fbpx

A Better Way to Teach Online

Online teacher exploitation has become a growing problem in recent years as learning platforms have sought to maximize their profits at the expense of educators. While these companies have made record-breaking profits, teachers often lack equity when working for them and have no say in how things are run. This has had an increasingly adverse effect on the quality of education, as well as on the pay and job security of teachers.

MyCoolClass is a revolutionary way for independent freelance educators to work together to deliver quality online education without exploitation. Unlike other learning platforms, MyCoolClass is owned collectively by its teachers which enables them to gain more control over their own teaching business and enjoy greater autonomy in terms of wages, schedule, how the company runs, and you can even accumulate paid time off. Furthermore, they get the support they need from a community of educators.

The main advantage of MyCoolClass over traditional online teaching platforms is that it can provide both financial security and personal satisfaction to its members. Unlike most online teaching companies who take a large portion of educator’s earnings and limit control over the process, MyCoolClass offers a fairer split with members receiving 81% of the total income generated from students. Additionally, with MyCoolClass members can structure their classes around their own interests which allows for more creativity within instruction and better engagement with students.

Since it is worker-owned rather than being controlled by venture capitalists or outside investors, there is greater job security—something that is often lacking in traditional online learning platforms where teachers can be replaced easily with little notice given due to lack of legal protection. And finally, because it is a co-operative model there is more collaboration between members leading to better quality instruction along with improved access to resources and technology that would be too expensive for individuals acting alone.

https://youtu.be/ChiZhIpu540

It’s clear that MyCoolClass offers many advantages over traditional online teaching companies in terms of financial security, autonomy in decision making, and increased control over one’s career trajectory. By enabling independent freelance educators to work together towards providing quality education free from exploitation, MyCoolClass not only helps create an equitable system but also offers an alternative approach towards delivering effective digital learning solutions worldwide.

Interested in reaching more students and taking your teaching career to the next level? Become a teacher member at MyCoolClass! Our growing platform is looking for talented teachers who want to make an impact. Click here to learn how you can join us today!

Online Teachers Are Seriously Getting Ripped Off

The online learning industry is expected to be valued at $1 trillion by 2028. Venture capitalists are making record breaking profits, often 40% to 60% returns on their investments, while exploiting the labor of online teachers and ripping off students.

It should come to no surprise that many of these investors, such as Hoxton Ventures who financed Preply, have also backed companies such as Deliveroo, who have been embattled with lawsuits in multiple countries for labor exploitation and unfair algorithms. There is also Coatue and Tiger Global, two colossal hedge funds that dumped $75 million into Outschool in April of last year and another $110 million in October. Coatue has amassed a good chunk of its wealth backing Uber, Lyft, and DoorDash, whereas Tiger Global has had large stakes in Amazon, Meta, Airbnb, Shopify, and Spotify. All of these companies have horrible reputations regarding labor rights. They’re rich from ripping off workers.

Angel investors and up-and-coming hedge funds are dumping their money into the hundreds of other start-up online learning platforms, many with the goal of making a quick profit before letting the business crash and burn leaving teachers choking in the smoke.

Working on these platforms is not sustainable nor equitable for teachers as companies maximize their profits by oversaturating their marketplace and spreading students thin. This ensures that teachers pay a higher commission, such as what Preply does. Teachers used to rant and rave about Outschool until they drastically scaled from 1,000 to 10,000 teachers over the past two years. While Outschool is seeing major profits, teachers are earning a lot less due to oversaturation and having to spend a lot more time marketing themselves while still paying a 30% commission.  

None of these companies, nor the investors backing them care about education. They do not care about students. They don’t care about teachers.

These companies don’t owe teachers anything. No rights. No voice. No job security. They can have secret algorithms, discriminatory marketing and hiring practices, shadow block your profile, or even delete your account without reason. These companies have zero accountability to anyone.

