When you’re starting out as an online English teacher one of the first things you need to do is get set up with the right tools and software. Using the right tools will make your lessons more effective and can even increase your earning potential.
If you’re working for an online company then everything you need will likely be provided. But for freelance teachers you’ll need to handle it all yourself. So, what video software should you use? How do you share files with students? And how do you receive payments?
There are so many different online tools and software for teachers to use it can be a bit overwhelming, which is why we’ve put together this list of 10 of the best. And they’re all FREE!
What it’s for: video conferencing
Zoom is perhaps one of the defining online tools of the coronavirus, used widely by families, friends and business to keep in touch. Since countries around the world went into lockdown, Zoom’s daily usage has gone up at least 300%!
It’s been popular with online English teachers for a long time. It’s fairly simple to set up a meeting, easily allows screensharing, and is free to use for up to 40 minutes – perfect for an online lesson.
What it’s for: video conferencing
Skype has been around for a while (since 2003, to be exact). It became so popular it entered our lexicon as a verb, with people referring to ‘skyping’ in place of video calling.
Zoom and Skype offer much the same in the way of features, but the main benefit of Skype is that your students are more likely to be familiar with it. TEFL Org tutor, Carl, who teaches English online, finds that most students have a preference for Skype but prefers to use Zoom himself. It’s a good idea to test both out and see which one best meets your needs.
What it’s for: sharing and collaborating on word documents
If you’re familiar with Microsoft Word then you’ll have no problem using Google Docs. The big difference is that Google Docs allows you to do (almost) everything you can do with Word but it’s web-based.
Collaboration is simple and easy and you can see the other person writing and editing in real-time. Teachers can create and share materials using it and paired with screensharing it can be a great tool for getting students to complete various exercises.
What it’s for: creating a wide range of visual content
Canva is a web-based graphic design platform that makes it as simple and straightforward as possible to create visual content. Whether you’re creating social media content to market yourself or teaching materials for your students, Canva has you covered.
Teachers can use Canva to create engaging material and resources such as flash cards, resources, presentations, ebooks, and more – there’s a huge range of possibilities for creative teachers. If you’re aiming to develop your own brand and stand out then the ability to design your own materials is very important and you can’t get more simple than Canva!
What it’s for: sending files
WeTransfer is a web-based file transfer service, which allows you to easily send larger files too big to send over email. All you need to do is upload your files and enter an email address – the recipient will then be sent a download link.
If you want to send large files or resources with your students, or if you have a large quantity of files to send, WeTransfer is ideal.
What it’s for: online tutoring platform, sharing content with students
Edmodo is a learning management system (LMS), which connects students and teachers just like a social network. It can be used to set assignments, share resources, test students, and track their progress.
If you’re keen to have everything in the one place for your students then an LMS like Edmodo may be the answer. The interface is nice and simple for both students and teachers and you can create your own virtual classroom with its range of tools.
What it’s for: sharing files between students and teachers
Another learning management system (LMS), Google Classroom offers much the same as Edmodo. But the integration of other Google services, such as Docs and YouTube, can be preferable for some teachers.
Google Classroom is easy to get started with but some teachers may find its interaction capabilities limited compared to other systems on the market.
What it’s for: helping you schedule classes
When you’re teaching online you might be working for a number of different online companies while growing your own business. This means keeping on top of your schedule and being able to indicate to clients when you’re free is essential, and this is where Calendly comes in.
With Calendly you can add all your classes to one calendar, which can be shared with others and even added to your website. This means no back-and-forth with students booking classes, they can easily see when you’re free!
What it’s for: saving and sharing files
Dropbox offers cloud storage, which means you can back up your materials and easily share them with others. A free account will give you 2GB of storage, but upgrading to their £7.99 per month plan will give you a huge 2TB.
Backing up your teaching materials is really important and cloud storage is the safest way to do this. You can also create folders that can be accessed by others when provided with a link, so you can easily share materials with students.
What it’s for: receiving payments
Whether you’re working for an online employer or for yourself, the likelihood is you’ll be using PayPal to receive payments. It’s the most popular option for sending and receiving money online and one your students are most likely to be familiar with.
If receiving money from outside of your country PayPal will charge a small transaction fee, so it’s important to take this into account.
Find out everything you need to know about teaching English online with our Definitive Guide.