Getting into online teaching? 5 reasons to get qualified.
If, like so many other teachers in the world, you are making the jump to online delivery during these challenging times, you will have had to develop some new ways of teaching. Online teaching is one of the less regulated fields in TESOL, and at the same time the fastest growing sector of the industry. This means that quality online educators are at a premium, and as more and more of us are having to work at a distance, competition for jobs is likely to increase.
Up to now, despite the many courses, webinars and online events which aim to develop online teaching methodology, there has been no formal, accredited teacher development qualification for online educators. Here are five reasons why it is worth getting qualified to deliver effective online lessons with confidence.
1) Internal training is never enough
Many large online teaching companies hold intensive training in the systems that they use to connect teachers and students. However, one organisation may ask very specific requirements of its teachers (even down to the type and colour of T-shirt they wear during lessons), and each system may differ widely from others which aim to do the same basic job. Being able to use one system and its functions effectively does not mean that you can translate these skills to other online work. The specific skills required to follow an individual syllabus on a specific LMS may not be as transferable as you think - in fact, some companies benefit from the non-transferability of their teachers’ delivery, as that is part of their brand, to be protected at all costs.
Developing a broader e-pedagogy which can be applied to any online learning setting will give you the ability to work effectively in any online environment, from skype and zoom to more specific interfaces which have their own ways of doing things. Raising participation, keeping students usefully engaged and minimising distraction are three key skills which apply to any online learning setting, so developing a toolkit independently of specific systems or methods through an external qualification, independently of specific companies or organisations, can help you to apply your newfound skills in any future online position you apply for.
2) Online pedagogy goes beyond live tutorials through zoom
Many teachers who have been asked to deliver their usual classes online are now using video conferencing platforms such as skype and zoom to teach their existing students. Although these systems use face-to-face interaction as their primary contact between teachers and students, many teacher spend hours of unnecessary time working through content with their students, planning for ways to present and explore language in a live classroom, when they would save a lot of time and energy applying a wider range of online resources, modes of learning and ways of communicating with their learners.
Developing a flipped classroom and maintaining student engagement through asynchronous tasks is a fundamental set of skills which can be used to harness autonomy and independent, collaborative approaches to study. Letting go of the reins and allowing your students to do what they do best, exploiting the online world for information and interactions with their peers, can bring much greater results, if you have the right set of resources at your disposal. The only way to develop effective skills with these resources is to test them out in a controlled way, under guidance from experts in the field who have worked with them for years. Getting qualified through assessments focusing on these new methodologies gives you the chance to try out new platforms and get feedback from your students about how they found the experience, without relying on face-to-face tutorials and worksheets.
3) A competitive edge is hard to come by
As the international education industry shifts towards online and blended provision, competition for online teaching positions will get fiercer and fiercer. The teachers who have a range of experience and qualifications relating specifically to these new modes of delivery will stand head and shoulders above those who have worked in a single online environment, or who have started teaching online because their school told them to make that shift.
Getting qualified in online education shows that you have made the choice to take your teaching to a new level, and that you are meeting the new situation proactively. The depth of knowledge and skills that you develop will be represented by the accreditation level of the qualification you take, and will show future employers that you have the skills to work effectively with any online system that you use. Getting qualified is a good way of future-proofing your CV to move on int he changing industry that we are part of.
4) Online teachers have their own ways of doing things
Like any aspect of education, each teacher has their own preferred ways of doing things with the specific learners that they teach, and this is no less true in online educators. For this reason, an in-service qualification in online education allows you to continue working with your current learners, trying out new methods and approaches with the students you know best, and working together with them to find out what works well for you all.
In-service qualifications do not include nerve-racking teaching practice lessons with learners you have never met before, or high-stakes observations by poker-faced course tutors. You continue to teach your normal classes, but experimenting with new ways of doing things, to produce a better end result. You are much more likely to develop your skills in your existing classroom, as stress levels are lower, your students are familiar, and you know what to expect from them. Choosing an in-service qualification in online education reduces pressure and increases performance from both you and your learners.
5) Accreditation is everything in the job market
Finally, the thing that motivates most employers to choose one teacher over another is the level of training that their candidates have reached. Some qualifications are accredited to an international standard such as the Ofqual Regulated Qualifications Framework, which represents an independent mark of quality. Others have different levels of recognition in different parts of the world. If you want to stand out, and ensure that you are receiving the level of training that will give you the edge over other teachers in the same line of work, it is worth thinking about what level of accreditation you are going to receive at the end of your training.
The Trinity College London Certificate for Practising Teachers (CertPT) is a flexible, online, in-service qualification which allows you to develop in your current learning setting. It is regulated at level 6 on the Ofqual framework (one level higher than the Cambridge CELTA or Trinity CertTESOL), as it is designed for teachers who are already working, and want to develop specific areas of their teaching. The CertPT for Online Educators is a course leading to this exciting new qualification, and is ideal for teachers with at least 6 months of experience and a language proficiency of at least CEFR B2 (IELTS 6). If you are looking to formalise your online work, or to go freelance with online teaching, this qualification will give you the skills you need to make the most of online resources and to give your students a more rewarding, engaging and effective outcome from your work.
Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.