Teaching English Online for VIPKID: The Basics

Read my honest review of what it is like to work for the company, VIPKID. This articles includes the pros, the cons, and everything in between! 🙂

If you are interested in a flexible job where you choose your own hours and teach English from the comfort of your own home, then this review may peak your interest!  Please comment or e-mail me at teachtravelgrow@gmail.com with questions you have, and I am more than happy to get back to you.

If you do decide to apply for the company by the end of my post, just click the link below to apply or use my referral code.  By using my information, it will give me a small stipend and keep me up to date on how you are doing with the interview process. (I like reaching out to my referrals with suggestions and some tips).
Referral Link
Referral Code: 07XQI2

The Basics

What is VIPKID?  VIPKID is a company with headquarters in Beijing that provides opportunities for students in China (ages 4-12) to learn English online. Teachers work from home (or wherever they may be) and use VIPKID’s online teaching platform (picture something like Skype with an integrated, interactive PowerPoint and chat box). Students are taught in a one-on-one environment. Teachers set the hours that they are available to work through VIPKID’s Teacher’s Portal or VIPKID’s online teacher app, and then parents book teachers’ open classes. It’s as simple as that!

The video below shows a depiction from the company of VIPKID’s vision.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Hl9Qg_-ncY

The Curriculum

The curriculum that VIPKID offers has changed over time, but it revolves around the U.S. Common Core State Standards. This is perfect for teachers looking for a part-time job because many American teachers are already very familiar with these standards!  All classes for VIPKID are already developed by special curriculum developers.  This means that you do not create the content you will be teaching and simply use the content already provided to you. All of the work of lesson-planning has been done (#majorwin)!

This starkly contrasts with the job of teaching in public schools where the end of the school day does not by any means signal the end of a teacher’s work day.  Of course, great VIPKID teachers will look over the content and lesson objectives they are teaching in advance, but this certainly requires less time than preparing one’s own courses.

Teacher Requirements

In order to become a VIPKID teacher, you must have a Bachelor’s degree in something (or an Associate’s Degree in Education).  If you have a Bachelor’s Degree, you do *not* need to have a teaching certification.  While this is preferred, as long as you have some informal experience working with kids, you are good to go!  I know several young mothers who work for VIPKID full-time who did not receive their Bachelor’s degree in teaching but have been highly successful working for VIPKID.

Additionally, you must be a resident of the U.S. or Canada (sorry my English friends, but apparently this is the *one* instance where having an American or Canadian accent pays off). You also have to have access to a computer with high-speed internet (interpret that as you will), so that your computer can handle the online learning platform. This will ensure the awkward and dreaded student-teacher technical difficulties will be kept to a minimum.

The Pay 

VIPKID teachers get paid once a month in the form of direct deposits into your bank account between the 10th and 15th. While it would be nice if this occurred more frequently, fees occur when transferring money abroad, and thus this policy makes sense.

The interview process is where your base pay is determined. VIPKID teachers will ultimately make a minimum of 14 dollars per hour and a maximum of 22 dollars per hour depending upon their evaluation, the number of courses they teach per month, and several other factors.  There are opportunities for you to request a pay raise (although it can be difficult to acquire one). Regardless, even at the minimum pay rate, you still do pretty well for yourself considering you can wear PJ bottoms.

The Application/Interview Process

***Update as of 9/6/18: We recently received word that the Interview Process is changing. While all the details have not been released, teachers will apply for specific certifications (there is more than one type of class you can teach), and the initial interview & demo will most likely be eliminated. Thus, the information below is most consistent with the older interview process. I will update it as I learn more.

If you are interested in becoming a VIPKID teacher, sign up immediately!  I say this because the interview/application process is  tedious and can take some time.  While people who prefer instant gratification (like myself) may find this mildly frustrating, I promise that once you make it through the process, it’s worth it.  I’ll briefly break the process down below (into five stages).

  • Stage One:  Apply Online

This is essentially the send-the-company-your-resumé step so that they can determine if you meet their teacher requirements. This part is all written, done on the computer, and relatively quick to complete.

  • Stage Two: Interview & Demo Class OR Video-Recorded Interview 

In this step, you will undergo a 30-minute interview, typically conducted by someone working for the company in China. Most of the time, you will merely introduce yourself and state your previous experience working with children and your educational background. There is also an option to forego the interview with a formal interviewer and record your interview instead. Don’t be overly tempted by this option, as it is not as though you will get to pre-record your interview repeatedly. Just as if you had a normal interview, you will have one opportunity to record your interview.

