Teaching on Skype has quickly become a big part of my business. It’s a valuable part too – I can go from one lesson to another without the risk that’s always there with “real life” lessons of getting stuck in traffic. This means I can teach more. Instead of one lesson 3-4 then 4.15-5.15 then 5.45-6.45, I can work from 3 straight through to 6! Giving me an extra 45 minutes to catch up on some work, teach someone else, or even finish earlier! Brilliant!
With the likes of italki becoming bigger and more essential language learning resources by the day, teaching online is big business. So today, I wanted to share with you my top tips for teaching on Skype.
1. Good equipment
It doesn’t matter if your laptop is old or your headset is your gaming one. The important thing is that your equipment works, and when I say equipment, that includes Internet connection. Likelihood is that your provider can’t always guarantee 100% perfect connection but make sure it’s as good as can be. You wouldn’t expect your mechanic to fix your car with a spanner from Poundland, would you? That said, I’m not trying to put you off! Go for it and make the best of what you have now to see if it’s right for you before investing big time.
2. Good resources
When I started my business, one thing I was adamant about was making my own resources to set me apart from the competition. This is still something I do today. Having a good, solid base of teaching resources will make your job a lot easier.
Teaching online though also means you have to think outside the box a little bit – it’s no good having boxes of beautiful flashcards when your student can’t touch them! Focus your attention on Powerpoints, PDFs and Word documents – all things you can display and share easily with your online students. Check out my Pinterest page for some ideas.
My absolute essential for “real life” teaching is a whiteboard. Obviously, this is tricky to use via Skype. Thankfully, I discovered Twiddla! It’s an online whiteboard tool that you and anyone who you share the link with can see and edit at the same time. Perfect for awkward explanations you just can’t do with words and emoticons!
You can also view webpages together and write all over them, as well as upload images and documents. Very useful for you, very interactive for the student.
4. Screen share
Skype seems to have recently opened up it’s screen share option to everyone (I’m pretty sure it used to be a premium feature). This is perfect for online tuition! Sometimes, Twiddla doesn’t load Powerpoints very well, on those days screen share is perfect. I’ve also found it useful when trying to explain to new italki students how to confirm lessons or book new ones.
5. Always keep moving forward
Once you’ve found something that works, don’t sit still! Constantly look for ways to improve your teaching, keep making resources as well as updating the ones you already have.
6. Treat your students well
Consider your students as your employer as well as your customer, after all, they are the ones paying you and without them, you have no job. Make each student feel special by remembering what they like, what they don’t like, what they’re good at and what they’re not so good at. If it helps, you could use a little notebook to keep track. Of course resources can be reused for different students, but from time to time, I love making resources with specific students in mind!
7. Take advantage of the Internet
There is almost no point teaching online if you’re not going to do this! The Internet is there so use it in lessons. Ideas include using a Google Image search to explain word definitions, searching the Internet together (on Twiddla) for relevant information and making use of online dictionaries as a last resort.
8. Mix your media
There’s so much stuff out there that it seems a shame to constantly give students the same source to work with. Use videos, audio and articles as stimuli for conversation. Podcasts, news, YouTube, social media, whatever you use, focus on real examples of the language and keep it fun and interesting! Sending these before the lesson will not only make you a keen and professional teacher but also give your students a chance to prepare any questions beforehand. Why should they pay for your time and then spend 5 minutes watching a video they could have done before the lesson?
Once you’ve got your resources, both technical and teaching, you can begin to plan lessons! I find it useful to have a few back up lessons plans for situations like if a new student books a lesson the very next day and you know nothing about them and you know you won’t have time to prepare anything. Be prepared. Like a scout.
10. Promote yourself
When you’re all set up and ready to go, you can begin to promote your services. Don’t do it until you’re ready – there’s no rush! Facebook, Twitter, blogs, italki…basically the Internet! One of the joys of teaching online is that you can offer your services to anyone anywhere. Don’t waste your time or money pushing leaflets through doors or paying for an ad in the local paper. Look wider. Be nice. Sell yourself. But not like a lady of the night.
11. Enjoy it!
After all, if you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point? Teaching online isn’t for everyone and sometimes you’ll want nothing more than a day away from being huddled inside with your screen and your headset. A full day of Skype tuition can be tough. Which leads nicely to the next tip…
12. Look after yourself
If you want to make this a big part of your income, then chances are you’ll be spending a lot more time online than you do now. You have to consider this. Plan in regular exercise and get yourself outside! If your work is being on the Internet talking to people then playing your Xbox will have no positive relaxing effect. It’s just the same.
I hope these tips are useful for you if you’re planning on expanding into teaching online. It’s a relatively young industry so it’s a very exciting time to get involved. If you’re a student, be sure to sign up for Skype lessons with me beginning this Autumn! There’s not many spaces left! If you have any questions, please let me know in the comments, I’d love to hear from you! Good luck!