As a professional italki teacher, you have the possibility to offer 5 different courses to your students and add descriptions to them. Many teachers don’t realise that this is a powerful tool to attract prospective students. The courses I see are often divided by level: English for beginners, English for intermediate students, English for advanced students. Or something similar. Even worse if there’s almost no or no relevant information in the course description.

how to optimise your course descriptions on italki

So what can you do to make your courses and descriptions outstanding and attract students to book sessions with you?

In my experience, niching down doesn’t work well on italki – with English being an exception. So for any other language, I’d recommend offering one course for all levels. Mine is called “Structured German lessons levels A1 – C2”. The adjective “structured” already gives the student an idea what the lessons will be like and in the course descriptions, I explain in detail which books I work with and how I normally conduct the lessons. For example, I tell the students that I’ll focus on conversation and grammar during our Skype sessions and that they will get homework to practice their listening comprehension and writing skills.

This general course will most likely be the one most students choose when they book a lesson with you.

Why is English different?

English is the lingua franca all over the world. This doesn’t mean that everyone speaks English, of course, but if you’re abroad and don’t speak the local language, you will try to get by with English, won’t you?

Many people who are interested in online English classes already have some basic knowledge at least. Quite a few speak the language at an intermediate or even advanced level. Many people aspire to work abroad and even in non-English-speaking countries,  they will often need English at work. About 90% of my German students speak English at work and learn German for their private lives in Germany, Switzerland or Austria.

All this means that students are more likely to look for something specific they need or want to improve and therefore it makes more sense to specialise in a certain niche even on italki.

Course titles versus course descriptions

When prospective students go to your teacher profile and skim it, the course titles should give them a quick and immediate idea of what you’re offering. Even if you don’t teach English, it’s normally best to give your courses English titles – unless you want to niche down and work only with advanced students, for example. Keep the titles as short and clear in their meaning as possible. Personally, I’m put off when a teacher has a three-line-title for a course.

So your courses titles must attract the students’ attention. Quite a few won’t click on the description which I find quite astonishing but it happens. However, when you create your courses, don’t use a one-liner for your description which basically repeats the course title. In the description, you can go more into detail. Tell students how you conduct this certain course, which material you use and if they’re required (or recommended) to do homework.

May I mention which books I use? 

You can list the books you’ll be using in the description but please don’t write that you will send the student an (illegal) PDF copy of that book. I mean, we all know that in countries like Russia you can download practically everything but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to infringe copyright laws. So do list the books you use and then discuss privately with the student which options he has to get a copy of this book.

What other courses can I offer?

So once you’ve written the description for your general language courses and made it available for students, you may still offer four other courses. You can use all four of them or just add another one or two. Don’t confuse students, all courses should be clearly distinguishable from one another.  I’ve made this mistakes several times. In the best of cases, prospective students will send you a message and ask for further explanations, in the worst of cases, they prefer to hop to another teacher’s profile whose courses titles make more sense to them than yours.

Here are some suggestions for possible courses:

  • Test preparation
  • Business language
  • Preparation for job interviews
  • Pronunciation
  • Conversational classes based on texts, videos or pictures
  • Listening Comprehension
  • Colloquial language
  • Small talk
  • Learn with movies/music
  • Literature
  • Cooking/Recipes/Food

(I hope to write an article about each of these possibilities to go more into detail)

Lessons without Skype

One of my courses is called “Correction of texts / Translations EN-ES-PT to German”. In my description, I state clearly that these classes do not include Skype sessions and that a 30-minutes lesson applies to a text of about 300 words. There isn’t a huge demand for this but once in a while, a student needs this kind of service and it’s quite convenient for me because I don’t need to hop on Skype.

Special offers

This is something I’ve done once in a while, often in combination with a language challenge. It’s also a good method to get started on italki. Basically, it means that you offer a certain kind of lessons at a reduced price for a certain period of time and possibly for a maximum amount of students. Starting in July, I’m offering such a course continuously with a different promotion every month.

Don’t delete Courses

Another mistake from my beginnings on italki. I’m someone who constantly changes something and in the beginning, I deleted a course and offered a new one. Bad idea because once you do this, the new course will appear on your profile showing 0 students who took it so someone will have to make that first step and book it.

When you don’t want to teach a certain course anymore, it’s much better to make it unavailable. Later on, you may have an idea for another course and can just edit the title and description of your old course. Then you can make it available again and it will appear with the number of students who took your previous course. This is especially helpful when you intend to offer a more specialised and therefore more expensive course. Yes, it may be a bit of cheating but I trust that you will offer your best value and students are simply more willing to book something when they see that others have already done the same.

What about Community Tutors?

Unfortunately, as a community tutor, your only option is to offer “Informal Tutoring”. If this is what you want, don’t worry. However, it may be your goal to change your status to professional as soon as possible. Perhaps you’re already attending a TEFL course. This is something you should mention on your teacher profile. If you can offer your students to work with material, mention this, too. Be as specific as possible so that students know what to expect. Encourage them to message you for more detailed information. Or prepare a GoogleDoc with your personal course descriptions. Italki doesn’t accept “real” links but pasting the URL is okay, it’s just not clickable. This is a possibility if you want to write more than italki allows you to do in your teacher profile.

Any questions or suggestions? Please don’t hesitate to write in the comments, I’m looking forward to hearing from you. 

Author: Daniela

Hi! I'm Daniela - a native German who's living as a digital nomad in Latin America. Besides making a living teaching German, I'm constantly trying to improve my Spanish and Portuguese. On my blog, I write articles for (aspiring) language teachers to help them get started and for people who want to travel the world and make some extra cash teaching offering quality language lesson.

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4 thoughts on “How to optimise your course descriptions on italki

  1. Thank you Daniela! This article is very informative, especially since I have just upgraded to Professional Teacher from Community Tutor so I am about to write my new courses descriptions!

    Also, THANK YOU so much for the amazing tip: do not delete your courses, but edit the title and the description to not lose the record of it!
    I would have incurred in that mistake first thing first!

    p.s. I love your blog!

    Posted on 3. July 2017 at 12:30
    1. Thanks for your kind words, Martina. I’m sure you’ll be a successful professional teacher. Always good to learn from other people’s mistakes ;-).

      Posted on 3. July 2017 at 12:39
  2. Hi, Daniela. I want to know more about informal tutoring. I didn’t get a whole idea about it from the iTalki page (there was something about 50/50% on learning a new language and speaking your native language). Also, can u be a professional and informal tutor at the same time? Thanks for the beautiful and persuasive article. I definitely made my mind although I have questions yet about what you have written.

    Posted on 5. July 2017 at 20:56
    1. Thanks for your comment, Lusine. Informal tutors don’t need any certificate and are not expected to provide their students with materials. However, they should be communicative (without talking more than the student, of course) and able to ask follow-up questions. And they should offer corrections. That’s something I’ve always criticised, I had some really nice conversations with informal tutors but didn’t continue with them because they wouldn’t correct me. As a professional teacher, you can offer informal tutoring (or not) but will only be listed as a professional teacher. Hope this helps :-).

      Posted on 6. July 2017 at 0:39