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5 Challenges You’ll Encounter in Online ESL Teaching and How to Overcome Them

Being a home-based online English teacher means you will have to deal with students’ different personalities and various situations. You will encounter challenges, especially if you are new to online ESL teaching, but take heart! Many home-based English tutors have gonethrough these and overcame them; you will, too!

To help you prepare, here are some of the challenges you may have to face as you teach at home, along with some helpful tips to overcome them.

Challenge #1: Using and troubleshooting tech


Technical issues are among the common challenges faced by home-based English tutors.

Image via Unsplash


If you are not quite familiar with computers and online teaching tools, it can be difficult to use them to give your daily lessons. Given this, it helps to know that you are not alone. Technical issues with hardware, the Internet connection, or software are actually one of the most common challenges that online teachers face.

Like you, other teachers also experience audio problems with their headset, connectivity issues, or difficulties navigating the teaching platform. Furthermore, working at home means there’s no IT staff physically present to help you fix your device or software.

The fix:

First of all, don’t panic! Remember that lessons are ongoing and you must maintain composure and professionalism in front of your student. Calmly inform your student of the situation, and resolve the issue as quickly as you can.

To prevent these incidents while you’re in the middle of a lesson, it’s a smart idea to familiarize yourself with your teaching tools. Knowing how to use these will empower you to teach more effectively and will also help you troubleshoot simple technical issues.

Additionally, check that all the hardware components (e.g. computer or laptop, headset, and mic) are functioning well before you start your day. This will further prevent the likelihood of technical problems during the session.

Challenge #2: Preparing in advance

In reality, online ESL teachers spend more hours teaching and have little time to plan or prepare in between sessions. This is especially true for those teachers who have packed schedules. They often only have around fifteen minutes before the next session to study the material.

If they fail to prepare in advance, an unforeseen event or an urgent errand can easily consume this break time and leave them cramming for the next session.

The fix:

Start your day way before your scheduled lessons so you have enough time to plan and prepare for them. This may mean that you will have to make some sacrifices, like saving your favorite TV series for your day off or waking up earlier to have ample time for preparations.

However, preparing in advance will help you think on your feet, even when you face sudden changes in your schedule and have to teach more sessions than usual.

Remember, you should always come to your sessions prepared!

Challenge #3: Student speaking their native language often during your lesson

You may encounter students who use their native tongue during your sessions since they are still learning the English language. The lower the level of the student, the more likely that they will not respond or talk to you in English. However, this is something that you should not allow and encourage.

The fix:

Use gestures and short sentences to help them understand what you’re saying. Help them see that they need to practice speaking to get better. Even if you can understand their native language, respond only in English. It’s also a smart idea to teach them the translation of what they are saying and encourage them to follow you.

With younger learners, you can turn fun and interactive games into your English lessons with them to make them feel comfortable communicating with you in English.

Challenge #4: Bored or unmotivated students

There will be times where you will encounter students who can’t focus well during the lesson, or are simply unmotivated to learn.

They usually don’t listen or respond during the lesson, or seem preoccupied with something else. What makes this situation harder is that in home-based online ESL teaching, you’re not physically present with your student to easily get their attention and encourage them to focus on you.

The fix:

Despite these, remember that it’s your responsibility as the teacher to keep your students engaged. You will have to innovate ways to sustain their interest and get them to stay with you for the rest of the session. On that note, you can use instructional aids such as visual cues, puppets, or educational toys to pique their interest and make the lesson exciting.


Home-based teachers can use colorful instructional 
   aids to command the attention of bored or unmotivated students.

Image via Unsplash


For those who do audio ESL, home-based teaching can be made more captivating by playing with the intonation of your voice and your delivery of the lesson material. The animation can capture your student’s attention and keep them hooked throughout the session.

Challenge #5: Dealing with rowdy or rude students

In home-based online ESL teaching, you may also encounter students who can be especially rowdy. Some younger learners may be rough and loud, and older students may come off as rude during your lesson.

Whether you are teaching a child or an adult, acknowledge that there may be instances when they’re just having a bad day.

The fix:

Keep calm, take a deep breath, and smile! Remember to be professional and courteous at all times. Continue engaging your student’s attention and teaching proactively. Moreover, avoid embarrassing or humiliating your them; never raise your voice. Rather, calmly instruct them on what you want them to do.

Use positive reinforcement whenever they do something good to encourage them to focus more on the lesson. This helps students become less rowdy in the long run as well.

Online ESL teaching has its fair share of challenges

Online ESL teaching is a rewarding and convenient way of teaching. However, remember that it also comes with various challenges. From technical issues to inattentive students, you will always encounter something challenging each day or session.

The key to overcoming these is to remain calm; take a deep breath and think clearly. Apply what you have learned during your training to surpass these hurdles and continue teaching effectively.

Ultimately, whatever challenge you encounter, always remember to focus on the bright side and give it your best. At the end of the day, every challenge is a chance for you and your students to grow.