Use LED Lights to Brighten Up Your Online ESL Classroom
As an online ESL teacher, lighting is among the few factors you will need to keep in mind while setting up your workspace. In fact, many online ESL companies consider the brightness of your workspace both during the recruitment stage as well as when evaluating your performance. What’s more, you may be asked to improve your lighting setup if the online ESL company you work with thinks it is affecting your classes.
Having good lighting as an online ESL teacher is important. A good, bright ambiance for your virtual classroom ensures your students can clearly see you – especially as you speak and interact with them – and makes you appear professional. Besides, a nicely lit room might also brighten your mood.
Many online ESL teachers neglect lighting, and needlessly pay the price in terms of lower ratings and popularity. Invest in good lighting options and your investment should pay off in better ratings and more classes, and more opportunities.
Improving the lighting in your virtual classroom set up is not expensive, and not difficult to accomplish. The only challenge with lighting is that everyone is going to have unique lighting needs, depending on other factors such as your skin complexion and the current brightness of your workspace. Because of this, we are going to look at different types of lighting solutions for the online ESL teacher.
LED Lights are the Way to Go
LED lights cost a bit more than other types of lighting, but the prices are coming down. Even then, using LED lights costs less over the long-term, as they need to be replaced less frequently, and are significantly more energy-efficient than alternatives. Another benefit of using LED lights is that they can provide continuous light for long periods while not emitting as much heat as other types of lighting. The last thing you want is to teach ESL online for hours sweating buckets because of the heat coming out of your lights. You won’t feel that way with LED lights.
If you use a green screen while teaching ESL online, adequate LED lighting can provide continuous brightness for illuminating the screen.
So, let’s look at the several advantages LED lighting offers over alternatives:
- Longer lasting than incandescent, fluorescent, CFL, and halogen
- Significantly more energy efficient: a 6-watt LED bulb can produce the same amount of light as a 40-watt incandescent bulb
- Give off less heat, making them safer and more comfortable to use
- Higher brightness and intensity than other types of lighting, and as much as 10 times the lumens as an incandescent light with the same wattage
- Wider color range: LED lights offer a wide range of color and color temperatures, making them ideal for adjusting the intensity or warmth of the lighting to suit your desired ambiance
- More reliable and durable: unlike some alternatives, LED lights don’t break easily, thus providing more stability
- Illuminate instantaneously: when you turn on a LED light, the light is at full brightness immediately
- Emit light in one direction: whereas other forms of lighting emit light all around, LED lighting emits light in a single direction, giving you concentrated illumination and little to no light leakage
Getting Your Lighting Set Up for your Unique Situation
Before you go buying a bunch of LED lights, you need to first think about the room or space, and the current lighting situation, where you plan to teach ESL online.
The first thing you want to address is overhead lighting. If you already have bright lighting fixed into or hanging from your ceiling above where you will teach, you will probably need to add minimal lighting close up to get the job done. If not, then you want to first address the overhead lighting, because that is going to have biggest impact on the ambiance of your workspace.
The easiest way to address overhead lighting is to install LED lights overhead. You want to be sure that the lights are facing down, directly above where you sit or stand while teaching online.
Natural light can be a plus, but it can also work against you. Depending on what time of day you teach English online, and where your windows are situated, natural lighting can have either a positive or negative impact on your room ambiance, as well as your own comfort. Natural lighting is not consistent due to time, direction, and weather patterns. You might also feel incredibly hot during summer months, and natural light from behind can actually make you appear darker – or even silhouetted – on screen.
If you intend to use a green screen while teaching ESL online, your lighting setup is even more important. When you green screen, your lighting set up should not only illuminate the green screen consistently, you will also need some lighting to illuminate yourself. Indeed, lighting is just as, if not more, important than the green screen itself.
