Apps like Uber, Lyft, and Task Rabbit have helped millions of people use their skills to earn money on their own schedule. This model has now come to the American education market with 51Talk (pronounced “five-one-talk”), an online platform that connects educators in the U.S. with Chinese students who want to learn English.

During each 25-minute lesson, teachers interact one-on-one with students using a live videoconferencing platform. Here, three early adopters share the challenges and rewards of practicing their craft whenever and wherever they want.

A Pregnancy Leave Adventure for Karina Godoy

Last year I came across a Facebook ad for 51Talk. I was pregnant at that time and was not able to physically go to my regular job teaching preschool. For me, teaching via videoconference was a bit uncomfortable the first week, because during my eight years of teaching preschool, I had always been in a classroom environment. I had a trainer who was amazing, though, walking me through what I needed to know.

My biggest teaching challenge was getting used to the one-on-one interaction with the students. When I was a preschool teacher, I had a classroom of more than 14 kids ages 2 to 5, so I had to adjust to focusing on one student for a full 25-minute session.

When I started teaching online, I taught mostly repeat students, but after taking a training course offered by the company to improve my lessons with first-time students, I now have a great mix of both.

In my experience, the clearest cultural difference between American and Chinese students is that the Chinese students seem to be a bit more interested in learning.

Now, in addition to being a full-time mother and a zumbini instructor, I teach English from home 25 hours a week. It can sound scary to teach online, but I love teaching, and this gives me the flexibility to manage my own schedule.

(Next page: 2 more Uber-like teaching examples)


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