I have been teaching online with VIPKid since November 2016. Having taught ESL in Korea for a couple of years, the idea of teaching ESL online to young Chinese students didn’t seem too far off. Now that I’m nearing my end of my first contract, here’s the honest truth – a VIPkid Review.
What is VIPKid?
VIPKid is an online teaching service. Teachers from North America teach students in China. Most are between ages 5 and 12, but they are expanding to more ages (I occasionally get a 2-year-old!). The pay varies; they advertise “up to $22 USD an hour” and while technically true, it’s realistically $15-20USD per hour. I personally get $19.
How do I teach for VIPKid?
You can sign up for VIPKid here.
The application process was pretty straightforward; with base requirements of being from North America, having a bachelor’s degree in anything (or a college diploma in early childhood education or something of the sort), and have some sort of teaching, tutoring, or coaching experience.
Not from North America? Check out my list of other sites you can teach online with!
The Application Process
First, you fill out the application and get together any supporting documents (TESL Certification, a copy of your degree, etc.). After this stage, you’ll be asked to do an interview. During this interview, you’ll also be doing a short mock lesson where the interview pretends to be a 5-year-old. Having an adult that you just spoke to and you know speaks English pretend to be a small child with no English abilities is a little bit awkward, to say the least – but this part only lasts about 10-15 minutes. You’re given the lesson ahead of time so you’re told exactly what to teach and how to teach it.
Once that’s over in continues on about what you did well and what you could improve on. Then, assuming you pass, you’ll get an email that is like a rubric with your score and comments within each section of your strengths and weaknesses. Along with this rubric, you are given your base pay which will be between $7 – $9 USD per class. Which each class running 25 minutes, you make $14 – $18 USD as your base pay, plus bonuses, which are mentioned below.
After your interview, you’ll be asked to sign a contract. This contract is contingent on completing the teacher training and teaching practicum. The training consists of watching a bunch of youtube videos that explains their teaching methods, the dos and don’ts and general information about booking, how to use their platform, etc. After these video, you need to take a quiz to prove you know your stuff. It’s an incredibly easy quiz if you watched the videos and a sort of easy quiz if you didn’t.
As for the practicums, you may have two, but if they feel you’re ready after the first one they’ll move you onto teaching straight away. It is similar to the demo class in the interview, however, you’ll be teaching a full class. It will be done through their platform (like the demo class) where you can click through the power point and draw on the slides.
Roughly half way through the class the “student” aka practicum teacher will stop pretending to be the student and tell you how you’re doing. Then it will continue again and you are to implement the tips they told you about. I was moved onto teaching after my first practicum, but I’ve been told that in the second practicum they’re mostly looking for you to implement what they told you in the first one to improve upon.
They love “TPR” (which stands for Total Physical Response). This is a teaching method that is based on the coordination of language and physical movement. Basically, use a lot of hand and body movements while teaching. Also, being bubbly and smiling a lot will do wonders.
Actually Working There
Once you get into the teaching part, it’s pretty simple stuff. You open up your availability on the scheduling tab and wait to be booked. Filling out an awesome teacher profile is a big part of this. You have an introduction paragraph, a short video, and a few (smiling!) pictures. That’s it.
There are also TONS of Facebook groups where you can talk to other teachers, get tips and ideas, and ask any other questions you may have. Most answers can be found on VIPKid’s Freshdesk site (along with all the updates you need to regularly check), but sometimes they’re confusing and asking the veteran teachers in the Facebook group is helpful. You can also check out my Teacher Resources page for my favourite stuff for teaching online!
The Pros & Cons:
PRO: There is nearly no prep work. You can ‘enter the classroom’ the evening before and review the slides you’ll be teaching the next day. The slides are there and made for you and they tell you exactly what they want you to teach. You have to prepare the props you want to use with it (letter flashcards, maybe a puppet or stuffed animal if they’re young, etc).
CON: The instructions aren’t always clear. Occasionally you’ll come across a slide that is a sort of game with limited instructions at the bottom and you either have to figure it out or make it up for yourself.
PRO: You set your own schedule. They no longer have the 7.5hr commitment per week which you may see on some older training material, but you will still need to work over 30 or 45 classes per month to get the related bonus. Also, your schedule doesn’t need to be the same each week, it’s really whenever you are available and want to work.
CON: Once something is booked, it’s booked. There’s no changing it unless you want a cancellation – which you only get six of per contract. If you want to build up regular students and bookings, it’s better to have regular availability.
PRO: Short time commitment. Like with the hours, you’re not required to work too much a week, and your contract is only six months long – many other online teaching positions require a year with a regular schedule – not ideal for travellers.
– No con to go with this one, just good stuff –
PRO: The bonuses. VIPKID is great for bonuses. You get a $1 bonus for starting and finishing all classes on time (you’d think you’d do that anyways if you want to keep your job), except for those with tech issues. You also will receive a 50 cent bonus (per class) if you teach 30-44 classes per month, and a $1 bonus if you teach more than 45 classes per month. This bumps my base pay from $7.50 per class to $9.50 per class – that’s $19USD per hour. Also if a student books you short notice (within 24 hours) you get an extra $2 for that class. If they’re a ‘trial student’ (not a regular course student), you receive an extra $5 if they sign up. So there is potential for $16.50 for one class!
CON: Trials are sometimes difficult, you have to switch the lesson around and figure out their level. Also, if they don’t show up, you get paid half rate, unlike if course students don’t show up – where you’ll still get paid. Trial students are less likely to show up, but I guess the sign-up bonus helps make up for that.
PRO: The students are generally well behaved and they often have their parent with them to help them. You hear sweet stories and they get really excited to talk to you and learn. It’s typically a 1-1 environment where you get to know the kids and see how they grow and progress with English.
CON: VIPKid has started accepting younger children lately (2-3 years old) which can’t stay focused during class. Also, not all of them are so well behaved. If they decide to get up and run around, there’s little you can do about it. The young ones are also sometimes a little scared and nervous and start crying.
PRO: They use a ticketing system (Freshdesk) when errors do occur. It’s a growing company so sometimes things don’t run 100% smoothly, but they tend to reply to issues in a timely manner as well as any questions you might have.
CON: Sometimes you get random emails that seem poorly worded and can come off as harsh. The especially occurs if you had a network or tech error on your end (or they deem you did whether or not it’s the case). I think it may be that the person sending the email isn’t a native speaker and it can come off as really harsh when you get something like “if you continue to have technical problems your contract will be terminated.” So getting those certainly makes me question my job security.
So far so good!
In general, I’m a big fan of working for VIPKid and find that the Pros outweigh the Cons. Due to it being a new company, they have some growing pains. But from what I’ve seen things just seem to be getting better. You can see another review of my thoughts on the changes they’ve made on VIPKid, The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly. There are some things I don’t understand or find transparent. These things include how they determine their base pay, (people with multiple years experience and masters degrees have the same base pay I do, and some with less experience have more), but hey, whatever works for them. If VIPKid seems like something that would interest you, feel free to drop me a line or sign up here!
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