If I were you, I would *highly* recommend having a formal interviewer as opposed to recording a video and getting that interviewer’s name. I have explained this recommendation in my “cons” section of the company below. Then, you will teach various slides that the company has selected for you to teach.  (It can be a little bit awkward because, you know, clearly your interviewer is an adult pretending to be a child, but are we truly living if we’re not surrounded by awkward)? This is also the step where your base pay will be determined based on your previous experience.  Your base pay will be 7 to 9 dollars per class (with opportunities for additional bonuses later on).

  • Stage Three: Training

This stage is great.  It will give you all of the information you will wish you had had in stage two when your base pay was being determined. There are an abundance of videos, tutorials, and quizzes you will need to take.  While this may sound obnoxious, it’s super important because you can’t just become a teacher without understanding what it is you’re going to be teaching. It also will show you how you are supposed to teach these students and what students at different levels will need.

(Note: If you are an elementary teacher in the States, teaching for VIPKID is way different than what you do on a daily basis. This involves way more smiling, exaggerated speech, gesture, and TPR [Total Physical Response].  This could be the very first time a child has *ever* heard English, so what you do in your elementary classroom will not resemble what you do in your virtual classroom).

  • Stage Four: Mock Class

In this stage, you will have already had your training and passed your quizzes. This is where you will meet with an interviewer (someone who works for the company but is most likely based in the United States), and you will conduct a mock class. This consists of teaching several slides where your interviewer pretends to be a lower-level VIPKID student and also where your interviewer pretends to be a higher-level VIPKID student.

Of course, your instruction will need to vary to demonstrate your understanding of differentiation.  After each portion of your instruction, you will pause and have a conversation with your evaluator who will tell you some of the things that you’ve done well and also provide you with recommendations. If there are any recommendations that they give you in the first round of feedback, immediately implement those into the second half of your mock class.

Within 48 hours, you will receive formal written feedback regarding your mock class. You will either be dismissed from the program (this is unlikely but does happen), asked to do a second mock interview, or you will be sent to Stage 5 (hooray)!

  • Stage Five: Contract Signing

At this point, the end is in sight!  You will have to send in some important documents (verification of your bachelor’s degree, for example), sign the contract (contracts last for six months now before you are up for renewal), and you will have officially become a VIPKID teacher! 🙂  Now your schedule is up to YO)!  You will have to set up a profile with a basic introduction of yourself, a photo, and a greeting video.

Changes Over Time

Over time, VIPKID has experienced a lot of change.  I have worked for VIPKID on and off for three years (more about that later…), and I have seen a lot of changes in regards to the course content as well as general policies related to being a VIPKID teacher. To me personally, all of these changes demonstrate that the company is continuously reflecting upon its practice for both VIPKID teachers and students and adjusting to meet their needs.

I can illustrate two examples of this now. When I first started working for the company, they had a policy that stated you had to work for at least seven and a half hours a week.  While that doesn’t sound like a lot, many teachers specifically chose to work during the summertime, but may have also held other summertime positions. Unfortunately, teaching is not exactly the most lucrative of occupations.

I didn’t like this policy because while most of the time, I wanted to work far more than seven and a half hours in a week, there were a few weeks where I would have appreciated the flexibility to NOT. Since the company emphasizes flexibility, I thought that this policy should not have been in place. Well, lo and behold, that policy is no longer in place! This is also fantastic for full-time teachers who want to work for VIPKID during the school year on the weekends. Perhaps you can only commit to two or three hours each weekend. That is a-okay. When the company says it’s flexible, it’s not joking. It truly is!

Another change that happened recently within the past two months is the actual format of the classes.  Before, lessons consisted of what I have said is a PowerPoint (it’s not actually a PowerPoint, but it is similar in nature and has slides). These lessons were interactive in the sense that you could draw and write on them, and students could draw and write on them.

However, VIPKID totally revamped their online platform and is now starting to shift over to an entirely interactive system with additional features.  Now, there are tools that have been added that first and foremost, engage the students. For example, in some slides, students can actually click and drag objects, which they could not before. The additional level of interactivity will help minimize any classroom management issues that teachers experience (especially with the little ones).

There are also new features that VIPKID added for teachers’ sakes. Teachers can now turn off the writing capabilities of a student…perhaps if they’re scribbling all over the screen (not that I’m speaking about past classes or anything). Additionally, VIPKID added a feature where teachers can easily go back to previous slides within the lesson, making the course content more navigable. Perhaps one of my favorite additional features that VIPKID added is interactive reward systems! 🙂 As a VIPKID teacher, you always have to have a reward system in place throughout your lesson. Perhaps you have a print out of a paper monkey, and each time a student does well, you give him paper bananas. Initially making the reward systems is time-consuming. However, now, interactive reward systems are ON THE SLIDES (woohoo), so again, teacher prep time is decreasing and more focus/emphasis can be placed on actual instruction.

