Nearly all online ESL employers expect teachers they recruit to meet specific Internet requirements for online teaching. Naturally, this is because they want to minimize the possibility of interruptions to scheduled classes and avoid complaints from students and parents who enroll in their courses. While every company has its own minimum internet requirements, the basic rule of thumb is that you should have a broadband Internet connection with a minimum download speed of 10 mbs and upload speed of 2 mbs. Most companies will also ask you to prove your speed through various means, and getting hired will almost hinge on the speed and reliability of your Internet connection.
Even if you do have a speedy and stable Internet connection, there will inevitably be occasions when your Internet service or electricity goes out. Obviously, online ESL employers are aware of this since they contract online teachers living in various parts of the world. What it means to online companies when your Internet connection is disconnected or unavailable during a schedule class is that they must either cancel the class or bring in a substitute teacher to complete the lesson. Often, they must credit or refund the class to the affected students, parents or partner schools enrolled in their courses. Understandably, they want to avoid these situations as it costs them both money and potentially losing students. In turn, that affects your income as an online teacher, since you will lose the classes in your schedule during Internet or electricity service disruptions, and possibly even lose classes from your schedule altogether if this happens more frequently.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do minimize these situations and continue to provide online lessons in the event your Internet connection or electricity goes out. Let’s dive in to see how you can set yourself up for success and avoid losing classes and income.
Choose a Broadband Service That Meets Internet Requirements for Online Teaching
As online teachers live across the globe, and the quality of Internet service varies from one place to another, it’s important you first of all consider your options where you live. For example, Internet reliability might be an issue if you live in the Philippines or Cambodia, but not so much the case if you live in New York City or Toronto. Get to know your options based on where you live (or plan to live), so that you can choose a service provider that delivers fast and reliable Internet service. Though many online companies primarily focus on the actual download and upload speed of your connection, one factor that os often overlooked is your Internet ping rate. A high ping rate means the information being transferred (video, audio, etc.) is going to be slow in getting to the people on the other end of the connection and back to you. Having a download speed of 49 Mb/s and an upload speed of 29 Mb/s might get your hired, but a ping rate over 200 ms may seriously hinder your online class performance. Be sure to check reviews and talk to others about Internet service providers in your area with a special focus on frequent downtimes or disruptions to service.
Ideally, you want to sign up for Internet service that provides at least:
- 10 mbs upload speed / 5 mbs download speed
- Ping rate of less than 100ms (the lower the better)
If you are traveling, you will need to make sure where you are staying provides a fast, reliable connection for conducting your online classes. Whether you plan to stay in a hotel or Airbnb premise, pay particular attention to guest reviews of Internet speed and quality.
You can head over to Speedtest.net to get an estimate of your Internet speed and ping rate.
Plan for the Unexpected: Have a Backup Internet Connection
Remember – if you’re teaching online, it’s not only because you enjoy helping people improve their skills; it’s likely you got into this to make some money. No Internet connection = no money. If your main broadband Internet connection goes offline for whatever reason, you’re going to feel really smart about having a backup Internet service you can readily switch over to. You won’t have to message the company staff to cancel your classes, because you still have Internet and will be able to complete your classes as usual. That means, you won’t lose money due to lost income or cancellation penalties.
Most people now have smartphones that include a WiFi Hotspot feature. If you have a solid data plan where you live that has adequate data bandwidth and speed, this is the easiest backup Internet solution. However, this option is not without its downsides. Let’s look at using your existing mobile carrier data plan, and the alternative, purchasing a Data SIM.
Use Your Mobile Carrier Data Plan
As mentioned, phone tethering is an ideal backup Internet solution for online teachers who have access to fast, reliable phone data packages where they live. This becomes an even easier choice if you live in a country where data plans are ultra-inexpensive and provided speeds meet the Internet requirements for online teaching with companies you work with. If your Internet or electricity goes out during your work hours, you’re good to go. Connect your computer to your phone via the WiFi Hotspot settings and it’s business as usual. Since you will be using your mobile data as a backup Internet option, you probably won’t use up much more data each month than you do now. The cost may indeed be recovered by avoiding lost income or cancellation penalties.
The major downside with your existing mobile carrier data plan is that many mobile carriers prohibit phone tethering while others charge additional fees for tethering your phone data. If your mobile carrier prevents tethering your data, then using your phone data as a backup Internet connection is not an option. Moreover, if your mobile carrier charges for tethering your phone data, it might in fact become an expensive option that loses its appeal. Either way, check with your mobile carrier to determine if this using your phone data is going to be the right solution for you. If not, then you have another viable solution.
International Data SIMs
One way to ensure you have fast, reliable backup Internet on a consistent basis, especially while traveling, is to get an International Data SIM, which you can use with your smartphone, tablet or mobile WiFi router. An International Data SIM gives you the flexibility of adding pre-paid credit and using it for emergency situations only, without having to pay monthly fees or additional fees for tethering. Since this is intended to be used as a backup to your main broadband connection, you’re only going to pay for the data you use when your primary Internet connection goes offline, or when you travel, for example. Two providers where you can buy an International Data SIM card are:
Both providers give you a range of Data SIM card options based on how and where you plan to use data, so it’s best to check both out and decide which provider has the right SIM solution for your needs. Data SIMs are affordable, can be used in many countries, and are thus ideal for online teachers who frequently travel.
Use a Mobile WiFi Router with a Data SIM
It might also be a good idea to get a mobile WiFi router for your International Data SIM card if you want to keep your phone free to use. A mobile WiFi router is similar to your home WiFi router except that it uses a Data SIM to connect and is usually more compact, making it portable to carry around when traveling.
Wrapping It Up
Many online teachers fail to prepare themselves with a backup plan for when their Internet goes offline. This can end up being costly both in terms of lost income as well as potential penalties the online employer charges for missed classes or cancellations. Having a reliable local data plan or an International Data SIM (or both), depending on your specific needs will minimize the possibility of missing scheduled classes, losing income and being hit with no-show penalties.