How to get started with new online ESL students by Kris Jagasia from Off2Class

How to get started with new online ESL students by Kris Jagasia from Off2Class

How to get started with new online ESL students


My name is Kris Jagasia and it is a pleasure to be posting on the #onlineteachersummit blog! When Paulino invited me to contribute to the community he requested that I focus on a teaching theme rather than a marketing or entrepreneurial theme. He had heard from many of the summit attendees that although the marketing coaching received during the conference was fantastic, many teachers wanted to learn some useful teaching tips and advice.


Paulino’s direction had me contemplate the different requests for teaching guidance that my team (at Off2Class) has received from online ESL teachers over the years.


We consistently receive requests for guidance on teaching technical areas of the English language (e.g. Phrasal Verbs or the Passive Voice). Yet, these requests are often specific to a particular student type that a teacher is facing at the time. For example, an article about teaching Phrasal Verbs wouldn’t be overly useful to a teacher who focuses on beginner students.


I needed a more general topic, so I combed through my past communication with online ESL teachers!


One of the most frequent general requests for guidance that we receive from online teachers is ‘where do I begin’? That is, ‘I’ve got a new student and I’m not sure where to start!’


You’ve done the hard work, now the fun begins…


As an independent online ESL teacher, not knowing where to start with a new (paying) student is a good problem to have! You’ve done the hard work. By building a web presence in a defined niche, growing your email list and distributing worthwhile content some of your student leads are starting to convert. Fantastic! But where do you take it from here?


Here are some great tools and practices that you can use to develop your own system for getting started with new online ESL students:


  1. Develop a Needs Analysis Questionnaire


Sending a structured questionnaire to new ESL students can provide insight into who they are as a learner and what their goals are. If you include a mix of multiple choice and free text questions you’ll also get some insight into their reading and writing abilities.


The TEFL Academy suggests a step-by-step approach in developing your needs analysis questionnaire.


Colorín Colorado has some specific questions that you can consider including in your questionnaire.


  1. Offering a ‘Live’ Assessment Consultation


Cecilia Nobre suggests undertaking a 30-minute to 1 hour Assessment Consultation where you can walk your students through your own interview-style questions in a live setting. She suggests the following critical questions to get a grasp on your students’ needs and aims:


  • Motivation to learn English
  • Present and past practice and exposure to English
  • Previous learning experience
  • Attitudes and readiness to learning English
  • Short and long-term goals


  1. Sending a Placement Test


We recently revamped our ESL Placement Test to include the option of sending Listening, Reading, Writing and Speaking assessment with our popular Grammar assessment.


When your new students sit the test we produce a Gap Analysis, which outlines your students’ ESL weaknesses. We use the Gap Analysis as the starting point to prepare their Individual Learning Plan (lessons designed to target those gaps).


When used in combination with a Needs Analysis Questionnaire or Consultation a Placement Test can provide a fantastic backbone to your system for getting started with new online ESL students.


Some parting words: consider the concept of ‘scaling’ equally for your teaching systems as well as your marketing systems


‘Scaling’ is an increasingly popular concept in the world of online marketing. For those of us that aren’t (yet) online entrepreneurs, the concept of scaling is actually pretty simple. You want to build systems that are easily repeatable so that you can get the most impact out of your marketing activities (and build upon work you’ve already completed). This is particularly true if you’re working as a solo entrepreneur.


My biggest piece of advice for new online ESL teachers is to make all of your systems easily repeatable. In the same way that your marketing activities should scale, your system for getting started with new students should be easily repeatable. If applied correctly, this concept will ultimately allow you to grow your student roster into a full-time, independent teaching business.




Kris Jagasia is the head of customer support at Off2Class. In this role he is the key point of contact for all teachers and schools teaching with Off2Class. Kris regularly hosts training and other professional development sessions for ESL teachers.


Leave a comment