Okay. So, you want an online, work from home job. You’ve looked through Part 1 of this post, and you think you’ll make a great online ESL teacher. Now you need to think about the formal qualifications, as well as the tech and equipment requirements necessary for the role. As mentioned in earlier posts, different companies have different requirements, so this list is neither exhaustive, nor accurate for every company – I’m just providing this list as an overview of the general requirements that will most likely be expected of you if you want to work from home as an online ESL teacher. Be sure to follow up with any individual companies you’re considering working for (blog post with a list of companies that hire Australians coming soon!), to find out their exact requirements.
I touched on this topic briefly in Part 1 of this post, but will lay it out in more detail below. As mentioned above, it’s important to note that qualification requirements can vary from company to company, and you should, of course, check individual company websites for their specific requirements. But here are the general expectations I’ve come across:
1. Formal Qualifications.
Most ESL companies offering work from home teaching roles that I have seen generally don’t require you to have a teaching degree. Most of the ones I have researched just require a degree in something (anything). I have also heard that some companies will be flexible with this requirement under certain circumstances (for example, if you’re in the final year of a degree). TESOL and TEFL qualifications are understandably also looked on favorably by many online ESL companies.**
** Update, DEC 2018: Online ESL teaching requirements are changing in China, and now you will generally need a TEFL or TESOL certificate and a criminal record check, in addition to having a degree and being a native English speaker. There are some great online, budget options for getting your TEFL or TESOL certificate, and I’ll be posting about these in early 2019.
2. Native English Speaker Status.
The vast majority of ESL companies offering work from home teaching roles that I have seen generally require that their teachers be native English speakers. Some restrict even further and only recruit from certain English-speaking countries. Apparently there are some companies that, under certain circumstances, will take individuals who are not native speakers, provided that they have a high level of English proficiency. Again, more details on company specifics regarding this in an upcoming blog post.
This is a key factor to consider before investing any more time and energy in pursuing an online ESL teaching role. What it basically can come down to for Australians is: Good internet speed is essential for online teaching, and internet speeds in Australia can be bad. Like, really bad. For DaDa, who I work for, the required internet speed is 10 mbps download speed and 2 mbps upload speed. Which doesn’t really seem like a big ask when you look at speeds available in other parts of the world. While it may vary for you depending on where you live in Australia and what provider you use, I personally had to wait almost a year for the NBN to be installed where I live before I could apply for my role with DaDa, because it was just not possible for me to get anywhere near the required upload speed at my address by any other means (and just for some context, I live in suburban Melbourne, in a suburb that has been well established for DECADES).
From my research back when I was first wanting to apply, it seemed that the required download speed was certainly attainable with some providers in Australia, but the 2mbps upload speed was just not possible for me to attain at my address in Australia without the NBN at that time (please do your own research on this of course, as it seems that things may have changed for the better on this front (see update below). If you’re not sure what your internet speed is you can test it: HERE. (Or just google an internet speed checker. There are heaps of them). Be sure to check it during peak evening/weekend hours as this is most likely when you’ll be teaching if you live in Australia. If you don’t have NBN yet, you can also check when the NBN might be coming to your address: HERE
While I’m not sure if all companies have the exact speed requirements that DaDa does, a stable internet connection is essential pretty much across the board for this type of job, so this is a big thing to be aware of when applying for an online teaching role.
*** UPDATE*** I was talking yesterday with a friend who lives in a bit of an internet dead zone in Victoria, and the NBN isn’t coming to her area until 2020. She told me that they’ve just gotten a dongle from one of the major internet providers and the speeds are pretty good – apparently over 2mbps upload, which blows my mind! I’ve got her running some peak hour tests for me, and will update here again when she gets back to me with the numbers. While you need wired internet for DaDa (I’m in the process of researching now if all companies require wired net, as I believe there MAY be some that are happy with stable wireless, and will write about it in a future post), it’s great to hear that it sounds like speeds have improved somewhat for non-NBN internet in Australia!
