Teaching online can be very time consuming and making a steady income can be hard at first. Having the right software can make a huge difference, not only to the quality of your classes but also how much you can earn.
Job application software and services
Did you know that over 60% of applications to online teaching companies never lead to an interview? Having a TEFL qualification is not enough, getting your application right is vital!
I hate writing my resume. It’s that chore that you always put off until the last minute and then don’t really do properly. Just ESL Resumes have you covered. Their experienced team have seen lots of good and bad resumes and will write you a great teaching resume in as little as 24 hours. They have a wide range of additional services including writing your self-introduction video scripts, updating your LinkedIn profile and providing practice interview sessions with feedback and many more. With services from $47, this is a must before you apply for online teaching jobs.
Grammarly is a great tool that analyzes your writing and shows corrections and editing suggestions. It’s a bit like a powerful version of the spell check in MS Word, but far better. It is great for checking your resume. With the browser plugin it also checks any online forms you fill in to make sure there are no mistakes on your online job applications. There is also a paid version that gives you additional stylistic feedback and suggestions for $11.66 per month.
Teaching online requires great internet speed for smooth high-resolution video streams with no interruptions. Many online companies requiring up to 20 Mb/s download speed, so make sure your internet is up to speed before you apply. Best of all, Speedtest is totally free.
Classroom & Video Tools
Keeping young learners engaged in class is tough. Manycam adds another string to your engagement bow by making your video stream much more visually appealing. Manycam allows you to add visual effects to your video stream. These include interesting backgrounds with a digital green screen (Chroma Key), 3D masks and effects and many other great features. Starting at $29 ManyCam will keep your students coming back for more classes!
Student Feedback Tools
Writing useful and engaging student feedback can be both difficult and time-consuming. With only 10 minutes between classes, it’s easy to get behind or spend a long-time writing comments after your classes, time you’re not being paid for! Even worse, you forget to do your feedback and get penalised. Blablacommnetz solves this frustration. By dragging and dropping sentences into your feedback reports you can quickly create great customised reports for each of your students. Their Chrome extension enables you to use it with many of the main online teaching companies and platforms. With a free 7-day trial and $9.99 per month after that, this will both save you time and could help you retain students.
Teaching Tools for Running your Own Online School
Working with online teaching companies can be a great source of income, but it has its downsides. Much better to be your own boss. But how do you find students? What is the best platform to teach on? How do you manage multiple students? How do you get paid?
Knowing where to start is hard when you start teaching online for yourself. Just ESL tutors have you covered with their ‘From ESL tutor to business owner in 28 days’ course. This detailed course covers everything you need to know to get started and make a good income from online ESL teaching. It includes 28 step-by-step lessons including where to find high paying clients, building a website and brand, using social media and scaling your business. With 40+ checklists and over 50 videos, this course is a must-have starting point.
The first two days are free, the full course is $149.
Converting Unicode, turning text into images, wording and worksheet tools, grammar and IPA tools are just a few of the toolset that English Tools offers. The website offers a set of helpful converters and tools for teachers and students, but also for the general audience. And what’s most, they all come in multiple languages, to make them as helpful and local as possible, with lots of room for customization.
Teaching platforms and learning management systems (LMS)
Finding the right online classroom can be tough. If you are planning on having multiple students, you will also need a system for tracking their progress. This is where an LMS comes in. Ideally, you should look for a platform that integrates both classroom and LMS. Finding the right platform takes some time so it’s a good idea to test out a few before you find one that works for, both youa and crucially, your students.
Zoom is a great choice for teachers that are just starting out and would prefer to not to use Skype. While this is a web conferencing tool designed for business, it is used by many teachers and even some online learning companies that don’t have their own platforms. While zoom is a basic platform it does allow two-way video stream, chat, materials sharing and a digital whiteboard. The basic plan is free, but classes are limited to 40 minutes (although you can just start a new meeting if you are not finished!). Pro pricing is 11.99 GBP.
