10 Rules of Etiquette for Teaching English OnlineBy Krzl Light Nuñes
December 28, 2020
Whether it’s from your living room couch or a café abroad, teaching English online allows you to work where you’re most comfy. But regardless of the setting, this flexible job requires you to create an ideal virtual learning atmosphere and also appear professional by following certain rules of etiquette for teaching online. Wondering what the rules are? We bring you the top 10 online etiquette (or “netiquette”) guidelines for the virtual ESL classroom.
Why is etiquette for teaching English online important?
With the ever-changing nature of technology and the Internet, teaching online has made it easier for English teachers to interact with learners in cyberspace, no matter which country, age group, or walk of life they’re from.
Much like in a real classroom, however, an online classroom is also a formal learning environment where appropriate conduct and effective communication should be observed. With this, rules of netiquette – a term coined from combining Internet and etiquette – for teachers were created. These unwritten dos and don’ts for interacting and behaving properly in a virtual class are key to providing a meaningful experience to learners.
Here’s why these guidelines for online ESL teachers are essential:
Following proper etiquette for teaching online sets a good example for students
Learners have varying notions of how they should behave and express themselves during an online English lesson. For instance, they often wonder, “What should I wear to a virtual class?” or “What topics can I talk about?”
As a virtual ESL teacher, you take on a leadership role, so this is your chance to show them, by example, what professional and respectful behavior and dress is like online, especially to younger students.
Online etiquette helps your class run smoothly
Are you hoping to prevent major issues in your online English lessons, such as misbehaving students, misunderstanding, and distractions in the background? It all starts by knowing what to do and not to do, particularly when it comes to conveying your message and moderating a class.
Moreover, showing the right attitude and being mindful about the topics and activities to incorporate into your lessons are both crucial for attracting students and keeping them engaged. The result of this is a class that is active, productive, and full of respect.
Observing proper netiquette makes students more comfortable
It’s not uncommon for online ESL students to hesitate or lose their confidence in class because they worry about not being listened to or receiving questions about uncomfortable subjects. However, by following guidelines on how to act or what to discuss in class, you can make students feel more at ease when they talk with you and their classmates.
It debunks online English teaching myths
Not being able to build rapport with learners, having less participation in the virtual classroom, and delivering lessons of lower quality are just some of the myths about teaching English online. There’s no better way to prove that these are mere misconceptions than by showing proper online teaching etiquette towards your students.
10 Netiquette rules for teaching English online
Now that you know the importance of online teaching etiquette, let’s look at the most important netiquette guidelines that can help take your classes’ professionalism and quality up a notch.
1. Dress and present yourself appropriately
While it’s tempting to fall into a uniform of PJs and sweatpants when you’re working from home, proper online teaching etiquette means you should instead look presentable and professional onscreen.
As a rule of thumb, dressing for success as an online English teacher depends on the type of student you’re teaching:
2. Use appropriate body language
Your facial expression, gestures, posture, and even tone of voice also matter when it comes to getting your message across while teaching English online. They can either motivate or discourage your learners and can make you look interested or disengaged in class.
Here are some pointers for using non-verbal communication more effectively in your virtual class:
The audio quality in online classes varies a lot depending on your Internet connection and your students’, your devices, and even the room you’re in. In the worst-case scenario, your students may not hear you well.
To avoid the problem of being misheard or misunderstood while teaching online, make sure to pronounce the words you’re saying clearly. This is also important because most English learners learn vocabulary from you and try to copy the way you speak in class.
4. Create an engaging teaching background
Though you’re teaching English in front of a computer, you can still offer classes in an appealing and professional-looking online classroom by creating a teaching backdrop. While it’s not necessary to embellish that space behind you with a lot of trinkets or fancy décor, it should look, at the very least, organized, relevant to what you’re teaching, and distraction-free.
5. Eliminate background noise
In addition to putting up the appropriate teaching backdrop, you should also keep your students focused while in your online class by teaching in a quiet location. Traffic sounds or people chattering in the background can make students lose their concentration when they’re speaking or listening to you.
6. Be punctual
Whether you are an independent online tutor working for yourself or you work with an established company, being on time shows students that you’re responsible and professional, which are important traits as an online ESL teacher. Being on time can also lead to positive reviews by students and their parents, which can lead to more bookings or even financial bonuses.
7. Carefully consider your words and avoid sarcasm
As your students come from different backgrounds, they may have different takes on what’s funny and what isn’t. Perhaps what seems like an obvious joke to you could be taken the wrong way by another person in the online class. With this in mind, it’s important to be mindful of using sarcasm and humor in class.
Especially when your learners are new, make sure to choose the words you use in class. Lean towards being polite and direct when you respond to a student or make a comment during a discussion.
8. Consider cultural differences and taboo topics
As an online English teacher, you’ll likely teach students from various regions, which is why you should be aware of their culture and know the themes they deem sensitive. For instance, in certain countries, people may not be open to talking about their age. Even if other participants in your online class may be OK about discussing this subject, it’s best to avoid it altogether along with other taboo topics, such as:
9. Address student distractions
From family members popping up in the background to a student suddenly disappearing to do household chores, various situations could surprise you in the middle of your online English class. In order to deal with these challenges, you have to be prepared and know how to handle every kind of disruption that comes your way.
10. Establish a reasonable response time for answering student messages
Even though helping students outside class hours is a way to build rapport with them, it doesn’t mean that you’re at their disposal 24/7. Make a point to clarify when you can be reached (such as within certain office hours) and how long they can expect you to take to answer their text messages or calls. Additionally, let them know in advance if you’re planning to go on a vacation or take a day off.
Interaction in an online English classroom may be different from in a physical one, but this environment still grants teachers the opportunity to connect with students, provide a forum to express their thoughts, and most importantly, teach them in the most effective way possible. By following the online teaching etiquette (or “netiquette”) rules above, you can establish an engaging, respectful, and moderated virtual English class environment that your students will appreciate.