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teach English online to adults

There are plenty of upsides to teaching English online to adults from flexible hours, being a part of the student’s growth, working from home, and even living and working from anywhere in the world. 

Are you enticed yet? 

The question is, how do you get started? 

Teaching adult students looks a little different than teaching a classroom with carefree younger kids. 

As the teacher, it will be up to you to create a virtual environment that is conducive to learning and makes everyone feel comfortable. 

What can you do to engage the classroom? 

How can you encourage adults to keep going and boost their confidence as they are learning a foreign language? 

You can read about some of our secret tips and tricks for effective online teaching strategies to help make your online English lessons a success. 

In the meantime, here is everything you need to know to help you teach English online to adults: 

  • Mix up your lessons.
  • Use tech to your advantage.
  • Make sure you connect with your class.
  • Keep students busy.
  • Who is hiring? Finding a job teaching English online to adults.

1. Mix up your lessons

If you ever do a search for online lessons pertaining to kids, you’ll find a ton of materials from games, to ideas for hand puppets to different songs you can sing in class! 

All of these activities make sure students don’t lose focus as it’s so easy to do when staring at a screen.

Unfortunately, it’s much harder to find similar resources for online lessons for adults! 

Nonetheless, it’s really important that you mix up the range of activities you use in your adult lessons to help your learners stay engaged and motivated.

In addition to reading, writing, listening and speaking skills, try using quizzes, games and challenges to spice up the lessons. 

These might seem like activities for kids, but if you modify them to suit your learners and explain how they’ll help them reach their learning goals, you should find your adult learners enjoy them too!

For example, you could challenge students to speak on a topic for 30 seconds without pausing to help them improve fluency. 

Or play a game where they have to have a conversation using as many vocabulary revision words as possible.

You could even try integrating songs for listening exercises, or acting activities if your students are keen. 

2. Use tech to your advantage

Teaching online and in-person use a lot of the same skills, but require a slightly different approach.

An important component is using the technology available to your advantage when teaching adults online. 

If you’re not familiar with the platform you’ll be using to teach, make sure you get the basics down before your first lesson.

But beyond that, think about how the digital teaching tools you have available could be an asset to your class. 

Could your students collaborate on a writing project in a Google doc? 

Or use a Trello board to track their progress in each lesson? 

Can you use discussion rooms to make sure that all students get a chance to speak in group classes?

Don’t be afraid to ask your adult learners for suggestions as well! 

Many of them will have favorite digital tools they use at work or for their studies that could be an asset in the classroom.

An adult learning English online

3. Make sure you connect with your class

Digital classes can feel less personal than in-person learning so you’ll need to make an extra effort to build connections with your students.

Starting lessons with a few minutes of small talk can go a long way, as can remembering personal details students have shared in previous lessons and asking follow-up questions. 

Ask your students about their interests too. 

News sites can be a great resource for adult learners, full of up-to-date, relevant articles and videos on a range of topics from politics to sports and culture. 

Another important way to connect with your students, and help them learn, is by giving personalized feedback. 

In a one-on-one class, you might be able to do this directly, but in online group classes think about how you can do this in a way that suits your learners. 

Would a private message work best or a short private conversation? 

Beyond verbal feedback, can you use a discussion board or chat stream?

Experimenting with different methods will help you find the ones that will work best for you and your learners.

4. Keep students busy

As an online teacher, you have a lot to compete with. 

During class your adult students will be getting work emails, phone messages, and feeling the never-ending temptation we are all faced with: to open a new window and click on their favorite social media or websites. 

The best way to keep your online students’ attention is to keep them as busy as possible. 

Plan more activities than you need, keep the pace up, and if you are teaching a group class, make sure you have extra activities planned for students who finish activities like writing tasks early.

Make sure you start class on time so students aren’t left hanging around waiting for you or others to join the lesson.

And, if you are teaching long classes, plan some off-screen activities so that your students can have some time away from looking at their computer to refocus. 

Even a listening activity where students can close and rest their eyes for a few moments can work wonders.

5. Who is hiring? Finding a job teaching English online to adults

So, who is hiring? We’ve rounded up some of the best online opportunities available to help you make a decision. 

Break into English
Teachers at Break into English work a minimum of 5 hours a week, with more hours available if wanted. Classes for adults are from 30 minutes to 2 hours and cover business, legal and general English lessons as well as exam preparation courses. 

Teachers at Cambly get paid $10.20 USD per hour teaching one-on-one lessons to students around the world. Lessons can be scheduled at any time and teachers are free to work as many, or as few, hours as they want.

EF is a global English language teaching company hiring English teachers to give online lessons to adult learners all over the world. Classes are available throughout the day, wherever you are and lessons last 20, 40, or 45 minutes. No previous teaching experience is necessary.

ETO is a North American company for experienced English teachers. Teachers can work flexible hours but are asked to commit to working for the company for one year.

Fluentify connects English teachers with business professionals from all over the world hoping to improve their language skills. Applicants must have 2 years of online teaching experience and a TEFL qualification.

Teachers on Italki are freelance workers who are free to choose their own hours and set their own rates. No experience is required, although the more you have the more you are able to charge for your lessons. 

iTutorGroup teachers deliver English lessons to young and adult students in China. Minimum contracts are available for 6 hours a week for 6 months, but more hours are available, and classes can be scheduled 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Teachers who work for iTutorGroup also get free Chinese lessons. 

Open English
Based in South America, Open English runs small group classes 24 hours a day. As an added bonus, teaching materials are provided.

Tutoring is an English learning app offering audio English classes to kids and adults in South Korea. All classes are one-on-one and teachers can work flexible hours and get monthly training sessions.

Verbalplanet is a platform to connect English teachers to students on their own terms. Teachers set their own rates and schedules for classes with students from all over the world.

Final thoughts

All of the activities and elements mentioned are a great way to ensure your adult students are having fun and are kept engaged during the lessons. 

You’ll be a natural in no time! 

For even more information about teaching English online to adults, and hearing what it’s like from an experienced ESL teacher, read Q&A: Everything you need to know about teaching English online to adults online.

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