As an educator, the explosion in online education has more than likely changed the way you look at your profession — definitely, in a positive way. More people are using the internet to take both college classes and general education classes than ever before. While teaching online is exciting and can allow you to work from home, one aspect of the process can be a little nerve-wracking — working with international students. Why? Because of their diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds. Teaching internationally comes with its own pros and cons. Though eLearning has boosted teaching opportunities for instructors around the world, you must be able to understand the array of cultures and differences between them while also adopting the strategies to address diverse needs of students. It becomes more important when you teach from a remote location or in a virtual environment.
Here’s what you need to keep in mind, if you’re considering teaching internationally:
1. Know your audience
When you are working with international students, your audience might behave slightly different than local students in your country would. Do YOUR homework. Learn about these students. Is English their first language, or will you have any communication barriers? Should you be aware of any technology or social considerations? For instance, in the United States, Facebook is hugely popular, yet, it is banned in mainland China and barely known in many other countries. At the same time, you need to figure out how to be more approachable so that you can best serve your students.
Here are few ways to know about your audience:
- Start with researching the locales in which you will teach. Study their culture.
- Visit popular social websites in their countries.
- And perhaps even checking out popular television programs can help you feel more comfortable when interacting with your students.
Then, make a list of good resources for use within your subject area. This makes it easier to work with your students, no matter what subject you teach.
2. Technology is vital
When you teach internationally, you are more reliant on technology than you are when instructing in person. Plus, teaching in a virtual setting is quite different from teaching face-to-face. Not because the former is less effective or the latter is more beneficial. It’s just that both the techniques are different from each other. So, when you teach online, finding the right technology platform is vital. You will need to be extremely comfortable using this platform.
Keep these in mind when making a selection:
- Spend time researching on various available teaching platforms, features they offer, specific needs you have, ease-of-use and of course, pricing.
- Once you shortlist a teaching platform, learn how to use it on your own and take advantage of any tutorials or guidance the program provides. It may take a little effort, but the results are well worth it.
3. Courses may be different from what you think
When you teach in a traditional setting, you may be limited to the classes you teach and syllabus you cover. However, when teaching online (and particularly when you have a worldwide audience), you will need to dive deep into the syllabi prescribed in their respective countries. This is when you’re teaching school or college subjects. The courses with the same subject might cover different syllabus in different countries. Researching online can help know what customizations you need to make in your course to address diverse needs of your audience.
Apart from this, online teaching gives you the opportunities to break away from the conventions and teach what you are good at. You can connect with people in a new way. You can teach anything right from art and fashion to weight loss, coding, management or even baby care. This way you won’t be restricted to just school or college goers. You can expand your audience-base easily once you have earned some reputation in your niche. Take time to discover what people want to learn and build your course list.
4. Finding students takes time
Rome wasn’t built in a day. This may be a cliché, but it applies when building an online education business. You might not have students on board as soon as you launch your course unless you already have an existing student base. If you’re new to this business, you may have a short time during which you are building your client list. Have patience and work on getting your coursework up to par and perhaps start developing a follow-up class, if that is something you see for yourself. Here’s what you can do to find students to teach online. Also, promote your course on social media. Follow these tips:
- Generate buzz and build excitement about your online course. Share links on social channels.
- Offer free trial classes to your audience and give them a chance to know about you and your teaching style.
- Create hashtags for your online classes and start conversations around them on Twitter and Pinterest.
- Use your blog to build interest in your online classes.
- Spread the word of mouth across your network and seek help from friends and relatives.
5. Mind the time zones when creating content calendar
As an international teacher, you collaborate with students from around the world. You will likely get emails and messages 24 hours a day, seven days a week. You might go on vacation, but you won’t be able to escape the needs of your students. It may be overwhelming for you, especially in the beginning. Short turnaround time definitely works in favor. If you wind up with too much work to handle and can’t get to all the questions right away, make sure you have a backup plan in place. Your spouse may help in answering queries from your prospects.
Teaching internationally doesn’t only mean having a teaching job
Now that you have reviewed a few of the most common considerations and concerns, hopefully, you have a better understanding of what teaching internationally is like. Apart from this, I want to draw your attention to an important point here. Teaching from a remote location doesn’t mean that you have to work as an adjunct faculty or associate with some academic organization. You can start on your own and become your own boss. But you must remember that as an online instructor, you are more than just a teacher; you are also a small business owner. You gain the benefit of working from home, but you also own a business. And you will have to put in the thought, effort and time just as any small business owner would.
Running your business may take some time and effort. You may need to enlist the effort of friends and loved ones. In some cases, you may feel a bit overwhelmed by the process. However, once you kick off, you will be well rewarded, not only financially, but also emotionally. After all, nothing is better than operating your own business.
While you have a lot to think about, I hope the potential challenges listed here haven’t deterred you from your dreams of teaching students from all over the world. It’s all about being resolved to pursue your dreams and making them come true. Remember, teachers are the world’s most valuable resources. Every day you work, you are helping students from around the world achieve their dreams.