What does every online teacher need to have and maintain to build a successful career and/or business? It varies by field, but what it all comes down to in the end is a willingness to invest in learning modern tech tools and staying current on trends as they develop.
Here, we have six concepts that every online teacher needs in order to survive. We call this the ‘online teaching survival kit,’ and it is meant to set digital nomad teachers up for success.
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 1: A Willingness To Read – A Lot!
Part of staying on top of your career, whether you are out traveling or at home, is staying current on trends and developments in your field. The best way to do this is through regular reading of industry blogs, magazines, and newspapers with strong education coverage (The New York Times and The BBC are two great places to start).
As far as blogs go, I recommend starting here and finding one or two that resonate with you. Staying ahead involves being informed – this one’s all on you!
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 2: Ethernet Cable and WiFi Hotspot
If you plan to travel frequently while teaching online, dependable internet is going to be your best friend. Teaching is tough to do in crowded coffee shops. You’ll want to research internet options for each location prior to arrival.
Websites such as Hotels.com display whether or not a hotel or hostel has WiFi, but emailing or calling the place you hope to stay at to ask about WiFi is advised.
I’ve heard tell of digital nomads calling and asking the staff to email a photo of the WiFi speed. In extreme circumstances, such as remote locations or areas where it is tough to find information on WiFi speeds online, this isn’t a bad idea. At the very least, the hotel can email you the analytics.
Just in case, bring an Ethernet cable with you and sign up your phono/device as a WiFi hotspot if possible (this can prove to be tough when crossing borders frequently).
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 3: Current Equipment and Software
No matter what you teach online, certain software and accessories will be required. Perhaps you’ll use Zoom for live instruction, Twiducate for communication, and Teacher Kit for tracking grades. Maybe you teach via Skype, or use one or more of Google’s tools. Teacher Indie published this article on teacher tools with the best apps and software to help keep organized, store docs and information, and manage your students and workload.
Accessories to consider are a strong microphone, headphones, extra laptop battery, and a briefcase or bag to store everything together in the same place. When traveling and working simultaneously, having your work gear kept neatly together will save immense time and frustration in the long run.
I always encourage new online teachers to take a look at what others in their field are doing. By looking at their website or class structure, can you determine what software and gadgets they’re using?
As far as which computer to use, the best laptop for travel is a MacBook. The MacBook Pro is powerful and small enough to fit in any backpack or carry-on bag without causing issues. Investing in a current laptop and teaching software will pay itself off tenfold with time.
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 4: Online Calendar and Team Management Tool
Forming and keeping a work routine on the road is a challenge. It is absolutely imperative that online teachers use scheduling, task management, and/or calendar software to keep organized.
Even when traveling, many find it helpful to work at the same time each day, or at least find a set order for getting things done. Obviously, you have to stick to a schedule for lessons and classes – but when will you take care of grading, lesson planning, and other duties?
We use both Google Calendar and Asana here at Teacher Indie and Live Lingua. Google Calendar is a basic online calendar that allows users to schedule their day down to the minute.
Asana is a team management tool that allows users to assign tasks to themselves and team members, leave notes, manage multiple projects (or in your case, classes), and mark tasks as completed once they are finished. A few optimization hints:
- Create a separate ‘Project’ for each class. Each will then have a separate calendar. Mark important dates, assignments, and deadlines.
- If you manage a team or have coworkers, assign and track each other’s tasks. Leave notes and comments, and send a task to a boss/coworker once you’ve completed it.
- Asana is a great way to lay out goals and tasks and hold yourself accountable for actually getting them done. Believe me –you’ll get an email when you miss a deadline!
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 5: A Good Website and Social Channels
Teaching online, like any entrepreneurial venture, takes a lot of marketing. Having a good website is step one.
Explain who you are, what you’re offering, and make it easy for visitors to get ahold of you to ask questions or sign up. Also, simple things like hi-res photos and an eye-friendly layout make a big difference.
On your social media channels, keep them consistent and professional. They should be a true representation of who you are. This article goes into depth on optimizing social media for online teachers.
Online Teaching Survival Kit Item 6: A Way To Get Paid!
How are you going to bill and accept payment from students? This is as important as anything. Start with a PayPal account. PayPal offers an invoicing service, but an accounting/books management service such as QuickBooks is a great addition. Track what each student owes and easily sending invoices on the same day each month. Students pay directly through the service if they wish, though there is a fee taken on your end. The service also tracks your cash flow and allows you to mark expenses and other line items that make tax time much less stressful.
Hopefully, you’ve already grasped specifics surrounding your area of expertise. For those transitioning into online teaching from the classroom, many of the tools and tricks you’ve learned to love over the years have been adapted for the digital realm. This website discusses a number of them – have a look around!