Teaching English Online - How It Works

What’s this “online English teaching” stuff all about?!

What’s this “online English teaching” stuff all about?!

For many people, the thought of teaching ESL (English as a second language) online is an entirely new concept.  Many people are surprised that there is a rapidly growing industry that connects students in non-native speaking countries to qualified English teachers from all over the world.

For others, teaching English online comes as no surprise; it is inevitable given the breakneck pace of globalization.

Either way, teaching English online is a legitimate profession employing thousands and thousands of people from across the globe.


How does it work?

Most companies who offer online ESL classes do so through a platform that features a video and audio feed from both the student and the teacher. The class also features a screen showing slides of the class material.  Think of it as a Skype call with a Powerpoint presentation as the focal point.

Some companies even offer interactive slides that allow students to draw, write, move words around, connect shapes and colors, and even play songs and animations.

What are the classes like?

Classes are usually between 25 and 50 minutes and feature a variety of elements depending on the student’s ability.  Classes may include songs, stories, vocabulary, sentence patterns, dialogue, pronunciation exercises, and grammar activities.

Most companies (like VIPKID and Gogokid) offer one-on-one classes; however, a few have small, group classes (SayABC).  The group classes usually have a maximum of four students per teacher.


Who can teach English online? What are the requirements?

Just about anybody who can speak English fluently can teach English online. 

Some companies (like Gogokid, VIPKID) have stricter regulations and require teachers to be from a native-speaking country, and to have a university degree.

And some companies, such as SayABC, will actually hire people who are in the final year of their degree.

Other companies, such as Palfish, require nothing other than the teacher be a fluent English speaker.


Save on prep time.

Save on prep time.

Do I have to prepare lessons?

One of the great things about teaching English online is that there is very little class preparation.  Each company has its own curriculum. Teachers simply teach the lesson that is on their screen when they enter the classroom. 

While we always recommend reviewing your class material before teaching, you do not have to spend countless hours preparing the lesson objectives, collecting support materials, or designing worksheets and activities like you might in a traditional classroom.


You have to be animated and energetic when teaching online.

You have to be animated and energetic when teaching online.

How is teaching online different from teaching in the classroom?

One of the major aspects of teaching online is TPR, or total physical response.  This is a method of language learning developed by Dr. James J. Asher that coordinates language and physical movement. 

 For example, you might be teaching the word “hello” and you would emphatically couple this with an exaggerated hand wave.  You would then get the student to model the action and repeat the word after you.

Or you might be trying to teach the expression “How are you?” You could do this by shrugging your shoulders and pointing in a friendly manner towards the student.

This approach to learning is modeled after the way infants acquire language from their parents.

While this is an important technique in any language learning environment, it is even more important in the virtual classroom. This is because it can be more difficult to build rapport and establish an emotional connection.


Can I set my own schedule?

You sure can!  Most companies, like Gogokid and VIPKID, let you completely set your own schedule and require no minimum number of hours. 

The companies that do require a minimum number of hours generally offer upsides such as guaranteed bookings or generous bonuses for converting trial students.

Teach from pretty much anywhere. (Ok, maybe not outside in the street).

Teach from pretty much anywhere. (Ok, maybe not outside in the street).

Can I work from anywhere?

Absolutely!  We know many successful online English teachers who travel the world and teach in their spare time. They love teaching and travelling and have combined the two for a very enjoyable lifestyle.

You only need a stable internet connection and your enthusiasm for teaching.

How much can I get paid?

There is a wide range of salaries for people teaching English online.  On the lower end, some companies only offer approximately $10 USD per hour. 

However, the companies we recommend offer anywhere from $21 to $26 USD per hour.

And if you are a great teacher and convince a trial student to register with the company you work for, you can earn even more!


Make sure your headset has a built in microphone!

Make sure your headset has a built in microphone!

What are the technical requirements for teaching English online?

You don’t need much to get started teaching English online.  At the very minimum, you need:

You can test your internet speed here.


“I think I might enjoy teaching English online.”

If you think teaching English online might be right for you, please check out our list of recommended companies

We currently work for, or have worked for these companies and recommend them with confidence.

If you have any questions about teaching online, please leave a comment below or e-mail us. We would love to help you out!