Tutors and teachers: How to successfully deliver online lessons

Teaching online is becoming an increasingly popular career choice, and for good reason too. The demand in education for teachers and tutors with great digital skills is more important now than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has really placed further emphasis on this need, but we’ve known for a long time that in a world where the internet has dictated how we access information, how we stay in touch with family and friends, and carry out day to day tasks, digital skills are the future.

Education is moving with the times, and we’re seeing a growing number of digital companies and platforms supporting education by offering online classes, interactive resources and organisation tips. With so much of our lives already online, we need to be proactive about how we make the best use of the tech available.

As an online tutor or teacher, you’re enabling your expertise to be shared beyond the parameters of a classroom. However, whatever you teach, online teaching is an opportunity for you to learn too, by adapting your teaching style to the specific needs of students with varying abilities and educational backgrounds. There are so many great teaching resources out there to help you teach online, but how can you ensure you do the best job you can?

Whether you’re a maths, geography or music tutor, primary school teacher, or perhaps are completely new to online teaching altogether, teaching online could be an option that suits you. The TEFL Org Blog: What is esl teacher? helps you to become an English teacher. Certain areas in particular, passing English teaching courses online and tutoring online, are rapidly growing industries, with demand increasing year-on-year.

Why should I teach online?

First of all, let’s discuss why being an online teacher is a very worthwhile profession. If you’ve got the necessary qualification to teach your subject and want to be in complete control of when and where you work, it could really be the job for you! Many students are turning to the internet to find teachers and tutors who can prepare them for exams, university or college, practice a language with, and generally assist them in consolidating their learning. Being able to find a teacher who can adapt to a student’s specific learning needs and busy schedule without having to travel anywhere is one of the main reasons online learning is becoming so popular.

If you are now asking, is Online Tutor–Is it Right For You? Online teaching/tutor is a relatively new concept that’s rapidly taking off. As the market continues to grow, more opportunities to teach online are developing. Teaching online assists any teacher looking to gain more teaching experience with the opportunity to teach students from all over the world, different abilities, ages, or educational backgrounds. Quickly, you could find yourself building up experience that’d take traditional teachers years to gain.

If you’re an independent online teacher you’ll be in complete control of your own fees and schedule – although it’s recommended that you have some experience working for an online teaching company first, as this will help you build your reputation as an online teacher, as well as give you the necessary experience and knowledge to succeed independently. Online teaching can really be just as rewarding as classroom teaching.

Below are 4 tips to help you ensure you’re the best online tutor/teacher you can be!

1. Use technology you can rely on

Typically, as an online teacher, you’ll be paid by the hour or by the lesson. You need to make the best use of the limited time you’re given. If you don’t manage your time well, your students don’t owe you any loyalty and have every right to take their business elsewhere. So, making sure you avoid wasting time on technical issues, and on anything irrelevant to the lesson, is absolutely essential to maintaining a steady flow of students.

A stable and strong internet connection is essential. Video calls already feel more impersonal than face-to-face teaching, and if your sound is out and the video is lagging, maintaining student focus and engagement will be a lot more challenging. Worrying about the internet cutting out mid-lesson is something you could do without. So, if you’re a teacher who’s constantly on the move, it’s always a good idea to test out the reliability of your connection beforehand.

You’ll need fairly modern tech – a smartphone, tablet or computer with a high-quality camera and microphone for you to communicate clearly with students. There are many different platforms available to deliver online classes and resources, each offering their own benefits. If you’re working independently and are considering your options – Zoom, Google Classroom and Skype are all popular options.

2. Plan, plan, plan!

Planning properly will make your job so much easier. Many teachers will say it over and over again. You know why? Because it’s true! Pre-planning your lessons means you can avoid awkward silences and having to follow through with an activity that isn’t working as well as you’d hoped. Check out the multitude of lesson planning tips and guidance available online from resources such as BBC Bitesize and the British Council. There are also many supportive online teaching communities where you can find endless advice. Plenty of teachers will say they wish they prepared more for lessons when they started teaching, you can make sure you aren’t one of them.

Listen to your students. What do they want to work on? What are their goals? What are the areas they’re least confident with? Paying careful attention will help you create student-centered lesson plans.

3. Be a confident communicator and provide continuous feedback

Okay, we know that this is technically two pieces of advice, however they’re closely linked so we thought we’d put them together! Clear and concise communication is so important when teaching online. You should establish objectives for students in the first lesson and from then on, create a set of learning outcomes that can be checked off on a regular basis. This way students will understand what is expected of them and how they need to apply themselves to achieve them.

Benchmarking learning outcomes and progress will make it much easier when you need to provide feedback. And when these objectives are met, both you and your student will feel accomplished in your hard work. The more experience you have teaching online, the more confidence and natural structure you’ll have in conducting your lessons.

Providing feedback regularly will help your students progress. Software such as Google Docs provides a convenient way of doing this: allowing you to correct students’ work, share worksheets and provide feedback in real-time – every update you make is instant – so you can avoid a lot of wasted time emailing a document back and forth. It’s also an effective way to monitor whether students are completing the work on time and if they’ve had any difficulties.

Mailchimp, an email-marketing service, is worth considering for maintaining professional contact with students and recruiting new ones. If you’re teaching younger students, it can also be an effective way of communicating with parents and guardians to arrange lessons and generally keep them in the loop with their child’s learning.

4. Always aim to improve as a teacher

Don’t hesitate to ask students to give you feedback too. Depending how you advertise lessons, (e.g. on online teaching platforms), you’ll be left reviews anyway so that other students can get an idea of you as a teacher. If you’re regularly receiving feedback, you’ll establish your strengths and weaknesses, and then be able to constantly work to improve them. Teachers never stop learning too, you know!

Every student is different and some teaching styles will work for one student but not another. Despite turning up for their online lesson, not every student will be keen to learn – it’s your job to keep lessons varied and interesting. Working out what your student enjoys will help you plan motivating lessons adapted to their specific learning needs and ability.

There are so many great resources out there that’ll help you take your lessons to the next level. If you regularly mix up lesson plans with interactive games and activities, your students are bound to take more away from them and be keen to return.

Some students will need to spend more time on one topic, while others will want to march through the work and get ahead. As we’ve mentioned, planning your lessons well means you always have back up activities if a lesson is completed quicker than anticipated. By recognising and responding to the individual needs of your students and paying attention to what they do well with and what they struggle with, you can be a better, more intuitive teacher and try to figure out what the students are concerned about.

Delivering online classes successfully will consist of hard work and effort on your part. Maintaining interesting and engaging lessons will be essential to this, so make sure you listen to your students, evaluate what works and what doesn’t, and always be open to learn and adapt. Organisation and enthusiasm goes a long way!