Starting an online language school is not as difficult as you think. In fact, a lot of online language schools started with just one teacher doing all the work and slowly expanding to that one teacher hiring other teachers to help with the workload. An online language school is one of the cheapest and most profitable businesses that you can start. It only takes a small investment and the chances to make it grow into a large and stable income are always high. Operating a language school online is a lot easier with the help of technology and administrative and tracking software that can help you manage your classes and your teachers anywhere, anytime.
Why is it a good idea to start an online school?
- People take online classes for convenience. People who need to learn English as a new skill to pass an English certification exam, get a higher chance of promotion, or simply to communicate are using online language schools because they can take classes at their own time in the comforts of their home. This means that they can go to school or work during the day and then learn English at night.
- It is a flexible business. You can run your school from wherever you want, whenever you want. You can be traveling around the world while doing the job. You will not be tied down to one place and you can have complete control over how and what to teach.
- Unlimited resources. It is easy to find resources for language schools online. You do not have to worry about running out of ideas or lesson plans for your students. There are a lot of sites that offer free lesson plans and suggests fun activities and teaching tips for you to use. Even if you decide to not use any material from these websites, seeing what they have to offer can inspire you to have ideas of your own.
- Technology is not an issue. Anyone can afford a gadget of some sort and an Internet connection these days so anyone can enroll in an online language school. Majority of the population is tech-savvy and knows how to operate video calls. Your students can even attend their classes with you with just their tablets or phones. Technology just made things easier for online schools to operate without any problems.
- It is a profitable and growing industry. The online education industry is expected to significantly grow over the next few years with its rising popularity. The quality of these programs are expected to improve now that more institutions are slowly embracing technology and shifting in the digital direction.
- Online schools are considered to be the dawning of a new age in education: self-education. With the rising amount of tuition fees, a lot of families are turning into home schooling. Basically, a major factor that raises these fees are the maintenance and upkeep of a physical school and facilities. Experts envision a future where everyone just stays at home and take online classes to lessen the cost of education and traffic. When this happens, your school will be considered as one of the pioneers in the online learning industry.
How do I set up my online language school website?
Since you do not have a physical office or school, your website will be the home base for your business. This is why it is important to make sure you make a good impression via your website by making it look professional and making sure that it is user-friendly. The most important part is to get your own domain name so that the address alone gives an official and professional vibe already. Your website is the venue where you introduce your school, give information about the lessons or courses available, leave your contact details, and where potential students will fill out necessary forms for admission. It helps to keep an updated blog on the site to keep your website active. Write interesting articles about languages and learning English in your website. Do some interesting videos. You can even posts pictures of your students and your teachers.
Your website will be the center of all the marketing and advertising efforts that you will make for your online language school. And it helps if you also establish your own business pages in social media platforms where you think your target students are to further strengthen your online presence.
You can hire a professional web designer to do your website for you to ensure that everything is in the right place. However, as the school owner, it will also help for you to learn some website design basics so if there are some updates on your site, you can do the job yourself instead of hiring someone else every time.
How do I choose a communication tool?
Online classes are done with the help of communication platforms that hosts video calls or video conferencing. Video calls or video conferences are the chosen tool to hold classes with your students because real-time face to face communication is important when you teach someone but in-person meetings are mostly out of the question with your online students, especially for those who live in a different country. You only need a basic communication tool and any other features will depend on your preference. Here are some general tips that you can use when it comes to choosing a good communication platform:
- Ease of use. Some of your students may be new to online learning and may have trouble navigating online. Choosing a communication tool that is easy to use will help take away some anxiety and nervousness that they may feel. This will be helpful to you as well if you are not that tech-savvy.
- Clear audio and video. The clearer your audio and video are, the better you will be able to relay your lessons to your students. They will be able to understand you better and vice versa. Clear communications can make your classes a lot easier.
- Can perform despite low bandwidth. As the teacher, you have to ensure that you always have a good Internet connection because nothing can ruin a learning moment than lags and frozen screens. You might just spend most of the session repeating yourselves. But there are chances that your student may be running on a low bandwidth connection so choose a tool that can perform despite a low Internet speed.
Top communication tools for online classes
- Google Hangouts – There is a free version and a paid version for Google Hangouts. The free version is enough for your online class needs as it can accommodate 20 people in your video chat. However, if you need more than that, you will have to do the paid version. It also has an email reminder feature to alert your students that your class will start soon.
- Skype – Skype is a popular communication tool and most of your students will probably be more familiar with this platform. There are both free and paid models of the platform with the paid platform being able to accommodate more people in their video chat and a screen sharing tool.
- Zoom – Zoom is known to be a reliable videoconferencing tool. It also has a built-in record function that allows you to record your lessons, which is great if you need to look back to some parts of your lesson when it comes to assessing your student.
- Wiz IQ – This is a paid service but the features it has to offer will be worth the price. Aside from the video and audio chat, the platform comes with a curriculum builder. This is a great feature especially if you are running your own courses and lessons.