Now You’re Hired…Using the Teacher’s Portal

I’m going to describe this and attach screenshots, so you can see what it looks like to work for the company.  Once you become a teacher, you will log into VIPKID’s Teacher’s Portal.  Its friendly little log-in looks like this:

Once you log in, you will see the teacher’s portal homepage, which looks like this:

You will noticed that my days and bookings here are low because at this time, I had just re-started my contract (for the third time). Underneath this, as you can see, it says “Stats.” This display gives you information regarding the number of slots you’ve opened, the parent feedback you’ve received, and number of other indicators that can be helpful to examine.

Academy Tab
You’ll notice that there are numerous tabs in the orange toolbar. In the Academy tab, which you can click on at any point, there are a wealth of resources pertaining to the curriculum. Almost all instruction-related questions that you have can be answered by clicking on that tab. Additionally, VIPKID will offer special courses students can take for certain time periods. The academy will have the resources and training that you need to become certified in that area, if you so choose. The academy is awesome!

Bookings Tab

Bookings is where you set your availability and hours.  VIPKID recommends that you set your availability for one month in advance. You will notice that this is for the week of Monday, May 28 to Sunday, June 03. All of the spaces under Monday and Sunday where you can see a time written in green font are time slots that I have opened and already denote my availability. This means that parents can see that I am available and choose to book my classes.  Once a class is booked, it will look like the class that I have with Bertha (love it) on Monday at 8:30 a.m.

You may also notice that some of the time slots are highlighted in light orange, and some of the time slots are highlighted in dark orange.  Dark orange time slots are PEAK time slots with the highest probability that you will be booked. VIPKID recommends having at least 7.5 hours a week open during peak time slots to ensure maximum booking rates. Light orange time slots are times where it is still likely that you will be booked, but less frequently than the peak hours. It is unlikely that you will be booked for time slots that are not highlighted in orange.

The hours will vary depending on where you are located. Peak hours also change depending on whether it is the school year or summertime.  Peak hours currently consist of (in Beijing Time, so make sure you convert this to your own) 6 p.m.-10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturday through Sunday.

You will also notice that next to each time, there is a little square.  (In my little squares, there are checks).  If you check a little square, it means that your classes can be booked within 24 hours, without notice.  If this does occur, you will receive an additional $2 for that class, as it is counted as a “short-notice class.”  However, if you do not have these squares checked, then you will not be booked within 24 hours of your starting class time.

Classrooms Tab
When you click on the Classrooms Tab, your screen will look like this.

It will have a list of your upcoming classes as well as a variety of other information. You can click on “Student Info” to find out more about your student (previous teacher feedback, for example) and you can click on “Materials” to view the lesson you will be teaching in advance as well as the objectives, target sentence patterns, etc.

Teaching Classes
Class times are expected to be a minimum of 25 minutes (they can be anywhere between 25 minutes to 30 minutes). Monitoring your time is something that takes practice, and my tendency to run late at all things I do (my second graders can confirm this) is reflected by how I am always running over in my VIPKID classes as well.  It is better to do longer classes than shorter classes, and if you finish your class before 25 minutes is up, there will be some unhappy parent feedback heading your way.

You click on the Classroom button to enter the classroom, and wah-lah!  You are in.  Take a look below and excuse my “It’s 5:30 a.m.” eyes.  Teachers are encouraged to always wear orange (I know, it can be painful) as well as have a well-lit classroom with educational posters and resources in the background. (Go for a corner space…you will have more room that way)! Additionally, you should have a headset to wear at all times (your computer speakers are not good enough to pick up on the precise phonics you need to teach) as well as at minimum, a set of magnetic letters, alphabet flash cards, a dry erase board, and a stuffed animal/puppet that you can use for your littlest kiddos.

It is very important to note that you are not finished after your class time is finished!  You must, within 12 hours (I usually just do it immediately following the class), submit feedback regarding your student and class.  The first bout of feedback goes directly to the students’ parents. (You write it in English, and then the company translates it into Chinese and sends it out). The more thorough you are regarding the course content and your students’ performance, the more likely you are to be re-booked by the same students and ultimately have a set of “regulars” who you will be more than happy to see.