Because of this, many teachers are going solo, which has left a vacuum for snakes to plague the industry with “how to be a successful freelance teacher” schemes, often costing a lot of money for subpar training that can easily be found for free on YouTube. Anyone that claims to be able to teach you how to run ads on Facebook or Google in a few hours is a fraud, and any digital marketer would say the same thing. Even as a freelancer, how much money do you actually make per hour after factoring in other expenses such as lesson planning, administrative tasks, tools, and time (or money) marketing?

As a freelance teacher, one must ‘stand out’ among the crowd. This really just looks like a pack of hyenas fighting over a single carcass while the lions are already full and happy. Instead of trying to push ourselves up by pushing others down, online teachers need to come together to be able to gain some authority and power in an industry where selling our labor is the sole reason these businesses survive in the first place.

Online teachers are getting ripped off, and we are sick of it. We have been completely left out of the discussion about what happens in our industry. There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of professional online educators around the world being exploited by people and corporations that don’t care about us.

Lawmakers and labor groups are focused on providing more rights for Uber, DoorDash, and Deliveroo workers, but there has not been a peep about how online teachers are victims of wage theft, discrimination, and unethical business practices. This needs to change and online teachers need to be seen as a professional community with common needs and aspirations.

As more platform workers become increasingly dissatisfied with their working conditions, there is a powerful movement of worker cooperatives restoring democracy and bringing equity back to working people. After years of unstable pay, unsustainable work, and getting ripped off, online teachers are fed up and it is time to organize.

MyCoolClass Co-operative is the first and only online learning platform collectively owned by our members in 25+ countries. No venture capital. No hedge funds. Just teachers that came together to build a platform that works for teachers and our students. We are only as strong as our members and right now we are building an army of teachers who want something better.

Imagine if Etsy was owned by artists and creators? Through platform cooperatives, a better, fairer, and equitable workplace is possible for independent workers. The Drivers Cooperative has 8,000 drivers competing against Uber and Lyft in New York City and is looking to branch out to 8 more US cities in the near future. Fairmondo is a German ecommerce platform cooperative, like eBay but collectively owned by the sellers. Stocksy is a platform for photographers who sell stock photos, like Shutterstock or Adobe. Launching soon is PlatformX, a freelancer-owned hybrid cooperative similar to Upwork.

If you’re an online teacher and ready for something better, MyCoolClass is the place for you.
We’re looking for active teachers and supporters who will help spread the news about our co-op so we can grow.

Ready to join us? Learn more about membership and apply here.

Watch a full presentation about MyCoolClass explaining the nuts and bolts of how we work.

Support MyCoolClass by sharing this blog with your family and friends.

It’s time to organize.

The Gig Economy and Online Teaching: Why MyCoolClass is the Future of Online Education

The Gig Economy and Online Teaching: Why MyCoolClass is the Future of Online Education

Since I was a kid, I always liked to toot my own horn and calculate my own risks. I never cared for sports or working in large groups. I hate relying on people for things that I can do faster and more efficiently myself. I think that a lot of online teachers feel the same way and enjoy independence but are also feeling lost with so many options, resources, and information to sift through and figure out what’s best. After all, online education is a booming industry, and everyone wants to get a piece of this global multi-billion-dollar market as the future of online education looks promising . But in case you haven’t noticed, teachers aren’t getting a piece. We’re getting robbed.

There have been a lot of discussions around the world recently, both in mainstream media and with lawmakers, about gig workers and we often hear about the exploitative practices of these mega platforms such as Uber and Door Dash. You don’t need to be an economist to understand that these companies are making record breaking profits while customers pay more, and workers get paid less.  

In the United States, Amazon and Starbucks workers are forming unions and schoolteachers are striking. Last year, the UK told Uber to provide holiday pay to drivers and classify them as workers. Etsy sellers also went on strike earlier this month against fee increases. Last year, an Italian court fined Deliveroo €2.5 million because of unfair algorithms and rider data collection.

