator.
Knowing how to interactively engage with students online is imperative to succeeding as an online teacher. If you only learn one thing from this post, let it be this. Connecting with a student over a screen, rather than in person, may seem daunting to some. However, a lot of the same methods can be used to keep a student’s attention. Utilizing a variety of media, like videos and slideshows, playing fun games, and using interesting content are all ways to help a student stay on task during a lesson. Different tools work for different students, so having multiple methods to keep students engaged is critical. Think about what methods you regularly use, and maybe look up a few new ones, just in case. Let your passion for teaching show.
Online teaching requires patience. You may have an issue with your technology, or maybe cultural barriers are making communication difficult. It is important that you are able to keep your calm and work through the problem. It may involve doing a quick internet search to figure out why your microphone suddenly stopped working, or reaching out to your company for advice. Your supervisor should be able to connect you with the resources you need, whether that’s a how-to guide or a cultural expert.
Don’t be put off by the phrase “technical skills.” You probably already know how to do all the computer tricks you need to be successful as an online teacher. If you don’t, they are easy to learn and only a quick search away. Some programs have their own platforms. If you are confused by how to do something, look up the guide provided by your program. If you are using Zoom, Skype, or another online platform, you will want to know screen sharing. That means you can pull up a PowerPoint, share your screen, and then your student will be able to see all your beautiful slides while you talk them through it. Zoom also has an online whiteboard tool. You can use this to “draw” on the screen, which can be very helpful for some activities. Try both of these out before you interview with an online teaching company. If you can do those two things, you probably have all the technical skills you need to be an online teacher.
Flexibility goes hand-in-hand with patience. Sometimes a student is especially ornery in a lesson. You can either let your frustration show, or you could jump to a different activity to shake things up. Another issue that requires flexibility is scheduling. Students can be tardy, or maybe not even show up. You can use that time to edit another student’s essay, or prepare for another lesson. Being able to go with the flow of things will save you a lot of stress with online teaching.
Actively communicating with your company, parents, and students is a great way to keep your online teaching experience running smoothly. If you are ever stuck on an issue or have a question, ask your supervisor before the problem gets too big for you to handle. They are there to support you, and will appreciate your feedback. You should also give advice if you notice something with the program is not working.
As for parents, it’s important to give them timely feedback about how their student is doing. They are paying for a service, and if they don’t see improvement, they will switch to a different provider. Parents are also concerned about whether their student is being challenged, or sometimes too challenged, and it’s important to work together to create the best learning environment for your student.
Your student also needs to hear feedback in all forms. Letting them know about an issue earlier rather than later will make learning easier down the line. Plus, you might learn something that will help you connect with your student. If a student doesn’t complete their weekly reading assignments two weeks in a row, you should ask them about it. There might be an underlying issue. Active communication will make your day much easier.
A lot of the same skills you learn in other jobs can be applied to online teaching. If you know your content, can display the above skills, and let your enthusiasm show for teaching, you are definitely going to be an asset to any online teaching company. Good luck to all our future online teachers.
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