The Benefits of Online Lessons at Private ESL Institutes

Why Online Lessons at Private ESL Institutes benefit students, teachers and ultimately, owners

When we imagine learning English at a private institute we have come to expect a certain experience. To enter a classroom and to sit at a desk, use a textbook and to see a teacher standing in front of a whiteboard. But, as we all know, much of the world is learning English in non-traditional environments. For example, live, synchronous online lessons through video conference have become a popular means of learning the language. This is not a new phenomenon, we’ve been coaching ESL teachers on how to teach ESL online for several years. Yet, despite a dramatic increase in teaching and learning ESL online, there does not seem to be a major uptake in providing online lessons at private ESL institutes.
In today’s post, I will talk about the benefits of online lessons at private ESL institutes. Benefits for students, teachers and ultimately school owners. I would like to start off by providing a history of my own experience teaching ESL online.

I started my online ESL teaching career working at a private ESL institute…

My name is Paulina Stepien and I have worked in Spain and Canada as an ESL instructor for four years, both in private language institutes and also, online.
My very first exposure to online teaching was when I was working at a private language institute in Spain. One of my students who was attending an exam preparation course had to suddenly relocate because of a job opportunity. She is a teacher and it was necessary for her to pass her exams and receive a B1 certification (pre-intermediate). This is a standard requirement for most people seeking employment, higher education or to immigrate throughout Europe. Thanks to the director of the academy we were able to continue our classes on a one-to-one basis through Skype. My very first online lessons!

This was not a one-time occurrence…

That same year I had another student relocate to Madrid for work and shortly after I was contacted by others through word of mouth in a similar situation. At this point, I kick-started my own online ESL business teaching Spanish students who lived across Europe. Eventually, my business grew so much, that my schedule was too full and I had to turn students away. Great problems to have!
There are a variety of reasons why students are seeking online ESL lessons. The same students that came to me for my services, were previously at private language institutes.

Here are the top reasons, that I believe, make an easy case for offering online lessons at private ESL institutes: 

It’s a low-cost, business opportunity:

There is very little ‘infrastructure’ cost in making online classes available to your students. Schools are already equipped with computers and an internet connection. Teachers can also work from home (as most teachers already have laptops and an internet connection). As far as using a video conferencing platform and online lesson content, this is also inexpensive. Here at Off2Class, we work with many private language institutes in the $15-$20/student seat (re-assignable)/year range and you can scale your capacity as demand grows.

It creates capacity at peak times:

A school is no longer constrained by their physical footprint, at peak times. Evening time slots (anytime after 4 pm) are always the busiest at private ESL institutes. This is because these slots fit the lives of both working students and young learners who attend regular school during the day. With an online lesson option, there would be no need to turn students away! Multiple classes could run at the same time, some being taught from the institute and others being served by teachers at home.

Online lessons at private ESL institutes can create a local, national and even global reach:

There are lower physical proximity limitations to online lessons because students can join from anywhere as long as they have an internet connection. Students may be away for work or they may not want to commute. For example, one of my students lived in a town 40km from me but she preferred to have online classes so she wouldn’t have to deal with traffic and parking.

It attracts attention:

If students have the choice, they are more likely to choose a modern facility that offers flexibility and learning options. Offering online lessons shows that your institute is forward-thinking and in tune with the demands of today. “We don’t use blackboards and chalk but do offer online classes for IELTS preparation.”

It could be a great fit for younger learners:

If you have ever taught younger learners or teenagers you’ll know they don’t enjoy going to extra classes after their regular school day ends. I don’t blame them, a traditional classroom can sap your energy levels after a long day at school. Online learning might be a great way to engage students and get them excited about English. I always noticed my younger students were more engaged and enthusiastic when I used a digital resource.

Overall, offering online lessons at private ESL institutes seems like a win-win proposition…

…for students, teachers and ultimately school owners. It could mean higher enrolment numbers, more classes available and plenty of satisfied students.
It also seems like a business imperative for school owners. Every day more and more of the private ESL teaching pie is being taken up by online-only schools like VIPKid and Fluentbe. If an institute already has a relationship with a student, offering online lessons seems like a natural extension of that offering.