Additionally, you will have the opportunity to leave comments regarding your students’ performance so that the next teacher who has the same student will have helpful hints and tidbits before preceding with instruction. While this is optional, I always leave feedback for the next teacher.  I personally think that not leaving feedback for the next teacher is a detriment to the student. We should be working together to ensure that all students at VIPKID are successful.

BUT that is not all.  Your parents play an important role in your booking rate at VIPKID. After each class, parents have the opportunity to give you feedback. VIPKID allows parents to rate you on a scale of 1 to 5 apples, 1 meaning maybe you should consider an alternative occupation and 5 meaning you’re a rockstar.  Parents view other parents’ feedback, and it is a very important part of your booking rate! Parents can click on certain descriptors such as “expressive attitude” but can also leave their own unique comments, which will then be translated by someone from the company so you can see as well.

Major Classes Versus Trial Classes
This is something that is critical to understand when starting your work as a VIPKID teacher.  You may be booked for major course classes. These are classes for students who have already registered for the program and are actively taking VIPKID classes.  You may also, on the other hand, be booked for trial classes. These are students who are testing out the company (parents are deciding whether or not their child should sign up for VIPKID). Because of this, the expectations regarding what you are supposed to do both in terms of feedback and also during instruction are quite different.  Understanding these expectations is incredibly important before beginning teaching, and all of the related training you will need regarding this can be found under the Academy Tab. (I can also make a post about this).

Stats Tab

This tab has information pertaining to your time slots, participation, and parent feedback. It also features a comparison where your stats are compared to the averages within the teaching community.

Payment Tab
This has information about your hard-earned money! You’ll probably frequent it often. One thing to know is that your payment can vary based upon particular circumstances. There may be instances in which your students don’t show up, you don’t show up (bad idea), or you experience technical difficulties.  All of these circumstances, in addition to whether or not the class was a major or trial class, impact the payment you ultimately receive. VIPKID has helpful graphics in your training that explain all of this to you, and again, I can provide more information, as needed.

I caution you…do not miss classes once you say you are available unless it is an absolute emergency. This will not only impact whether you are booked, but also whether the company considers allowing you to receive a raise.

Feedback Tab
This is where you can view all of your parent feedback, including your average apple rating, your individual apple rating, and the specific comments your parents may have made about your classroom performance.

Referral Tab
VIPKID offers a wonderful referral program with excellent incentives.  As I mentioned before, I think VIPKID pays its teachers so well and offers these high incentives because they hold their teachers to high expectations. By giving decent pay rates for referrals, VIPKID expects you to support your referrals throughout their application process as well as their initial transition into becoming a VIPKID teacher. I included both my referral link and code at the top of this post (and would love to help you out throughout the process)!

Support Tab
The support tab deals with common questions/issues you may run into whilst teaching as well as helpful responses.  Another way to get support from VIPKID is to issue a ticket through FreshDesk, an online platform that you will get an account with once you become a VIPKID teacher. You can issue a ticket regarding numerous types of problems that may occur whilst teaching, ranging from technical issues, to student behavior, to problems with payment, etc.

The Hutong
VIPKID has launched something called the Hutong, with goals, challenges, and incentives for teachers. The goal of the Hutong is to provide you with information but also help build a teacher community. VIPKID has done a lot within the past few years to build a teaching community and even has meet-ups across the country for teachers to get together and share tips and tricks. It has also sponsored trips for teachers to China! While I have not been such an active part of this community (due to teaching second grade full-time this year), I fully intend to get more involved this coming year in the teacher community that exists for this company. 🙂

