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What does it mean to teach English online?

A description of what it means to teach online including who learners might be and why teachers may choose to teach this way.
Online language teaching can be all sorts of teaching. It can be teaching groups, individuals. I’ve taught a number of different learners one on one and in groups. Most recently, I taught a group of refugees who were based all over the world in lots of different time zones. They were all a similar level of English. They were all intermediate level. It can be teaching on a platform, so that means an online school where you sign up as a teacher, and then you deliver lessons to their students, much the same as you would do in a face-to-face chain of schools. For one thing, they help plan your lessons for you.
So a lot of the different online platforms have different structures already built in. Some online tutors, they own their own business, so they will be finding students and teaching them and managing all that process themselves. My online tutoring is in the context of business English, so it’s normally middle managers who are going abroad. So regarding how much time I spend doing that each week, it fluctuates. I have certain clients who, if they’re going abroad, I’ll see them quite a lot. I also have people that will contact me while they’re abroad– they’ve heard something when they’re out and they want to ask me immediately.
And that’s one of the real benefits of online tutoring, is that they’ve got that kind of immediate access to the teacher. They don’t have to wait until they return from being abroad. Teaching online is any teaching that you do online, it can be all sorts of ages– very young children– I know of a lot of teachers who work with three, four-year-olds. The types of classes I teach can vary quite a bit depending on the ages. So I teach anything from three years old to 12 years old, so you can imagine there’s a really big range in the types of classes they have. For the really little kids, it’s really focused on vocabulary and a little bit of phonetics as well.
So being able to break down the actual sounds, focusing on the alphabet and basic vocabulary of numbers, colours, toys, things like that. You might work with adults. You could teach business students, professionals– really the same range of students that you would get in a face-to-face context, you could get them online as well. People are studying in their home environments, in their living room, in their car. I had one lady working from her car. She wasn’t driving. A successful online lesson is a lesson where your student goes away knowing something they didn’t know at the beginning, or being able to do something they couldn’t do at the beginning.

Let’s begin by talking about what we mean by online teaching. Who do you teach? Who do you work for? In this video, some of our teachers tell us about their teaching contexts.


Watch the video and make notes in your notebook about the type of teaching each of our teachers describes. Who do they teach? What do they teach? Where are their learners? Who do the teachers work for?

Name of teacher Notes
Please note down your answers on a piece of paper

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Reflect and share

Think about who your students might be. Who are you interested in teaching? Will you teach younger learners, or adults? Will you teach learners in your own country? Or learners from around the world? Would you prefer to work for a company or for yourself? Share your ideas in the comments.

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Teaching English Online

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