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The future of ESL - Is it online teaching only now?

The future of ESL - Is it online teaching only now?


Is this the beginning of the end of the traditional face-to-face EFL experience as we have known it for the past 40 years? Will there be any summer work in the UK, and what about overseas posts starting in the Autumn?

In our blog this week, William Bradridge looks at current TESOL industry trends and what the TESOL world might look like post COVID-19.  William says:

"I've been answering questions from trainees and general enquirers this week, from teachers who have been made redundant overnight and others generally concerned about their position in the industry. Here are a few of the responses I have given, along with some thoughts on what the industry might look like in the not too distant future."

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Hello, I know it's hard to predict anything given the situation with Coronavirus but as you are in this industry, perhaps you will have an answer. Do you think all the English teaching jobs will move online? I have been planning to move to Asia in Summer but it's really uncertain at the moment. Mirko D

Hello Mirko, 

As you say, it is a very different world situation from 3 months ago, and it is difficult to make predictions. However, my guess would be that in the medium term, the large demand for online English teaching we are seeing at the moment will be replaced by companies seeking to hire face-to-face classroom teachers again, at least for the most part.

It's likely this will be demand-led by China, Korea and the other major recruiting agents around Asia. The question is timing. As countries begin to get to grips with the virus and get things under control, they will start to gradually open their doors, but it's hard to know when this will start. However, demand will be huge again. While some of the learning will stay online, many will want the benefit of learning in class as this remains so much a part of our learning culture worldwide.

So my suggestion would be that now is the best time to get all your training under your belt, so that you are ready when the jobs start appearing again. If you aren't already, start doing some online English teaching so you have some experience, and then you will be at the front of the queue when companies come calling.

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Hello, I’m interested in taking a position in Thailand from next Fall. However, my current ESL employer has put me on furlough, but wants a commitment about next year ASAP.  When do you think this will all be over? Matt B

Thanks for your question Matt. Firstly, the thing I would say is that you are quite fortunate to be in a position to have an employer who is willing to (presumably) pay you for not teaching at the moment. Many English language teachers are unemployed as of last week, as most of us are self-employed. So you're in a more fortunate position than most.

I don't think anyone of us can predict when this present situation will turn around with any of the degree of accuracy. It certainly been a time unlike any other within our profession. My suggestion would be to sit it out and do another year with your present employer. If you can get them to commit to less than that, great, because once schools start re-hiring again there will be lots of post and you can pick and choose. But for now, staying where you are is the best option, in my opinion.

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I want to work in the UK in the summer. What are the prospects? Steve T

Hello Steve,

Most schools in the UK have gone over to online English teaching for the majority of their longer term students. Rather than having them come into a centre, teachers are working from home and doing lessons online, most often using Skype or Zoom, as those platforms are generally thought to be the most stable. It's a different experience for everyone and for teachers it usually means more work because feedback has to be tailored more closely, rather than for a wider class.

Looking forward, most language schools in the UK make all their money between Easter and September. It seems quite clear to be that 50% of that market is now gone (and to be honest I am not sure how many schools will survive). I can't see anything happening before July at the earliest in the UK. Schools we have contacted recently are asking potential teachers to send in their CVs, but there is no prospect of work at the current time. Your best bet is to find work teaching English online.

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If I switch to online English teaching, are there jobs available right now?   Olga M

Hello Olga,

Yes, yes, yes! There are literally hundreds of schools recruiting right now all across the world. I know of one teacher in the USA who is working 11 hours a night giving English lessons online and really taking advantage of the high demand in China, as so much English language learning has moved online there now. However, it is not the case for everyone. We've also heard through another teacher at a major language chain that many students are taking free trial lessons, but not coming back and signing up for packages. This is been incredibly frustrating for them and the schools as well. 

I think that this shows that not all people and youngsters (or the parents of youngsters) will rush into online learning. Those who are familiar and comfortable with the classroom experience aren't quite ready to commit in massive numbers to doing everything virtually. This leads me to believe that when schools open up again the market for English language teaching will rebound. So opportunities will exist for travel and experience all over the world again.

The big question is when. At this point, no one knows, so it’s great time to dip your toe in the online English teaching waters and earning (and learning!).

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William Bradridge is Director of Studies at Global English TESOL and wrote the Teaching English Online course for GE. 

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Where next?

Interested in teaching English online?

For purchase:

  • Author: William Bradridge
  • Date: Friday 27th March 2020

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