If you have students in China the global version is blocked so you will need to use the China version
A similar option is ezTalks Webinar
Udemy is a great platform, not least because it already has millions of students of which 1.6 million are learning English. The benefits of Udemy are that the courses are pre-recorded so that students can take them any time. The downside is that being pre-recorded these are not live classes, Udemy does a great job of teaching you how to use the platform. With many instructors on there, you need to create high-quality niche courses. Rather than creating a general English course consider something more specific such as ‘English for Marketing managers.’ Some careful research is needed here! Udemy is free for teachers and can be a great way to attract students to your live courses on other platforms
Zoho ShowTime is “a single comprehensive platform to manage and run your training business. Build your own brand, deliver meaningful training, and help empower the world.”
With an online classroom that allows you to teach both group and one-on-one classes and a built-in LMS, ShowTime is a great option. It also has CRM (customer relationship management) tools so you can track and communicate with your students. You can also use it to charge your students and manage payments. You do however have to find your own students. ShowTime starts from 7GBP a month.
WizIQ combines a virtual classroom with course creation tools, testing tools and a learning management system. You can also fully brand your learning portal for your students. WizIQ also records your live classes so you and your students can review classes plus it has a great interactive whiteboard. If you have a WordPress site you can integrate it directly into your website. It also allows you to collect all your payments through the site. WizIQ only has an annual payment plan starting from $300 a year but offers a 14-day free trial and has a 30-day refund policy.
Communication Tools for Online Teachers
While Skype and WhatsApp continue to be the go-to for most online communication if you are working with Chinese companies or students it’s a good idea to get their local communication tools. Many online teaching companies require it, and your Chinese students will appreciate it.
Often described as a ‘super app’ WeChat is used for everything in China. In addition to messaging and social media functions, it has mobile payments, taxi-hailing, etc. It’s a great way to stay in touch with Chinese students. There are however privacy concerns with it so be careful what information you share on it.
DingTalk is similar to WeChat but with less functionality. It does, however, have better video conferencing features so can be used as a backup classroom for Chinese students in addition to general communication. DingTalk is also used by many large China-based online teaching companies to communicate with teachers. While it doesn’t have the level of security concerns as WeChat it is still a good idea to only use this for student communication.
Banking and Finance for Online Teachers
As an online teacher, you are operating your own business so tracking costs and receiving payments is a critical part of your success.
No English teacher wants to be doing accounts. If you are anything like me, you probably have no idea where to start! Freshbooks helps you track your costs and income. If you have business clients FreshBooks you can create professional invoices. It’s a lifesaver when you have to file your taxes and you need your records.
Payoneer is a great way to get paid and make payments worldwide, especially if your students are paying in multiple currencies. It is also used by several online teaching companies in addition to Paypal. The main benefit is that it takes the pain out of international payments and will deposit payments directly into your nominated bank account.
TransferWise is another great payment option. In addition to receiving global payments, TransferWise is ideal if you are living abroad and want to send money home as it has great exchange rates. They also have borderless account options.
Tech Support for Online Teachers
Dissatisfied students will end your business very quickly. In addition to a wired connection make sure your computer and network are running efficiently. These free programs will keep everything running smoothly.
I usually can’t remember what I had for lunch, let alone the hundreds of passwords I now have for all these platforms and services. LastPass not only remembers your passwords, it auto-fills them for you and suggests secure passwords when you sign up for something new. You only need to remember one password from now on!
CCleaner is a simple tool that keeps your computer free from all the stuff that builds up and slows it down. This also helps your computer boot faster when you are late for class. It also removes tracking cookies and other nasties.
Are your family using your precious bandwidth, or is something on your computer downloading in the background and causing a poor-quality video stream? GlassWire lets you see what is using your bandwidth and block them.
TeamViewer is a great and secure tool that allows remote support to fix tech issues. It is used by a lot of online companies to help you out of a tight spot when something is not working as it should be. Don’t worry they can only access your computer when you give them permission. Just close anything you don’t want them to see!
Peter runs Teach From Home a resource and reviews website for online teachers. He is a former Director of Teacher Operations & Recruitment for two of the largest online teaching companies.