Something I’ve been meaning to write about, but felt hesitant is the topic of online teaching. More specifically, with italki. During my hunt of finding a teaching platform, I discovered italki and reluctantly decided to give it a try (*at this point my hunt was not going well).
The online application to be a teacher was fairly simple. The most time consuming aspect was making an introduction video. My first one was terrible and I ended up recording another video…..months later. Gotta get the students first, right? Anyway, my application was rejected the first time all because I added a NUMBER in my username. Such a trivial reason! So I started the process again, only to realize that I qualified as a Professional Teacher, not a Community Teacher (I have a TEFL certificate along with BA & MA degrees). Changing that took some more time.
I will also mention that editing your profile is bit of a headache. I suggest you prepare a list with an order before you start typing- if you change your mind, you’ll have to delete everything and type again. Also, your intros must be approved by an admin that usually takes around 24 hours. Like I said, time consuming.
Considering my transit lifestyle these past few months, italki was my saving grace. I loved the flexibility I had to create my own curriculum, set my own prices, and overall, work anywhere.
Let me get some thoughts out about it though:
a. The platform has not integrated a five minute window between lessons- this means that you might have one lesson after the other (11-12, 12-1, 1-2, etc). I personally messaged my students along the lines of: “I have a lesson that ends right when ours is set to begin. If we begin 1-2 minutes late, we will end accordingly. Thank you.” Not a big deal, but as I had 3-4 consecutive lessons at times, it got tiring.
b. Students can leave you feedback & internet issues: It is obvious that online teaching is directly related to a strong internet connection. Sometimes before/during lessons, there would be some internet problems. I would always check my connection and run a speed test to make sure the problem wasn’t me. Normally I’d have students do the same and 90% of the time the problem was Skype. We would then switch to a different platform such as Google Hangouts or Zoom. I had this incident with a student who kept insisting that the internet problem was my fault. I apologized ( though it wasn’t anything on my end) and suggested we use a different platform, but the student ended the lesson. He left me a review telling me to upgrade my connection. While student feedback is great, it is more crucial than ratings because the reality is that 99% of italki teachers have 5 star ratings. In that case, potential students are drawn more towards the comments.
c. Students can leave you feedback: As I stated before, it is great that students can leave feedback. However, this feature is optional for students but mandatory for teachers (the lesson marks itself as completed after 7 days). I had daily lessons with a few students and to be honest, after a period, there is no need for a review (how much more can you say?). I sent them detailed comments via our speaking platform after the lesson anyway, so the italki feedback seemed pointless.
I truly think that this is the best online teaching site I have worked with so far. The points I listed are not really problematic, but only minor things to consider. That being said, if you want to teach on italki, I recommend:
a. Participate in the italki community by correcting other students’ journal entries. That will get you points (so that if you have questions in the language you’re learning, you will also receive help) and give your teaching profile exposure.
b. Write an article.
c. If you want to be paid accordingly, give yourself ample time to withdraw.
d. I worked everyday for a period of time, often getting 6-7 lessons. Treat this as a business but also give yourself a break! Sore throats are not fun.
e. Try to enjoy it- how often do you get to interact with a diversity of people in terms of age, ethnicity, gender, location, and occupation? Even at its most tiring moments, I got to hear some interesting stories from my students.