Everyone will have unique lighting set ups for green screening, so there is no one size fits all solution. At the same time, green screening for online teaching doesn’t require the same expensive equipment as it does for photography or videography. An affordable green screen kit that includes lighting might well get you the results you need. Or you may need additional lighting overhead and on the desk.
Best LED Lights for Online ESL Teachers
We are going to look at different types of LED lighting options you have as an online ESL teacher, as this will better prepare you for considering and setting up lighting based on your specific needs.
LED Shop Lights
LED shop lights are ideal for online ESL teachers who work in a dimly-lit room and need bright overhead lighting. The first step to achieving good, consistent illumination is to start with a well-lit room, and shop lights will give you that. Of course, shop lights are intended for workshops, and while technically your workspace is not a workshop, it is a space where you will require bright lighting.
The single biggest pro of installing shop lights is obvious – you can significantly brighten the room with one or more shop lights. One downside is that you will either need to fix or hang them from the ceiling, which means they do require a bit of handiwork. Another consideration is that you can’t easily move shop lights around. Since you fix them to the ceiling, you ought to be sure this is the spot where you’ll be teaching ESL online for a good long while.
LED Puck Lights
LED puck lights are actually intended to brighten up areas like the kitchen or closets, but they can illuminate your online ESL workspace just as well. Puck lights are very inexpensive, but their real advantage is the ability to adjust their brightness to set the right ambiance for your workspace, and this can be done with a remote control. You can also set them to turn off on a timer, and they’re very easy to install – just stick them onto the ceiling or a wall. These low power lights will last for a long, long time.
The major downside of puck lights is they operate on AA batteries, so you will need to replace batteries, and probably need a lot of batteries on hand.
LED Softbox Lighting Kits
LED softbox lighting kits are intended for studio use, and you’ve probably seen these types of lights when hiring a photographer for family portraits. Softbox lights are great for online ESL teachers using a green screen, as bulbs provide continuous lighting, and the softbox softens the light reflection, which is ideal for the green screen setup.
Softbox lights can take up a bit of space, so these might be the best LED lights for online ESL teachers who have a relatively spacious workspace.
LED Desktop Lamps
Most online ESL teachers will probably get by just fine with two LED desktop lamps. Essentially, these are study lamps, so you can use them for reading or other work during non-teaching hours, and then repurpose them for lighting when teaching online. What’s good about LED desktop lamps is that they’re inexpensive, bright, and easy to place on your desk. You can also move them around to get the lighting just right. Some desktop lamps are designed with a clip, which is useful if you want to clip your lamp on to the desk or attach it to your screen.
The one factor you need to keep in mind if you use LED desktop lamps is that they typically emit light in one direction, so you may indeed need more than one lamp, especially if you are using a green screen.
LED Ring Lights
LED ring lights are among our favorite types of lights to use for online teaching, because they’re not as glaring to the eye as other LED lights. LED ring lights are portable, attach to a tripod stand, and are easy to place practically anywhere on your desk. Though more ideal for taking selfies and posting videos on social channels, LED rings lights get bright enough to illuminate your immediate your face for the webcam.
We don’t recommend using just one LED ring light – you’ll need at least two, plus additional lighting overhead in the room. Ring lights are useful for ensuring your students can clearly see you on their screens. They are also handy for traveling teachers. You can neatly pack these into your suitcase as they’re both lightweight and compact, and because they’re flat, they don’t take up much space in your carry-on.
Lighting is something you will need to spend some time tweaking and refining as you go with online ESL teaching. There is just no one size fits all solution for everyone, since online ESL teachers work in different types and sizes of rooms, with their own unique atmosphere, have different skin complexions, and may use lighting for green screening.
If you already have a brightly-lit room for teaching online, we recommend starting with two LED desktop lamps. These should be adequate for enhancing your ambiance in front of the webcam.
On the other hand, if you’re working from a dimly-lit room, you’ll want to invest a small amount of money to brighten up the room, and for this, shop lights are great, assuming you are working in a dedicated space in your home.