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Has anyone ever taught ESL/EFL online?

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Joined: 03 Jan 2011
Posts: 3
Location: Canada

PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2011 5:29 pm    Post subject: Has anyone ever taught ESL/EFL online? Reply with quote

If so, what was the experience like and how did you get involved?

This type of teaching appeals to me, and I've started looking into options, but I'd like to actually hear from someone who's been through it.
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Kent Golding

Joined: 02 Mar 2011
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:19 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've been doing exactly that for more than two years. I need to be upfront and admit I only know what it is like to teach ESL online for my particular company. I really don't feel comfortable naming my company, since I am still employed by them.
Suffice to say, my company is a relatively recent startup in the western USA, though the business has really grown in the past few years. Most clients/students are in South Korea, Japan and China.
Good things: I can work from home. Teachers can choose from between several different teaching programs, which are all client companies in the countries where we do business. I've learned a lot about Korean culture from my students.
Bad things: Wow. Where to begin? A lot of the work is done late at night, because that is daytime in Asia. So get used to being tired and constantly trying to catch up on sleep in the daytime.
My job is about as dead-end as you can get. Never have I felt like more of a peon. Last fall my company decided to slash my monthly wages by several hundred dollars. This was extremely damaging to me, financially. None of the executives ever even said sorry.
I was told later this was because the Korean company we contract to decided they wanted American workers, but they didn't want to pay American wages. After they slashed my salary, they implemented a whole bunch of new rules and policies that made the job about twice as hard to do. The executives in my company are too gutless and worried about losing business to argue with the Koreans when they are being absurd and unreasonable.
Basically, I've been working late nights for more than two years, and my company rewarded my hard work and effort by dumping all over me. I got so run-down and stressed that I've been sick with a viral infection for more than three weeks. I took a full week off, and now I'm only working afternoons. But I have no sick days. If I don't work, I don't get paid.
I plan to quit ASAP, but I am in a mountain of debt, and my current job makes it all but impossible to escape from that debt.
But if you can find a "distance learning" company that pays you something real and treats you like a human being, by all means take it.
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Kent Golding

Joined: 02 Mar 2011
Posts: 6

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Oh, and you'll spend most of your time sitting down and staring at a computer. My back gets SO sore.
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Sheila Collins

Joined: 22 Oct 2007
Posts: 46

PostPosted: Tue Mar 08, 2011 2:17 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I teach for a private company. My students are from mainland China, all kids between the ages of 7 and 18.

I looked into a couple of other companies but was suspicious of some of their business practices (specifically: if you can't tell me how often I get paid, I don't want to work for you, thanks). The gentleman who runs this company lives in the same city I do, and he's trustworthy. When he was starting the business, he found me through my website.

There are no more than 6 students in each class, so I get to have a very close relationship with them. We don't follow a curriculum: I design PowerPoint slides to suit the students' needs, and we use Skype to talk. The kids are in their own homes, so everything is very relaxed and informal.

The good parts are - of course - working from home (in my pyjamas with a cup of tea at hand) and getting excellent results because of the small classes and student-led learning. Learning and physical disabilities are easy to accommodate with this format.

The bad parts include the hours (I start classes at 4:30 a.m.) and not being able to use body language, etc. to communicate with the beginners. And if I get a teenager who is busy playing computer games rather than talking, there's not much I can do about it from this side of the world.

When hiring teachers, I've found that the ones who have a let's-have-a-conversation approach are more effective than the ones with a today-we'll-do-worksheets-on-prepositions approach. Certainly, you would have to be flexible, as students who choose online classes are often those who don't fit into a traditional class for one reason or another.

I really enjoy teaching online. Like anything else, it has its pros and cons, but it can be very effective if the student and teacher are willing to adapt to the medium.
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