Keeping students is just as important, if not more important, than finding new students.
Your students sometimes need that extra push to continue learning, so make sure to try out these few tips below:
- Quick and Reliable Communication
- Session Requests
- Even if the answer is no, respond to session requests as quickly as possible, and add a personal note in session messages. This will make the student see that you are both professional and considerate. They will really appreciate getting a quick response from you.
- In addition, if you accept the request, immediately add the student to Skype or whichever communication tool you will use.
- If you need to modify the request (time, price, etc), do so BEFORE you accept it and send a message about the modification to the student. They will see that you are responsible and clear in your communication with them.
- Before the First Session
- Ask about the student's language learning background and goals - Everyone benefits when goals and expectations are mutually understood. The more you know ahead of time, the better you will be able to communicate with the student during the lesson, and the better experience you will both have. Even if you don't have much time before the session, you can still send a session message like this: "Hi! I'm looking forward to our session. In the meantime, please write and tell me a little bit about yourself and why you're learning this language. Talk to you soon. If you have any questions, try this link: http://support.italki.com/entries/67817110 "
- Beginning a Session - Send the student a quick message on italki or on the class communication tool to let them know you plan to meet them soon. Students might be nervous, especially if it is their first session, and they will appreciate knowing that you are there for them. When it's time to begin, it is your job to begin the session by messaging and calling the student. We recommend sending two messages right before the session starts:
- one through italki session messages so that italki staff can verify you were available in the event of any conflict
- one through Skype or whichever communication tool you are using, in case the student doesn't notice an italki message and to let them know that you are about to call!
- During the First Session - Use at least part of this session time to assess the student's current ability, understand their goals, and (especially if you are a professional teacher) ask them whether they would be interested in your advice on a long-term study plan to reach those goals. Some students have their own plan for what they want to study, and some will expect you to tell them would be best for them to do. Ask about it, and give them your advice. By providing this small amount of coaching, you may be able to really help this student decide on what they want to improve on and understand what they need to do to accomplish it (often, students know that they want to improve, but they are not clear about how they can do this or how long it will take).
- At the End of the First Session - Use the last few minutes of the session to summarize what you've talked about and give the student your evaluation of their level and what you suggest they do next to improve. Instead of wondering whether the student will come back, give them an estimate of what their study plan with you could be, and let them know that you'd be happy to work with them to accomplish it, if they like. If you offer different courses, suggest which course you think would the best fit for them if they would like to book another session. If you offer a discount for packages, let the student know that if they would like to keep working with you, they can save money by buying a package. Be professional and honest when giving your suggestions.
- After the Session - After your lesson has taken place (especially your first lesson with the student), make sure to follow up with a note to your student. You can follow up with a summary of your lesson, recommendations on how to improve, or even a study plan that they should follow in order to progress. Often, students do not really know what they need to do to improve, so they might need your suggestions. As their teacher, your advice of what they should study and how often will probably help them clarify their goals.
This follow-up is very easy to forget about but is crucial in order to maintain that relationship between you and your student, and to allow them to understand the next step for their learning.
- After Several Sessions - Congratulations! Students usually only book classes again if they enjoyed their first experience!
- If your students are clearly enjoying their classes, you can ask if they are enjoying their classes and whether they know of anyone else who might like to learn from you. When you enjoy working with someone, you would be happy to recommend them to others, and your students will feel the same way.
- Sometimes students are shy about giving feedback, so make sure they know that you are interested in improving as an online teacher and you would appreciate their sincere feedback about your classes.
- Also, just in case your students are having any trouble using italki, we want to know about it! Make sure they know that they can always write to firstname.lastname@example.org if they have any problems or feedback for italki, and we will reply to them as quickly as possible.
- Consistent and Respectful Time Management
- Accurate Availability Calendar - Keep your availability updated and accurate so students won't be confused or disappointed if they can't have the time that they first requested. If the time is available on your calendar, then a student should be able to request it.
- Responsible rescheduling - IF you know that you will not be able to accept the time of a new session request:
- DO NOT: accept the request and then propose to reschedule it (unless you have already talked about this with the student). This is not responsible use of the rescheduling system.
- DO: Propose a time change BEFORE accepting the session request, and send a message so the student understands the reason for rescheduling. This allows the student to accept the time change, or if they decline it, the request will be automatically canceled and they can look for a new time or a more available teacher.
- Ask the student if they would like to schedule another lesson. Remind the student that they should "Confirm" the session if they are satisfied with it, and once they give their feedback, they will have an option to schedule another session with you. For example, you can ask them if they would like to meet again the same time the following week, or just when they would like to meet again to practice.
- Follow Up with Previous Students
Send students (which may have not taken lessons for a long time) messages on italki about any news you may have, for example:
- a new course you have launched on italki
- a new price or special deal that they can have because they are one of your old students
- a new article you have written
- a new introduction video you have published
- if your schedule was busy before, but you have opened up new available times
- a friendly holiday greeting card
- Propose packages
For students who are purchasing one lesson at a time, or for students who tell you they have a particular goal that will take a number of weeks or months to reach, propose longer-term packages, so that you can provide a structured plan for them. You can ask the student up front what their goal is and if they
Similarly, for trial students, at the end of your session, propose which of your packages or course you could offer them to help them improve.
- If you're not sure that you can help a student, of course you can recommend a different teacher for them. This suggestion may not help you keep the student, but it will help the student improve, and perhaps later on, you will get some students recommended to you from another teacher.
What if the student already accomplished their goal?
That's great! If you helped a student accomplish a language-learning goal, they must be feeling very successful and glad that you helped them. You might ask this student if they have any friends or know of anyone else that might benefit from working with you. If they are happy with you as a teacher, they would probably love to recommend you to their friends!
What if they don't come back?
Sometimes, students get busy or want to try working with a number of different teachers. Or, perhaps the student did not have a long-term plan. There are many reasons why a student might not come back to work with you, even if they were very happy with your teaching. If you have already talked with your students about whether they have a study plan or if they would like you to make one for them, you probably have a better idea of how things are going for your student. If you're not sure, you can send a friendly, non-obligatory, follow-up message to wish them well and remind them that if there is something they want some focused help with, that you enjoyed working with them and you have room in your schedule for them.