Did you know that Hoxton Ventures, the venture capital group backing Deliveroo, also backed Preply with $10 million in funding in 2020 and then more cash last year? Unfortunately, online teachers have been completely left out of the gig worker discussion often dominated by drivers and food delivery. The fact is that those who control these mega platforms don’t care about anyone or anything except getting wealthier at the workers’ expense.  

When I first started teaching online, I worked for Palfish. I regularly ranked in the top 300 teachers of about 5,000. I had a full schedule and amazing student retention. It was fun and I was making decent money. In August 2020, Palfish teachers received a message thanking us for our hard work and informed us that the company received $120 million in funding (from 6 investors). Two weeks later they slashed teacher pay by changing an already exploitative point system that determined our pay rate. Palfish also started hiring Filipino teachers to do the same work as western native English-speaking teachers but they were paid significantly less than me.   

Another reality is that if the shareholders of these platforms want to hide or delete your account without reason, create discriminatory algorithms, unexpectedly raise commission fees, go bankrupt and shut down, sell to another company, change rules, or make any other decision that impacts your job, they can, and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it.

As online teachers, we either need to accept and deal with the conditions these platforms give us or invest in going solo and working independently without a middleman. I was considering going independent myself after the crash of the Chinese ESL market as I’ve been self-employed most my life anyway. I understand business and ran several WordPress websites and consider myself relatively tech savvy. I also know how to market myself and utilize social media. So why not?

The Struggles of a Freelancer

Before moving to Poland and becoming a teacher, I was a private investigator in California for ten years. I was self-employed and had my own clients. Some months I did extremely well, others not so much. It was a rollercoaster, and my income was always unpredictable. Sometimes clients paid me late and other times, not at all having to take a few to court. I had no paid time off and needed to pay for continuing education and training. I also needed to spend an enormous amount of time marketing and buy all my own tools. I loved the job, but it was also a constant hustle.

Research by WondaPay found that 55% of freelancers in the UK are having to wait a month or more for each of their invoices to be paid. If that is your only means of income, this could be the difference between paying rent and eating only peanut butter and bread for a few weeks. If you’re a delivery driver, a private detective, artist, independent teacher, or any other gig worker, we all have the same headaches and lack job security, industry power, and a voice in our workplace.

As we have seen in online education over the past two years, more and more venture capital backed platforms are popping up to make a quick profit. The competition has been driving down prices for teachers on big platforms which is having a huge effect on what students are willing to pay for an independent tutor. Big platforms control the market and set the standards and practices.  

Shortly after Palfish slashed teachers’ pay, I heard about a group of Uber and Lyft drivers in New York City who started The Drivers Cooperative. They raised $1.5 million in crowdfunding and now have over 5,000 drivers in NYC offering a better wage than Uber, while also a better value for riders. I also learned about Signalise, a platform cooperative of sign language interpreters in the UK who recently raised £300,000, and Outlandish, a tech cooperative.  

Cooperatives aren’t a fringe type of business nor are they any type of pyramid scheme. It would be foolish to dismiss them without making an effort to understand the basics of how they work. There are over 3 million cooperatives around the world with over a billion members. In recent years with the boom of platform-based gig work, many platform cooperatives have started emerging in many industries. After doing a bit of homework and seeking the right resources, I had this wild idea to start MyCoolClass, the future of online education. After all, I was bored out of my mind sitting in my apartment in Poland during lockdown, plus the weather sucks most of the year anyway. I haven’t had a good challenge since I was chasing fugitives in California.

The older I get, it becomes more apparent that decent work and fair pay is becoming harder, if not almost impossible, to find and sustain. The rich are getting richer and everyone else is overworked and underpaid. I may be getting gray hair, but I’m still as punk rock as when I was sixteen rocking a green mohawk. I don’t think we should accept a system that a select few created for their own gain at others’ expense. I could have gone solo and am confident that I would be successful. I also could have started a coaching business showing teachers how to make websites or how to create their own courses.  