Pros and Cons

Cons

  1. Communication – While this is something that VIPKID is constantly striving to improve, communication with the company can sometimes be frustrating. I had a very frustrating experience recently. As I mentioned before, I worked for the company with two different contracts previously. I was working for the company this year and unfortunately missed their e-mail asking me to renew my contract, as I was in the midst of a chaotic time. Despite having taught for them for two years, VIPKID would not renew my contract and said I had to re-go through the interview process. While this was frustrating, I ultimately understood (as it was my own responsibility to renew the contract).  However, the most infuriating thing that truly impacted my view of the company was that upon re-evaluation, the company lowered my pay rate. While I understood that my pay rate would not increase because I had missed the renewal date of my contract, the fact that my pay rate was lowered showed me that my value as a teacher may not be as high as I would like it to be within the company. I reached out to them to appeal this decision (as during the interview process, I was forced to take a video instead of have an interviewer), and they could not determine who evaluated my interview and who determined that my base pay should be lowered. Nonetheless, they lowered the pay despite many e-mails back and forth with myself.  After six months, I fully intend to request a raise, and if this is rejected, then my rapport or support of the company may shift.  However, the fact that I experienced this frustration and still vehemently support and want to work for the company is a testament to the fact that VIPKID, overall, is a pretty great company to work for.  (I will keep you posted after six months!)
  2. Initially Slow Booking Rate – I didn’t experience this problem the first two times I worked for VIPKID, but as the company has expanded dramatically, I experienced this problem the third time. When you first become a VIPKID teacher and open time slots, you may not be booked at all. You should anticipate at least a solid month before you are booked regularly, and to be honest, I might expect this to be more like two months. The reasoning is simple. When you are starting out, you don’t have parent feedback which is one of *the* most important factors that other parents use to book you. I have also recently learned that in the parent view of VIPKID, VIPKID selects and edits actual footage of you teaching that the parents can see (this was news to me). If you haven’t taught any classes before, parents can’t see this footage, and thus you are less likely to be booked. Initially, you will probably book primarily trial classes (these tend to require the most energy from you and are also subject to greater amounts of Student No Shows than major course classes.) This is not always bad, though; if you do an excellent job and a student signs up for VIPKID after taking your trial class, you get a $5 bonus. However, again, as soon as you start getting feedback, your bookings will start rolling in.  Like anything that you are just starting, you simply need to be patient!
  3. Long Interview Process-This can be a pain in the butt, but ultimately, actually displays the company’s high expectations for its teachers. If the interview process was short, anyone could teach, and so while it may be annoying for you initially, it really serves to make the company that you work for more legitimate.

Pros (There are certainly more pros than cons…that’s why I’m here!)

  1. Flexibility – The ability to set your own hours and your own schedule is absolutely amazing. You work on your own terms. This flexibility also makes VIPKID an awesome option for someone who is very interested in travel.  As I’ve mentioned in previous blog posts, I will be spending three months at a time in Denmark this coming year. While I will be in Denmark, I will still be teaching for VIPKID full-time, just like I will be in the States. My hours will be different (because of varying time zones), but I will still be able to work. If you had a little bit more of a financial safety net than I do, you could be even more adventurous in terms of your travels and working for VIPKID. So long as you have access to a stable internet connection, you can work for VIPKID from anywhere, and thus continue to generate an income.
  2. Teaching in Your PJs – For real, this one doesn’t get old. You are supposed to wear an orange shirt (so I ordered two super comfy cotton shirts from Amazon that I switch on and off), but other than that, you can wake up, grab your cup of coffee, and get started!  (Just don’t make the mistake of playing a game with your student that involves standing up and sitting down when you are wearing turquoise heart PJ shorts….again, *not* speaking from personal experience).
  3. No-Prep – Okay, so again, it’s not entirely no-prep, and getting started requires a little bit of an investment. If you’re a good teacher, you will review the material in advance, BUT you are not creating the lessons. They are there for you. This makes a WORLD of difference in terms of time, and when you leave your virtual classroom, it is possible to let work stay at work (which is something I cannot do with my elementary classroom).
  4. Professional Development Is Accessible, Ongoing, and Continuous – As I mentioned with the Academy Tab as well as the changes that VIPKID continues to make, the company wants its teachers to grow and learn and offers lots of professional development opportunities and incentives to make this happen.
  5. Strong Teacher Community – There are many different teacher forums where teachers ask each other questions and give each other advice. I think that this is absolutely awesome and provides a sense of camaraderie.  My VIPKID teacher best friend (#WendyIloveyou) and I love to chat about the silliest things our students have done slash also vent about our frustrations and what we can do to problem-solve.  The community is definitely strong with VIPKID and you can be as involved or not involved as you would like.
  6. The Kids – I mean this is why we’re ultimately here, right?  Because at the end of the day you are teaching wonderful little gems (mostly) and opening their eyes to the world of English. They’re adorable, and especially once you start booking regulars, can absolutely make your day! 🙂

Final Thoughts (I know…finally, am I right?)

VIPKID is an awesome job option for teachers looking for part-time work during the school year or full-time work during the summer. It’s also a great option for moms or dads who are looking to stay at home with their chuldren but also work all the same or anyone, really, who has an interest in furthering the education of young students. While there are some cons, the pros definitely outweigh them, and I would recommend working for the company to anyone in a heartbeat! 🙂

5 comments on “Teaching English Online for VIPKID: The Basics

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    • Awesome! I am so glad you found it helpful. If you have any other questions about working for them in the future, just let me know! 🙂 (I know there is a lot to consider)!

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