If you have been at this whole online teaching thing a while, I am sure you have come across one or two of these challenges. If not, you are a lucky teacher! However, it is better to be prepared than underprepared. I’d like to share some of my challenges and how I have overcome them. Some information has also been gathered from other teachers and articles.
This is a very personal one for me and a very sensitive topic. You see, I am South African and if you follow international news closely you will know the power struggles South Africans face daily. However, although I do not have control over when and where or how long these blackouts occur for I must remember that it is my responsibility to keep the show going on, this affects the student, the schools’ profit and my own pocket. Unfortunately, not all people are understanding.
Never be left in the dark again! The solution is simple. Make sure you invest in a good uninterrupted power supply also known as a UPS that can sustain your internet/router, laptop and other devices you might need for teaching.
Remember that the more devices you plug into your UPS for power the shorter it will last. You want to ensure you UPS lasts until the power comes back on.
If you know your country or area suffers from power loss ensure that:
- Your UPS is always on charge so that there is a seamless switch over.
- Your router/internet is always plugged into your UPS and UPS into your wall socket this way when your electricity goes off your internet stays on without the connection dropping.
- Your laptop is fully charged, always.
- External tablets are charged.
- Your phone is charged in case your laptop dies and you need to fall back onto Skype.
You can also invest in an external battery/spare battery for your laptop so that you are prepared for if your UPS runs out of juice. Some even use an old laptop and always keep it charged.
Today we also have new LTE routers which have a rechargeable battery which allows your router/internet to operate on battery until the electricity comes back on.
If your classes are in the evening also make sure that you have LED lights which are also rechargeable. Some are permanently plugged in and switch on automatically when there is a power surge or cut.
- Internet Disconnection
In most cases, it is very unlikely that your connection will drop but as we all know, it sometimes does happen. There is nothing as terrible as your internet connection dropping midway through a class. It’s important to have a back up in place to save face.
Remember that a wired connection is more stable and reliable and absolutely preferable.
I have a spare LTE router with a sim card should my wired DSL or Fibre connection disconnect.
I purchase a big data bundle once a year that I know will last in case of emergencies. 10 gig is about enough in case of emergencies. Ensure that you have turned off all downloads to save on data. Remember that before you purchase a data bundle from a LTE service provider that you, in fact, do have proper service in your area that has a strong signal.
Should your data ever run out, your cellphone can also act as a LTE router when you turn on your hot spot. You can plug your cellphone directly into your computer or use the hotspot which is similar to wifi but the connection could be slower. You also get a USB dongle which contains a sim card just like your LTE router or cellphone but the only difference is that the USB dongle plugs directly into your laptop. You can also invest in a little MiFi router as a back up which operates on a rechargeable battery.
Always have alternative communication options available on your phone or spare tablet. When you are experiencing equipment failure let your students know in advance just in case your plan B or C does not work out. I have Skype, Telegram, Yandex Mail, Viber, Skyeng App, and WhatsApp to communicate with my students and managers in case of emergency.
If you do live in an area which has frequent power failures I would advise you to play open cards with your manager and inform them of your back up plans that you have in place in case you need their support.
- The Dreaded Cancellations
It’s not uncommon for adults and business professionals to have last minute meetings and unexpected situations which result in a lesson cancellation. It’s not the most convenient for the teacher, in fact in most cases it can lead to financial loss and loss of motivation from your students’ side too. There are many reasons why students’ cancel their lessons but how we deal with this from the get-go is important.
At your first lesson after you have broken the ice, remember to have an open and friendly discussion with your student regarding the school’s cancellation policy.
I do this in a very particular way to make the student feel super special.
My favourite line is: Help me and I help you.
“I know that the unexpected happens, life happens, what can we do? I know your work /studies must be very demanding. If you ever need to cancel, please write to me before canceling through your private cabinet on vimbox or manager since if you make a last minute cancellation you will be charged, but if you let me know I will try and help you save that fee by rescheduling your lesson to another time which is more convenient for you and I. This way you save money and I look great on my stats. Cancellations never look good on a teacher.”
Believe it or not, but when it comes to saving money, you will see your students thanking you.
My cancellations are super low and I try to be as accommodating and flexible as possible for my students. I do however advise them that this option should not be taken advantage of and if this does happen my hands will be tied with saving them their lesson balance.
I really push reschedule reschedule reschedule as much as I possibly can.
- Vacation time.
Adults earn money, money = more vacation time. This means lesson $$ for us. Does your student take frequent business trips or vacation? We know that having a regular student who takes leave frequently really impacts our schedule and income.
Discuss your students’ intensity. Should your student take frequent time away from classes try to double up on lessons before they take a leave? Offer 100-minute lessons instead of 50-minute lessons.
Remind them that the longer their breaks are between lessons the harder it will be to reach their language goals. These goals need to be realistic.
When working online we should always expect the unexpected. The more resources and back up plans you have the better. Do as much research as you can. Communicate with your colleagues, what are their back up plans? How do they cope with problems and what are their solutions? Don’t worry, you can do it! We don’t go to war without our weapons do we?
Want more information on some common challenges online teachers face? Check out my favorite article here.
Any problems you had to overcome? Drop your solutions below!