Nope. I decided to take on an insanely difficult task that most reasonable people would never consider pursuing. To spearhead a project to create a democratically controlled, teacher-owned platform cooperative operating on an international level is no simple task. To get where we are today has taken dozens of volunteers and thousands of hours to make MyCoolClass possible. A place that gives teachers a stake in their workplace while keeping autonomy.

We can either continue giving our money to platform owners or swim solo hoping we don’t eventually drown. As Ryunosuke Satoro said, “Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” MyCoolClass has a real chance of success and the future of online education, but we aren’t a television where you can kick back and enjoy the show. We need teachers, gig workers, and anyone else who wants something better out of their professional lives, wants job security and a real stake in their workplace, online or not. Since launching last summer, thousands of teachers have been watching us and expressed support for our mission. However, that support has also been met with skepticism if we can actually do it.

The founding team behind MyCoolClass has proven to be competent but because we aren’t funded by millionaires, things have been slow. Many online teachers are looking for quick work because many are living paycheck to paycheck, therefore seeking an instant solution. Our plan is to make MyCoolClass the future of online education but it is not a quick fix and is an investment that requires participation, especially in these early stages.  We are a movement to reach our aspirations by uniting for fair work. We need masses of teachers uniting to make this possible. If freelancers in other industries can do it, I’d like to think teachers can too.

MyCoolClass needs to raise £300,000 to be able to become the best platform for teachers and students. We need to hire a marketing team, developers, pay for advertising, improve the platform, develop an app, and we also need to start paying our current workers.  There are a lot of things we want to do and there isn’t anything stopping us if teachers come together as a community with an identity and needs.  

To raise this money, we launched what’s called a community shares offer, in which anyone in the world can become an investor member. Community shares is a user-friendly name for withdrawable, non-transferable share capital: a form of equity uniquely available to cooperative and community benefit societies. Since 2012, over £155m has been raised by over 104,203 people in community shares across the UK. The minimum share subscription per person is £100 and an interest of 5 percent will be paid annually after one year. The withdrawal of capital is targeted after three years, and UK investors may seek tax relief of up to 50% on their investments.

I know we can raise this money if everyone who wants to see this succeed makes the effort to participate. We need teachers to share about us on social media, comment and like our posts, tell others about our mission and encourage other teachers to join.  If you’ve been following us but haven’t joined yet, take that leap, and sign up. If you like what we are doing but you’re not a teacher, invest in our cooperative, and share our vision. If you don’t like what we are doing, you are also invited to get involved and help make us better. Until online teachers collectively own a democratic workplace, we will continue to be exploited by platform capitalism.

I’d like to see an Upwork owned by freelancers, an Uber owned by drivers, a Deliveroo owned by riders and restaurant owners, an Etsy owned by artists and creators, and an Amazon owned by sellers, workers, and drivers. We need organization, not venture capital.

by John Hayes, Creator of MyCoolClass

Been There, Done That… but Not This!

It’s a funny, old business being a self-employed teacher. Especially in a foreign land. Especially online. Especially nowadays. I emigrated to Spain in 1992 and although I do other stuff like make videos, edit, write stories and play music, it is teaching that keeps the wolf from the door.
 
I’ve taught preschool toddlers, construction workers. bank executives, journalists, politicians, every kind of kid and even members of the Spanish Armed Forces. I’ve been a director of university language seminars, a director of residential immersion courses in fancy hotels and now I have my own business in the mountains of Madrid where I bring my methodless method to students who have been badly served by language academies.
 

I’ve been around the block a few times and I’ve learned a few things.

 

 
1.  Nobody gets what they deserve. Everybody gets what they negotiate.
 Teachers are talented professionals but, frankly, nobody cares. Very few private companies will pay their teachers well. They will demand CELTAS, DELTAS, and degrees but pay the same hourly rate as someone with an unskilled job.
 
