The TEFL industry is constantly evolving and one of the biggest changes in recent years has been the rise of online teaching. Certifications issued by TEFL Org (or other TEFL providers) can provide excellent opportunities for jumpstarting a career in teaching.
Teaching English lessons online via some sort of video-chat service, often Skype has become an excellent way for people to get away from the traditional classroom and do something a little bit different.
It can also be an excellent way for teachers to make a little bit of extra money on the side, especially if they are traveling for a period of time.
So whether you plan on teaching online full-time or just want to make a little bit of extra cash, the big question is, is it worth it? In short, yes, but that isn’t to say that there aren’t some downsides too.
Let’s take a look at some of the biggest pros and cons of teaching English online.
Of course, the biggest selling point of teaching English online is the flexibility that it brings. Most TEFL teachers got into the industry because they were sick of the 9-5 grind and they wanted something fresh and exciting in their lives.
The idea of being able to work from anywhere in the world is a massive selling point and while you will still spend a lot of time sitting in one place, you are more likely to be able to work your schedule around your traveling needs and social life.
On top of that, you will also find that students who want classes online, especially adults, are also much more flexible. They are probably taking online classes for that same flexibility and they will often be more willing to move classes around if you need to.
Being Able to Save Money
Surprisingly, one of the best things about teaching English online is that it will give you a chance to save some serious money.
A lot of online schools, especially those based in countries like China and South Korea, will often pay very nicely and this, combined with the fact you can live wherever you want, often means you can end up saving a lot of money.
On top of this, you are also saving a lot of money on things like transport and food during the working day and it can be quite surprising to see just how much money you are spending on these things.
Freedom to Travel
One of the best things about the TEFL industry is the countless travel opportunities it presents you with. A TEFL certification can be a passport to the world. Working at a school, however, does restrict you to just one location.
Moving into online teaching provides you with the chance to explore the world. Sure, there are some time-zone issues from time to time but that is a minor inconvenience when you have the opportunity to go wherever you want to and earn money while you are doing it.
If you want to teach children, there are hundreds of schools that provide that opportunity, if you want to work with adults, then there are plenty of ways you can do that as well. Hell, if you want to teach exclusively on the phone and not even on webcam then that is an option (I’ve tried it, and that is a blog post for a later date).
The wide range of job options available effectively allows you to build the perfect schedule to suit your needs. It also means that if you want to pursue other stuff, then you set a nice part-time schedule that allows you to do that as well.
There are no two ways of saying this- teaching English online is so much easier than teaching in the classroom.
Your preparation time is shorter because you don’t have to print anything off. You don’t have to travel all the way across a city to get to the classroom. You don’t have to clean your classroom when everything is finished, and generally speaking, the lessons are much easier to prepare. These are just a few of the things that make teaching English online a lot easier than teaching English in a real classroom.
Needless to say, one of the toughest things about working online, or working at home in general, can be the loneliness. As humans, we are naturally social creatures and when all of your interactions over the course of a day take place over a screen, things can get a little bit tricky.
The lack of real-life interaction can slowly start to drive you a little bit crazy as can the fact that you work and live in the same environment. Setting yourself boundaries and knowing when to switch off from work is incredibly important because otherwise, it can quickly consume your entire life.
If you are lucky enough to live with someone else who works online or at home then this problem can be avoided but being stuck inside all day can still be irritating even if that is the case.
Different Relationships with Students
One of the most interesting differences between face-to-face teaching and online teaching is the relationships you develop with your students. While you are still regularly seeing them, there can still be a disconnect in terms of reading their body language or judging a reaction.
When you have not met a person face to face, it can be difficult to read how they feel about certain things and this can be particularly difficult when it comes to working out if a student is struggling with an idea or not.
In the long-run, this can be detrimental to the student’s education as you may not be able to work out where problems lie unless they are vocal about them.
Online teaching can be great fun but in terms of your career, it could end up being a bit of a step backwards. A lot of language schools, especially some of the bigger names in the industry, may not view online teaching as a real teaching experience and as such, it could damage your future job prospects.
Bad Habits as a Teacher
One surprising side effect of teaching online is that you can quickly develop bad habits or forget how to manage a classroom when you eventually return to one. Teaching English online requires a lot more patience than teaching in person but it also allows you a little more freedom to do your own thing. This means you can easily become a little bit lazier than you would otherwise be and you can also begin to rely on a quick internet search to answer any questions your students may have.
One of the most frustrating parts of life as an online teacher is ensuring that you have a good enough network connection to teach your classes. Anybody who has taught a lesson online will tell you just how annoying it is when your internet cuts out halfway through a lesson.
Sometimes, you might not even be the one to blame for the poor signal in your video but as a sign of professional courtesy, you have to take the blame to save the student’s blushes.
Teaching English online can be an incredibly liberating experience that can provide you with plenty of opportunities to travel and work on some other projects. It can also be a great way to make some money between other jobs and is a great skill to be able to fall back on.
That being said, teaching through a screen is not going to be for everybody, so it is important to assess whether you feel like it or not before you decide to bite the bullet.