If I was able to start my own online ESL business, why haven’t online lessons at private ESL institutes taken off? 

I wondered why private ESL institutes weren’t offering online classes? It seemed like students at private ESL institutes were demanding the option and flexibility afforded by the online environment.  There are plenty of young professionals, people with busy lives and families, those who travel for work, all of whom need the flexibility of online lessons.
Of course, online lessons do exist at some private ESL institutes. But, it seems like schools offering online lessons are the exception rather than the rule. Why aren’t more private ESL institutes actively offering online lessons?
It might be because it seems complicated, expensive or too tech-intensive. I had my own reservations when I started off. I didn’t think I was very computer savvy and I only got my first smartphone 3 years ago! So, I was convinced that it would be hard and that organizing the ‘infrastructure’ and lesson content would be too much work for me.

Off2Class powers online lessons at private ESL institutes

Thankfully, I came across Off2Class at just the right moment and it took the stress off of creating interactive lesson content that was suitable for an online ESL lesson. I was able to use the site quickly for my live teaching and also used the placement test as a way to attract prospective students that weren’t quite sold on the idea of taking online lessons with me. I do think that if I can do it, anyone can.
Here’s a short demonstration! It’s live footage of Off2Class co-founder, Kris Jagasia teaching his student Tahani, a Syrian refugee, using Off2Class:

Now, I’m at Off2Class helping private ESL institutes make the same transition to offering online lessons. The same transition that I undertook…

A number of different private ESL institutes have used Off2Class as an affordable and simple solution to offer online lessons. Many of them have also blended Off2Class into their in-class offering using projectors or TV screens. This means students know what to expect during their first online lesson. We recently wrote an article about The Castle, a private ESL institute in Barcelona who is now flourishing online, using Off2Class.

If you’d like to book some time with me so I can show you what an online offering would look like at your private ESL institution, please book some time with me. I’d be happy to help you add this service offering to your institution. 


  • Odalys Jauregui says:

    July 19, 2018 at 10:55 am

    Congratulations on finding your teaching niche! I find that as educators our careers change based on what the students need. Kudos for finding and maintaining that momentum, where you enjoy doing what you do.

  • Margaret Myers says:

    July 19, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    I find this very interesting because I have a one room school and I have very little online experience but I do believe this is the way to go..however to me it is a scary step to take as I am 57 and to my shame not very computer savvy. I did last last year dip my toe in the water and made inquiries..but now having talked to students and other teachers, I believe this could be the way forward.

  • Paulina says:

    July 19, 2018 at 1:53 pm

    Hi Margaret,
    Sounds like a great time to try it out. As you know, I was not computer savvy and I was still able to get the most out of online teaching. I would be happy to show you how easy it is to use.

  • Paulina says:

    July 19, 2018 at 2:00 pm

    Thank you Odalys,
    You’re absolutely right, my teaching career found me.

  • Sikini says:

    July 24, 2018 at 8:23 am

    I am currently looking for an online teaching job at an ESL institute such as this one. If there are any positions open at Off2class or similar institutes could you please message me.

    • Kris Jagasia says:

      July 24, 2018 at 8:48 am

      Hi Sikini! We are a tool for ESL teachers and schools but we are not a school and don’t hire teachers. Good luck on your search!

  • Stephen Diz says:

    May 3, 2019 at 5:13 pm

    I teach using Off2class. Off2class has really been a platform that helped my business take off. My classes are almost exactly how Kris shared his class. The students usually are at home relaxed and ready to learn. The Off2class system really frees me up to do more important things than prepare a lesson. It is interactive and replaces the old school book method of learning. I save time and money using this system. THANKS GUYS!!!!

    • Chris says:

      May 3, 2019 at 5:49 pm

      So glad to hear that, Stephen, thanks for sharing!

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