You can get into the habit of accepting anything until you find yourself believing you are worthless. I’ve learned not to waste my time. If you get made a derisory offer, refuse it. Walk out. Check out materials writing. Find a niche. Keep looking.
 
 
2. TEFL is a shark magnet.
A lot of online TEFL companies are predators. Beware the ones who offer you an easy-to-get TEFL certificate. No employer worth their salt will take seriously a TEFL without proof of real classroom experience. The CELTA qualification is pretty much accepted everywhere and shows you are serious.
 
3. The best tool is empathy.
 The best thing about teaching, even after all these years, is the students. To help someone along the road to pass an exam or get a promotion is deeply satisfying. To do that well you need empathy. It is the one quality that all great teachers have; wherever they are from and whatever they teach. Understand what your students are feeling. What is good for one student will not work with another. Never ever let a methodology get in the way of good teaching. Be present in the here and now with your students.

 

4. Teachers are generous people.
 Teachers are by their very nature generous people. Teaching is one of the many shades of love. If you know stuff, share it with less experienced colleagues. If you need help, ask. Teachers enjoy sharing resources, creating new things with other teachers, and giving their opinions.
 
One thing which has pleasantly surprised me is the creation of MyCoolClass.  A group of teachers got together and decided to create a cooperative. It’s a brilliant, generous idea. It’s teachers working for teachers under rules made by teachers. The business is owned by the teachers, the teachers make the decisions. Self-respect with not a shark in sight. And the chance to share and grow.
 

I wish I’d had this idea in 1992. I didn’t. But if the past is always shouting in our ears, how can we hear the first whispering of the future? I applied to join MyCoolClass and, dear teacher, I would urge you to. The future is about to happen.

 

 

 

The Ugly Truth Behind Online Teaching                       and How to Fix It

The Ugly Truth Behind Online Teaching and How to Fix It

We’ve all heard the pitch. “Work from anywhere”, “earn a superior wage”, “make your own schedule” … The promises are abundant, but the real story behind online teaching is one of social injustice, broken promises, and disposable heroes. Let’s look into the ugly truth behind online teaching… and how to fix it.

Let’s start with a clear understanding that it’s not all bad in the online teaching realm. There are certainly some great advantages to working in this sector. Whether you are looking to procure income while exploring the planet, or just want to pick up a few extra bucks from the comfort of your home office, teaching online may very well be something worth looking into. The work can be quite rewarding, both in terms of financial compensation and the feeling of accomplishment that comes from helping young minds prosper.

So, what are these problems I speak of? What could possibly be bad about a job that allows you to work from your bedroom, a hotel room in Cancun or the back of your RV in Yosemite? Let’s explore just a few things that can leave online teachers with a bad taste in their mouth, and possibly a hole in their wallet.

Teacher Penalties

It happens to the best of us. Whether we miss a class due to an internet failure or are a few seconds late because we just had to wrap up that last point with the previous student. There are endless reasons that a teacher can be a bit late or miss a class altogether. While this is, of course, a no-no, parents and students generally understand and are willing to work with a teacher to make sure these rare occurrences don’t destroy the student/teacher relationship.

Unfortunately, on many of the large teaching platforms a teacher can face stiff financial penalties, and even lose their job entirely, often for instances that are completely beyond their control.

Imagine that as a teacher, you enter the classroom just ONE SECOND after the planned start time of a lesson. Later that day, as you are filling out your daily reports, you realize that you have a message in your inbox informing you that you have lost half of your income from the lesson due to your tardiness (of 1 second). Want some icing for that cake? The student was late as well. They did not enter the classroom until 3 minutes in and are in no way even aware that you were late at all. Does it matter? Nope, that money just went directly into the pocket of the company you represent.

So, that sucked, but it’s all in the past now…. Or is it? Nope. The company also bases your per lesson rate on the number of lessons you taught the month prior. This is done on a point system, where you can earn and lose points for a plethora of reasons. Now you have come to discover that because of this late class, which was a total non-issue for everyone involved, you will have a lower rate next month, and will end up losing hundreds of dollars as a result.

