How to retain online English students

How to retain online English students

Attracting your own online students isn't easy. There is a lot of competition and you need to stand out from the crowd as an independent online English teacher. But when a student does choose you, it’s essential you keep them happy, so that they keep coming back.

Student retention is vital if you want to build a sustainable income as an independent online English teacher.

So, what can you do to help make sure your students keep returning to your classes, don't get bored over time, or worst of all, find another teacher?

I have been online English teacher for over 10 years with my own online English teaching l business. Over that time, I've made many mistakes, but now I know the secret of how to keep students happy. I’ve refined what I do so now my students tend to stay with me, buying multiple blocks of lessons month after month. One has been with me since the start and I count a number of them as friends.

Here’s are the three secrets to retaining students

1. Build relationships

Your student has chosen to learn with you, a person. They could have chosen to learn via an app, YouTube videos or online courses, but they selected you instead. They want that human connection. So, connect back; engage, ask relevant questions, and remember small details about your students’ lives. Encourage them when they feel unmotivated. Laugh, smile and empathise when appropriate. Your student wants to engage with you as a person. Engage back to build the relationship.

At the other extreme, though, they are not paying you just for a chat. This is not a conversation exchange. Be personable, but remain mindful that they're paying for your service That’s a very good start to building the essential rapport.

Knowing your student well and what makes them tick yields other dividends, too. You’ll soon learn which lesson materials and approaches are likely to engage them best.

2. Give your students something to do in between classes

To make good progress with you, they need to be doing something between your classes. This keeps up the learning English momentum and shows you are invested in their progress.

Here’s my top tip. Send them a WhatsApp voice message after the lesson with phrases from the class so they can listen and repeat.

Or, send them something to read or listen to before the next class.

This is not only helpful to them, it shows that you are professional, prepared and looking ahead. You are also building expectation that there is always going to be a next lesson. It keeps the connection and builds you into their life.

3. End on a high

You must finish the lesson on a positive note. It could be you end a class with a quick review of what went well or a short game. Why not teach them an idiom of the day? It’s raining cats and dogs, for example. Have them guess the meaning first. Do something to make them smile as they leave.  


Knowing these three secrets, you will improve your student retention rates quickly and keep your learners coming back time and time again.

Develop/build your online English teaching skills, create stimulating lessons and enjoy building relationships that last.

Want to find out more?

Louisa Walsh is a partner at Phone English, successfully delivering lessons for students and companies around the world.

She is also a tutor for the Global English Teach English online 20-hour course, and offers a 1-1 online English teaching coaching programme on Zoom, believing all teachers have the potential to become 5-star online English professionals. Why not join her?

  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: 04/11/2021

Return back to listings

Search Blog

Blog Archive

Want the Latest TEFL jobs & information? Sign up to our e-newsletter now

Privacy Policy

Country Guides
See where your TEFL can take you - just type a country:

View all countries

Which TEFL course is best for me? Read our handy guide now.

Employers - have you got a position to advertise on our website and through our fortnightly newsletter? Click here.

Employer enquiry form

We offer online and weekend TESOL courses from 20 hour to 350 hours. If you will accept our graduates from one of these courses to fill your vacancy, (you can decide which courses you will accept) we can display your job advert for free.

Please enter your details address below and we will email you a job vacancy form to complete:


"For the past two years I have worked here in Tuscany teaching all levels. I have already recommended your courses to one of my prospective teachers..."

Alison Salmon, English World, Italy

How to retain online English students