Demand for Online Teaching: How to Stand Out
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, online teaching has been a popular option for students and teachers all over the world. It provided a way for students to continue learning English from their homes. Even though many classrooms in the world have welcomed students back again, there are many that still continue to take online classes.
Similarly, there are many teachers who have discovered they prefer teaching online and continue to do so. The flexibility of online teaching is a great advantage for those who want full control of their schedule. There’s also the big appeal of being able to work from anywhere and travel while you work. While there are many opportunities for teaching online, there can also be many applicants for one position. How can you make your application stand out amongst the rest of them?
An introductory video/demo video
Many online ESL companies ask their potential teachers to submit an introductory video or a demo video. This is a normal part of the hiring process and often the last step before they hire you. Therefore, it’s important for this video to make a good impression on your future employers. You need to show them how you come across on screen as a teacher. This means your video should showcase your personality and your teaching skills.
If you’re asked to complete a demo, this might be with one of the company’s representatives that pretends to be your student (which can be interesting if they pretend to be 5 years old!) or even with a real student. Either way, prepare well for the lesson by researching the company’s teaching methods and what they are looking for. A lot of companies may give you the material ready so utilize it well.
Furthermore, don’t forget that you are applying for online teaching. This means that your videos should be in a suitable place with good lighting and no background noise. If you can’t show that you have a suitable working environment, then your application will be rejected immediately. This is something you can control or test out beforehand, so don’t let it be the reason you get rejected!
The requirements for online teaching are normally to have a minimum of a 120-hour TEFL certificate. This is the industry standard so many teachers opt for this course which will meet the requirements. However, if you really want to make your CV stand out amongst the other applications, you should aim to do a higher-level certificate such as a 180-hour course. This is especially useful if you don’t have any prior teaching experience or are not a native speaker.
Of course, it’s extremely useful to show that you are qualified to handle online teaching in particular. Taking a specialist course in teaching TEFL online can help show employers that you are specifically prepared for the role. This course will give you ideas for using materials and activities online, how to manage a class, and predict any potential issues. There are many applicants who may have great classroom qualifications and skills, but it doesn’t mean they might be great online teachers.
The majority of online ESL job adverts will all ask for the same requirements in terms of technology and equipment. The most obvious one is good internet speed. Some companies will even ask you to show your upload and download speed and have a minimum requirement. If your internet isn’t very good, then you might need to switch providers or think about a plan B.
The other requirements are having a good microphone and camera. The quality of many built-in laptop cameras isn’t actually that good so you might want to invest in a plug-in one. You should also consider getting noise cancellation headphones too. Your laptop should be able to handle using different programs and video calls. If you’re planning on making online teaching a full-time job, then invest in good equipment as you’ll be using it a lot.
The above is pretty obvious if you’re considering online teaching but where this counts the most is in your interview/ video. If you can’t show in the interview that your internet is good, your camera is clear and your microphone works well, this will go against you. Employers might discount you immediately if they assume you are not prepared, technologically speaking. Test all of this before you conduct any interviews so you’re not caught out.
Along with a demo video or intro video, you will also most likely be asked to provide a cover letter for your application. In this letter, you will detail why you want the job and how your skills are a perfect fit for the position. For any ESL job (or, in fact, any job), it’s important that you don’t use a generic cover letter. Employees receive enough letters to see when someone has clearly sent the same letter multiple times.
In your cover letter, you should directly name the company or school you are applying to. You should also look closely at the essential and desired skills listed in the advert and cater your letter to showing how you possess these. Of course, if you apply for many jobs then the letters will sound similar. It’s fine to have some sort of template with your essential information but you should edit this accordingly for the position.
Remember to read your cover letter back for spelling mistakes. A teacher should have near-perfect grammar and spelling! Make sure the letter is well-structured and relevant to the position. If you’re talking about wanting to teach in a classroom, then the employer will stop reading! The letter is likely to be the first thing the employer uses to get to know you, so make sure you spend the time on it.
Get the skills
Of course, online teaching has a lot in common with classroom teaching and many skills are transferable. However, it also requires a whole load of new skills to be successful at it. These are mostly related to technology! It may sound simple but if you struggle with technology, you will struggle with your lessons. Students (and employers) will end up frustrated and will not enjoy the classes. Of course, it’s normal that there are technological problems from time to time but if things happen frequently, then your classes won’t be rated very highly.
Take the time to learn how to use different platforms and online tools. It’s always a good idea to get some colleagues or friends to help you out. Arrange a video meeting on the platform you want to practice where you can all take turns to be the teacher and play around with the features. This is especially important if you have to do a demo lesson. The employer will not only be looking at your teaching but your ability to conduct the lesson online too.
Research the platform that the position you’re applying for uses. It may be that they use their own platform that you won’t have access to but sometimes, they use a popular one (zoom, skype, google meet, etc). If this is the case then you can show you are confident with this platform.
If you haven’t used the platform the company uses, then assure the interviewer that you pick these things up quickly and have already learned how to use a range of platforms and that this will be no different! Many platforms have a lot of features in common so once you master a few, you can master any!
There may be some adverts that stipulate that experience is not necessary. If you have a great application, then you can still get work without experience. However, if you’re up against applicants who have similar qualifications to you but with some TEFL experience, then employers might be more likely to go for their profiles.
If you want to be an online teacher but have no teaching or online teaching experience, then you might consider volunteering work. Since the pandemic, there are many organizations that are looking for teachers to teach refugees and migrants English. These are often not full-time commitments but usually just an hour or two a week.
Volunteering online is a great way to start getting some teaching experience. Many organizations are happy to take newly-qualified teachers and some even provide training. Not only do you get some experience teaching online, but you also get to put your skills to good use. Remember that, for many people, learning English is essential for finding work or accessing higher education. You can use your TEFL knowledge to make a real difference!
Online teaching can open up great opportunities and there is plenty of work out there. It’s important to make your application as unique as possible so that your potential employers can see who you are as an online teacher. You need to show that you will be capable of being an asset to their company or school. Remember online teachers need to be fairly tech-savvy, organized, and able to troubleshoot any issues on the spot.
Your first class can be scary and not everything will go as you plan. This is especially true in the world of online teaching where there may be issues with students’ (or your!) cameras, connections, etc. It’s important that you are able to deal with this and offer a solution. A lot of companies will provide training so utilize this well.
If you follow the steps above, your application will be more distinct. Applying for jobs can be time-consuming but you won’t get much out of it if you don’t put the work in. Spend the time crafting your letter, your application or preparing for your demo lesson. Once you get the interviews, then it’s up to you to show them that you are a confident and capable teacher!