Quality lesson content for online ESL

In our previous Teaching English Online posts I discussed the importance of Relationships and Quality to a successful online ESL business. In this post I explore how high quality lesson content is vital to retain your students long-term.

The role of quality lesson content in the online ESL environment
What do we mean by lesson content? When I was making the transition to online ESL teaching using videoconferencing (I use a quality-lesson-contentsystem similar to Skype called Zoom), I quickly realized that there was a lot of blank space on the student’s screen during lessons. This blank space is the perfect place to insert visual, high quality lesson content, through screen sharing. Think of lesson content as a combination of a grammar textbook, exercise bank and a business-style PowerPoint presentation. Through prompts, pictures, explanations and examples it should guide the lesson flow rather than dictate it. If you haven’t already, please take a look at our growing set of quality lesson content here.
Well structured lesson content adds energy, familiarity and professionalism to your online ESL lessons. Each of which is a great ingredient to maintaining student motivation. There is a natural attrition of students as time goes on, but your goal as an independent online ESL teacher should be to retain your students for as long as possible. I can enthusiastically report that over 70% of my students have stayed with me for a period longer than 12 months since the date of their first lesson.
High quality lesson content shows professionalism
Consistent, well-formatted lesson content conveys a sense of professionalism for your online ESL business. Your students (especially adults) will be more willing to pay premium rates for an online ESL teacher who delivers a professional-looking product. Compare a colleague who shows up at a meeting with a couple of random images and bullet points, to the colleague possessing a well structured, clean and clear presentation. Consistent spacing, colors, fonts and overall style go a long way to differentiating you from your competitors.
High quality lesson content fosters familiarity
One of the best methods to retain your students long term is to create an effective personal relationship. It is easier to create a comfortable relationship with your students when there is sense of familiarity. Creating a consistent look and feel to your high quality lesson content is a great tool to foster familiarity. This is not to say that every lesson is structured the exact same way, but that the general feel to the lesson should remain familiar to your students. Similar looks, styles, opening slides and discovery prompts are a great way to foster familiarity.
High quality lesson content fosters discovery
The online environment is a great setting to promote learning through student discovery. We like to think of lesson content as a prompt. Unlike a grammar text book, online lesson content should stay away from providing only grammar principles and testing them through exercises. Well-structured lesson content can easily promote discovery. By using image-rich warm-up slides at the start of a lesson you can have your student discover the grammar or vocabulary principles for the lesson. After reinforcing the principles through examples and exercises your student will feel a sense of accomplishment. This sense of accomplishment will keep your students motivated to come back for more lessons.

About the author

James Heywood is an online ESL teacher and is the co-founder of TurksLearnEnglish and Off2Class. After years of teaching in language institutes and private schools, he made the leap to online in late 2012. He has taught a variety of ESL students online including young learners, adults and adolescents in one-on-one and group settings. Off2Class (lesson plan content for private ESL teachers) was launched to provide lesson content resources targeted to teachers running their own private tutorials.

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