Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Virtual English Teaching can Help you Become a Digital Nomad


Using Virtual Teaching English to be a Digital Nomad

The term digital nomad seems to be a new one that is growing in popularity. Digital Nomads are able to move anywhere in the world and still continue to make a living as long as they have a decent internet connection.  Although, this lifestyle is not available for everyone, it has it's benefits for those with the needed skill sets.
Unfortunately, not everyone can design websites or work as a consultant in order to become location independent, but there are other options that make it worth the time to evaluate one's options.  If you've ever dreamed of experiencing the life of a Digital Nomad, and have a strong hold on English then perhaps its time to look into a career of Virtually Teaching English!

Virtual Teaching - What is it?

Virtual teaching may sound futuristic or non-existent outside the realm of TV, movies, and self-help books, but it's not! Virtual Teaching is alive and thriving.
Virtual teaching is the practice of instructing a student or students via the internet. The practice of virtual teaching can be participated in through email, chat, internet phone and webcam so that person-to-person contact never has to take place. What this means is that the teacher and student never have to be in the same room, same timezone, or even the same country to work together!
It might sound impersonal to the traditional mind, but with present technology and good teaching practices, standard relationships between teacher and student can be met through virtual teaching.  Virtual teaching also offers a form of adaptability that tends to not be offered in standard teaching environments, and with our lives becoming faster-paces and more varied, this adaptability is a blessing.

Virtual Teaching English to be a Digital Nomad

Virtual Teaching English to a Korean student.
Virtual Teaching English to a Korean student.

Does Virtual Teaching English work?

Virtual Teaching English does work, and because of virtual teachings flexibility it might be one of the few chances some people get to practice and interact with a Native English speaker at convenient places and during convenient times.
You will find that many virtual students have an intense desire to speak the English language, but simply cannot afford to travel and spend time in an English speaking country.  These students may not have the money necessary to live in English speaking countries, they might not have the time, or they may have obligations that are keeping them at home.  Another common situation is that virtual students simply just have a schedule that conflicts with the teaching schedule at a local English language school.
Virtual teaching English provides the virtual student with the means and method to practice the English language with someone who can truly guide them in their studies.  The benefits of hearing a Native English speaker helps to shape their pronunciation, accent, and conversational skills to a level that is rarely achieved otherwise, and tends to be lacking in traditional teaching surroundings. Think about it, in your high school Spanish/French class, was your teacher a native speaker?  Never hearing a native speaker can make communicating difficult, even if someone can read and write the language perfectly.


When teaching English virtually, the main teaching English materials you will need are books: English exercise books, English teaching books, English grammar books and a good dictionary.  If your students all tend to have the same native language, then it wouldn't hurt to have English/Foreign Language dictionary on hand as well to help explain.



Virtual Teaching English Qualifications

Although being a native English speaker is normally a requirement for teaching English online, it's not the only requirement to teach English online. In order to be a reputable virtual teacher, you will need some virtual teaching qualifications, which can be a teaching degree from university, a TEFL or TESL certificate, or plain old hands-on experience.
1) Teaching Degree - A teaching degree is an excellent qualification for virtual teaching English. A teaching degree shows that a virtual teacher has the tried and true skills to provide a proper learning environment for a student. However, I must say that virtual teaching should not be someone's only goal out of getting a teaching degree, but this qualification can help you achieve a better reputation and higher pay for your virtual teaching services.
2) TEFL or TESL Certificate - A TEFL or TESL certificate shows that a virtual teacher has undergone intensive training solely for the purpose of being able to teach English to a foreigner, or to to people as a second language.  TEFL stands for Teaching English as a Foreign Language and TESL stand for Teaching English as a Second Language.
3) Hands-On Teaching Experience - If you generally have acquired hands-on English tutoring and teaching experience, this can help to build your reputation as a virtual English teacher. If you find that getting virtual students is difficult, or keeping them even harder, it is maybe a good idea to volunteer tutor and teach for a short time to build up teaching skills and help to promote yourself as a qualified teacher. References from these students help, too!
Teaching English Material
The good thing about English exercise books when virtual teaching is that you can scan them and send the digital copy to the student to work from meaning you will only have to purchase the one book to reuse over and over again. This lessens the cost to the virtual student making you look better than standard classes.
As for the English grammar books and dictionary - get comfortable with them! You will be bombarded with questions about the English language that you have never thought twice about in the past. You will start to see comparisons between languages and interesting word derivations that pass the native speaker's mind so easily. Teaching English is an interesting job! 

Finding Virtual English Students

There are a few ways to find virtual English students to fulfill your schedule and career as a virtual teacher. If you are a true Digital Nomad and traveling from location to location, then it is a wise idea to look for students interested in this kind of teaching in the various locations you stop over at around the world.  If you ever have a hands-on teaching job and love your students, you can try to recruit them to your team.
Besides first-hand recruitment, you can try online resources.  EduFire is a website focused on placing virtual teachers and students together.  Leaving advertisements on global websites such as Gumtree and Craigslist is another route to invest some time in.  Fiverr also has a host of tutors already available for tutoring sessions.  

Venues for Virtual Teaching English

Virtual Teaching English can be as small as editing an English paper via email, or as large as providing thorough video lessons with homework.  The type of tutoring a virtual student is requesting will decide the venue you need for a lesson.
  • For basic paper and writing assessments, email and possibly an online messaging/chat feature is useful.
  • For basic conversation lessons, and internet phone call through Skype is standard.
  • For conversation and pronunciation and/or reading practice, a video call through Skype is beneficial.
  • For extensive lessons with grammar involved, I would suggest trying EduFire in order to use their built-in software with whiteboard features to teach an effective lesson.
Watch the above video to get a general feeling for a standard Skype lesson.


Best Practices in Virtual Teaching English

  • Use a combination of audio, video, chat and email to cross all bases when virtual teaching English.  If you are on an internet phone call and cannot understand what the virtual student wants to say, have him/her type the answer through a chat feature.  If you are on a video call and it is too hard to demonstrate the proper formation of your words, send a picture.  Skype is a great tool for a digital nomad attempting to virtual teach English.
  • Make sure your computer and equipment meets basic requirements so your classes can run smoothly.
  • Sit in a quiet place without distractions.  Since it is harder to gain a student's attention when you are not sitting person-to-person, you will need to devote all your attention to the virtual student.  Make them feel important, and they will respect you more!
  • Be on time for your lessons, and make yourself look presentable.  Just because you are not with them person-to-person does not mean that your appearance doesn't still count
    !

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