You will quite possibly already have all or most of the equipment you need to work from home doing online ESL teaching. Obviously, you need a computer with a webcam to teach online. I use a Dell laptop and the inbuilt camera quality has been fine for online teaching for me (you’ll be told during the interview process if your camera isn’t up to scratch), but I would guess if you have a fairly recent laptop that your inbuilt camera will probably be good enough and you won’t need to buy a separate one.
You will also need a headset with a microphone. If you don’t already have a headset and need to buy one, I’d recommend getting one with an in-line volume control/mute button (super handy to be able to mute your mic should you need to cough/sneeze, or you want to say a quick thanks to your hubby as he sneaks your forgotten water bottle in for you mid-class!). I use a Microsoft Lifechat headset which isn’t the cheapest you’ll find, but is worth the extra dollars, in my opinion, for the comfort and additional features (super long cable, USB connection, in-line controls, noise cancelling microphone, etc).
As mentioned above, DaDa expects their teachers to use wired internet. Which isn’t a problem, but laptops are so darn thin these days that many of them don’t even have a port for the chunky Ethernet cable. If, like I did, you find yourself with your laptop in one hand, your Ethernet cable in the other hand, and no way to connect the two, you need one of these: a simple USB adapter that’ll allow you to connect the Ethernet cable to a USB port on your laptop.
Oh, and speaking of USB ports and fancy, super slim laptops, most laptops obviously have limited USB ports, and if you add your headset and Ethernet connection to a wireless mouse USB, all of a sudden you’re running out of ports. You can get yourself a USB hub from Officeworks or Kmart. I spent $22 recently for a 7 port hub, upgrading from the smaller, 4 port one I got for about $12 a while back.
A laptop support stand is also useful, so you can get the camera angle right (so your student just sees you, and not half of your laptop keyboard too). I got this one from IKEA for about $9 and it does the job perfectly.
If you take up a career as an online ESL teacher, your collection of teaching props will grow, fast (and I say that as a former bricks and mortar teacher, who already had a zillion teaching props before I moved to online teaching!). Buying good props and decorating your classroom is actually a really fun part of teaching. There will definitely be a full blog post in the future about teaching props, but for now I’m just going to list what I consider the bare essentials that you’ll need to get started.
While (as I’ve mentioned about 87 times already 🙂 ) different companies have different expectations, DaDa likes you to have an educational backdrop in your classroom. Some teachers REALLY go all-out with this, but I’m a fan of less-is-more, as a too ‘busy’ background can distract/overwhelm some students. A good place to start with your background is a world map, an alphabet chart (or numbers/colours/shapes), and the DaDa logo (you’ll have access to this during the application process, or you can email me via my contact page and I’ll send you a copy if you’d like to look super awesome and organised and have the logo up in your classroom for your interview). You can find maps and educational charts at most news agents, and I also found a awesome pack of 5 or 6 educational posters at Kmart the other day for $5, so that’s an option too (Kmart is actually great for teaching props in general. The Reject Shop is great too).
In terms of other props to use during your lessons, the list of what can be and is useful is almost endless. But the following are what I consider the essentials:
- small whiteboard with eraser and some coloured whiteboard markers
- a star wand (for awarding stars to younger students)
- a set of flashcards (images, not words): colours/shapes/common items/emotions/etc
- some stickers
- a hand puppet
- a ‘lift-the-flap’ style book
Pretty much everything (except the book) can be found at your local Reject Shop for a few dollars each. While a lift-the-flap book will cost a little more and will probably require a trip to the bookshop, it’s really my secret weapon when doing trials with new students, particularly if they don’t have any English at all yet, so I totally recommend getting one before you start. I have a few different lift-the-flap books and most of them are about animals. Not only do most kids find the element of surprise with lift-the-flap books exciting/engaging, but even if students are absolute beginners with English, they still generally seem to know a few words like dog and cat, so this is a great starting point for lessons to warm the student up and get them engaged and speaking English before they even realise it!
While there’s always more I could say, I think the above is a pretty comprehensive guide to help you decide if pursuing an online ESL teaching role is a good idea for you, and also what you’ll need to get started. Feel free to put any questions in the comments section below or shoot me an email, and I’ll do my best to help you out (I had a million questions when I started!).
Happy job hunting,