There are tons of teacher penalties that vary drastically from one platform to another, but the one thing that is consistent is a lack of recourse for teachers. Many companies won’t listen to reason, even if it is staring them in the face. The only logic they cave to is the one that feeds their bottom line.

Disposable Heroes

Let’s work on some idioms. “A dime a dozen”. That’s certainly a good one to describe online ESL teachers. If you are looking for a tutor you will have as many as you can handle battering down your door at the mere mention of a prospective client. The big platforms are aware of this and run their businesses accordingly.

Teachers constantly tiptoe across shards of broken glass when communicating with their employers. A company appointment setter or administrator can make or break a teacher in no time flat. To anger or annoy one of these folks is not wise, and a teacher can find himself with a fraction of the students he had yesterday simply for standing up for him/herself.

To the company this is no problem. There are literally THOUSANDS of teachers waiting in the wings to scoop up these students, who may be upset about losing a teacher they liked very much. Unfortunately, that productive student/teacher relationship has been destroyed and there is little chance of mending it. Why? Because that teacher had to move on. They had no choice but to close their schedule and focus on another platform, where they may very well face the same fate a few months down the road.

But why? Why would a company allow dedicated, qualified teachers to fall between the cracks? Wouldn’t it be better to nurture healthy relationships between company representatives, teachers, and students alike? Would it not benefit everyone to have a solid base of great teachers you can count on? Of course, the answer is yes, but for one minor detail. Yep, you guessed it…. That same bottom line.

Social Injustice

There are qualified language teachers spread far and wide across the earth. They are passionate, capable, and ready to work. However, for many of these teachers, online teaching platforms are off-limits or limited in scope. Why? Well, for no other reason than they were born in the wrong country. “UK, USA, Canada, Ireland, Australia, New Zealand”. If you have a passport from one of these 6 nations, you are in the door. However, if you hail from South Africa you may be left out in the cold. Never mind that you’re a native speaker of English, hold a doctorate in English philology, and have 25 years’ experience teaching. There’s just no place for you here. Teachers teach, and first, they learn to teach. Many of the best teachers I know are from countries that are “non-native speaker” nations.

It’s not only access to jobs, but there is also a lack of equality when it comes to pay scale as well. One of the “big companies” offer two separate courses for kids. One is a course catering to students in China, while the other to those in the Philippines. A “native speaker” on the Chinese course can potentially earn upwards of $20 per hour, while a Filipino teacher will earn around $2, for the EXACT SAME WORK. You even hear some teachers attempt to justify this by saying things like “oh, but the cost of living is so much lower there….”, but remember, the pay is based on where a teacher is from, not where they reside. So, if I am an American living in Vietnam, I am living high on the proverbial hog, but if I am a Vietnamese teacher living in America, I may very well be dramatically underpaid. Why? BINGO!!! Bottom line.

How to Fix It

Believe it or not, this may be the easy part. The answer is to put the power and profit in the hands of the teachers themselves, and in turn, back into their communities. By building teacher cooperatives this can become reality. When teachers have a vested interest in their company’s success and the profit comes back to them, as opposed to money-hungry investors, both teachers and students walk away winners.

The teacher cooperative revolution has begun with MyCoolClass.com. Take some time to read about their vision. Let them show you how to bring social justice and sanity back to online ESL teaching. All qualified teachers are welcome at MyCoolClass.com, regardless of where they happened to be born. Just… don’t be late!

Click here for more information about MyCoolClass.com and our teacher cooperative project.

What is your biggest complaint about teaching online?

If you would like to take our poll, click here, and see what other teachers around the world

We use cookies on our website to give you the most relevant experience by remembering your preferences and repeat visits. By clicking “Accept All”, you consent to the use of all the cookies. We are committed to protecting your privacy and ensuring your data is handled in compliance with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).