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Technology Tips for Online ESL Teachers

written by: Leyla Norman • edited by: Linda M. Rhinehart Neas • updated: 9/11/2012

New to teaching ESL classes online? Explore how to handle echoes that may occur, as well as time management tips for structuring your lessons in a short but fast-moving time period.

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    Teaching English in another country is an adventurous and satisfying way to see the world and share your love of teaching. When you return home, however, you can still teach English to people around the world, online. This allows you the flexibility to choose your own hours, work as much or as little as you want, and to work from home. Classroom ESL teachers will find, however, that managing the online environment may require some getting used to.

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    Controlling The Echo

    105px-Headset icon svg Classes are small, usually between 1 and 6 students, but the use of technology to facilitate the lessons means that the teacher has to understand how to troubleshoot problems that arise. One problem that seems to plague online tutoring sessions in particular is the echo. Various tutoring platforms and tutoring companies’ information technology technicians have different ways of handling echoes. However, the teacher can take a few general steps to help eliminate the problem.

    Echoes happen when the teacher’s voice goes out through cyber space, is heard through students’ speakers, is picked up by their microphones, and comes back through cyber space to the teacher’s speakers and ears. So, basically you hear yourself twice when you speak, and so do the students. This can really slow a lesson down.

    Most tutoring software platforms give the teacher the ability to turn off a particular student’s ability to speak. Identify the student who is causing the echo, and turn off that student’s ability to speak. Do not turn it on until you are finished talking. Another option is to ask the student to use a headset and not external speakers, as these contribute to the problem, or to move the external speakers away from the microphone.

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    Time Management

    The teacher also must deftly maneuver speaking, reading, writing and listening practice with teaching time that often lasts only 45 minutes to an hour with each group of students.

    Move in a particular pattern of asking each student to practice a particular exercise. Say the student’s name who you want to answer a question before you turn on her ability to speak. This allows the student time to prepare, and she knows that you are speaking to her. When you ask students to answer questions in a particular pattern, it provides consistency and predictability that are important in a classroom where body language communication is non-existent.

    Work through less important slides more quickly than ones that require a lot of reading or explanation. Stick to the discussion questions that relate to the topic, and make sure everyone has equal time to speak and answer questions.

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    Teaching English online takes some practice and a lot of trial and error learning. Start with understanding some of the common technical and time management issues that face teachers in order to build a solid foundation for becoming a confident online ESL teacher.