- Appear.in – This platform will not ask you to download any software because it is a browser-based video meeting tool and is extremely reliable and easy to use. It is fairly new, making it a lesser known system and this may make some of your students hesitant to use it.
- Adobe Connect – Adobe Connect comes with a wide range of features that include private chats and slide sharing. Poll can also be created while the video conference is ongoing so you can get immediate feedback.
Do I need an administrative software?
Operating an online language school is just like operating an online business – you need to stay on top of things through management. The tasks of managing your school, your teachers, and your students, may be overwhelming at first but to make things easier, you can always invest in administrative software to help make life easier for you. Working with a good software can free up a lot of time for you to concentrate on other more important tasks. Here is a list of the most common administration software most schools use:
- Gibbon – Gibbon is an all-around administrative tools that also provides teachers tools like grade books, planner tools, library catalogs, and assessments. Other features include attendance tracking, class management, department management, library management, student management, examination management, employee/teacher management, student management, faculty messaging, grade books, and rubrics.
- Fedena – This is an open-source software that focuses on handling records. Features of this software include human resources, financial management, examination management, admissions, faculty messaging, school calendar management, attendance tracking, student records, employee/teacher management, and dashboards.
- FeKara – This is an all-around school admin software that caters specially for small schools (50 students or less). Features include admissions, attendance tracking, time table for classes, budgeting, staff messaging, exams, assignments, dashboard, and includes a mobile app that can be used on tablets and smartphones so everyone is notified even when on-the-go.
- School Time – This is another software that caters to small schools (50 students or less). Features include attendance tracking, time table for classes, class management, examination management, curriculum management, faculty messaging, and dashboard. It even comes with a dormitory management feature.
- Gradelink – This is a cloud-based management solution to connect teachers, students, and parents using a single interface. Features include enrollment management, attendance reports, grade and attendance tracking, student data storage, and dashboard.
How do I get paid?
The online services you provide as an online language school will also be paid online. There are a lot of payment platforms to choose from but here are the most reliable and trusted payment platforms so far:
- Paypal – This is considered to be the largest online payment provider available in over 200 countries.
- Payoneer – This is considered to be the best alternative to Paypal, especially in developing countries where Paypal is not accepted.
You can receive and send money through both online payment providers and you can transfer the funds you have straight to your bank account. All you have to do is to create an account with them and place your bank details.
Do I need certification to run an online language school?
Your credibility as a language teacher will boost when you have the right certifications. It is also advised that you take up some basic management lessons to help you with the business aspect of running an online language school. This way, whether you be the head teacher of your team or you want to leave the teaching to your staff and move on to do administrative work, you will be credible for both roles. As a school administrator and owner, you need to get your school accredited as well. This will enhance the image of your school and you will earn the respect of the teachers you hire.
How do I hire and manage teachers?
As mentioned earlier, you can do the teaching yourself but as your school will grow, you will eventually have to hire other experienced teachers to share the work load. Before you start hiring, think about how many teachers you can afford. These teachers are usually paid by the hour. You also have to consider that profit margin for your business. The teachers you hire will be your greatest assets so you also have to consider cultivating their growth. Send them to trainings and conferences that will give them certifications. A roster of certified, professional teachers will build your school’s reputation significantly.
Top certifications worth pursuing for online language school teachers are:
- Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL)
- Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)
- Certificate in English Language Teaching to Adults (CELTA)
Do I need to target a specific niche?
It helps if your school focuses on a certain area at first and expand to other areas later on as your school grows. For instance, will your online language school only cater to a specific region so the class hours will be uniform and the rates will be the same? Are you aiming to teach kids only? Do you want to just specialize in Business English for adults? Or do you want your online language school to be a training ground for those who aim to pass a certain English proficiency exam? Starting small and specific, can help you concentrate on what matters most. As your school grows, you can slowly expand to other areas or courses and hire more teachers as well.
Targeting a specific audience will determine also the direction of your curriculum and lesson plans. Here are guide questions to help you determine your niche:
- Who do you want to teach?
- How do you teach?
- What areas of English do you teach?
When you have the answers to these questions, you will have a clear idea as to what your niche is. With a niche in mind, you now have a clear ideas as to what type of lessons and activities will be most effective for your course. You have to take note that writing lesson plans for online courses is a bit different from writing lesson plans for a classroom setting. The pacing of the lessons is one of the areas that is entirely different. Download free lesson plans from ESL websites and do some studying. You can also do a video conference with your hired teachers and you can work together on the curriculum as a team.
Are there any laws I should be concerned with?
Just because your language school is online does not mean that you are exempted from taxes. You have to register your online language school with your local government. Check with your local government as to what permits and licenses you need to run your online language school. It is recommended that you create a limited liability company (LLC) if you are based in America in order to protect your personal assets. If you are based in another country, it is best to register your business and a separate business accounts for your online language school so that your personal accounts will not be affected in case things go wrong. It is best to consult a legal or tax expert when it comes to the implications of running an online language school business.