When I first started teaching ten years ago, I was extremely sceptical about the effectiveness of online teaching, but since then I have accumulated a lot of experience. I'd like to share with you a few things I've learned along the way.
Contrary to popular opinion, I recommend starting your online teaching career by working for an established company. If your teaching experience is limited and you're not an internet wiz, working for a company can act as an excellent type of 'internship'. Admittedly, the money can be low and the hours unreliable, but you'll receive on-the-job training and technical and pedagogical support. I started out working for one of the well-known English learning centres. I gained valuable skills, experience and the confidence, which later enabled me to go it alone.
Creating a blog
In the last two years, I've created more of my own materials, usually on the back of envelopes, in notebooks, word files and on scraps of paper. I often use authentic materials such as news articles, TED talks and YouTube clips, and create lesson plans around them. Last year, while looking for inspiration, I came across an English teaching blog for the first time and so discovered the possibility to create and save lesson plans on such a platform, which can then be easily accessed anywhere. I was so impressed that I immediately got to work learning how to create my own blog. I chose Blogger, as it seemed very easy to use. My blog was born in November 2013 and marked the beginning of an incredible journey of self-development.
Becoming part of a network of teachers
The most important discovery I've made since starting my blog is undoubtedly the British Council's Teaching English Facebook page. If only I had discovered it earlier! Through this page, I have connected with an amazing community of teachers (teaching online can at times be a little lonely) and to a vast quantity of excellent materials and resources. My blog has been visited by thousands of new people, which has led me to working on a very interesting new project.
I live in Israel and would never have dreamed of being able to enter a classroom in Iran. But a few months ago, a course co-ordinator in a college in Iran approached me about teaching three groups of Iranian men. I accepted the offer, and now I'm beamed into their classroom via Google Hangouts, which is projected onto a screen. I upload a document containing a list of weekly topics connected to their course materials, and each student gives a presentation on these topics. I coach and correct the students and send detailed feedback to each one after the lesson. These classes demonstrate the incredible power online teaching has to break through cultural and geographical barriers, offering endless possibilities to both teachers and students alike.
Choosing a platform to communicate with your students
Skype is a very useful platform for online teaching. You can have free video or audio conversations with your students, as long as they have a Skype account. You can send files, type corrections and new vocabulary in the message box, and also share a view of your screen.
Google Hangouts, as we've seen, allows you to create a virtual classroom. You and your students need to have a Google+ account to be able to use this platform. You can invite up to ten people to a Hangout. You can open any document that you previously saved to Google Drive, and add notes or a Google sketchpad, which acts like a whiteboard. You can also add YouTube videos and even use sound effects like clapping or a drum roll. I recommend having a trial lesson with your students to help them get used to using Hangouts. Tell them to sign in and enter a Hangout before the lesson. When you first enter, you are prompted to upload the Google talk plug-in, which may take a few minutes.
WizIQ is something I'm quite new to, and I've discovered that it offers a free online teaching platform for private teachers. You can set up a course for up to ten students, upload materials in advance and invite students to attend the course and then set time and date by email. When you set up your course you can also add the cost of the course, which the student will pay for through PayPal. WizIQ's virtual classroom looks very professional and seems to be the most interactive of the free virtual classrooms available. It enables you to upload documents, embed videos and share your screen. You also have a white board and a chat box, the contents of which can be saved. Once you sign up, you can participate in the free training courses that WizIQ offer. Your students will need to sign up to WizIQ to enter the class. If you upgrade, you can also promote your courses in their marketplace. WizIQ has a free course called Teachers Teaching Online.