The Terms of Service (TOS) is probably the least sexy, most boring page on your website, right?
But it’s an essential part of running your business.
A well-thought-out Terms of Service page can save you a lot of headaches later on.
Just like a contract, the purpose of having a TOS isn’t really to have something which you can wave around in court.
The main purpose is to avoid any misunderstandings that will get you into a courtroom in the first place.
Let’s keep it real.
99.9% of disagreements or misunderstandings with your ESL students will never get that far, but it CAN impact on your reputation. Nobody wants to be known as “the guy who ripped me off”.
So here is a list of 15 topic categories that should be on the TOS page of your ESL teaching website, and which students should agree to before they start working with you.
Table of Contents
- How much notice does a student need to give you in order to cancel or reschedule a lesson?
- What penalties are involved if they cancel or reschedule with less than the minimum notice period?
- How should teachers and students inform each other about cancellations e.g. is it mandatory to do so through your booking system or will an email or SMS message suffice?
- How much notice do you, the teacher, need to provide if you need to cancel or reschedule?
- What additional compensation are you, as the teacher, going to offer if you cancel with less than the minimum notice period e.g. a free class?
- What happens if a student is late for a lesson?
- What happens if a teacher is late for a lesson?
- Is there a time limit where in the event of a “no-show” by either party, the lesson is deemed as cancelled?
- What happens if either teacher or student cannot connect for an online lesson due to hardware, software, internet connectivity or power supply problems?
Natural disasters and other calamities
- What happens if a typhoon, blizzard, flood, earthquake or some other natural disaster strikes at the last moment and prevents either party from connecting for the lesson?
- What happens in the event of man-made emergencies like acts of terror, sudden industrial disputes or other interruptive events?
Paid lesson “expiry”
- After paying for a block of lessons, does the student need to “use them or lose them”?
- What is the time frame before prepaid lessons expire?
Make up lessons
- In the case of periodically scheduled group classes, can a student take a “make up” lesson with another, equivalent class if they miss a session?
- Are class booking times always shown to the student in their local time, or the teacher’s local time?
- Will a booking reminder be sent prior to the lesson time?
- If so, when will it be sent and by what means e.g. email, SMS?
- Can students ask for a refund?
- If so, under what circumstances?
- Can they receive a full refund or only partial refund?
- Can they ask for a refund on individual lessons or the course program as a whole?
- When does the “refund request” period expire?
- If the lessons are conducted in Zoom or a similar platform, can students record the lesson?
- Can they request the teacher to record the lesson for them?
- If it’s a group class, does everyone need to give their consent for a recording?
- How is that consent given?
- Can the student request additional services outside of regular lesson times?
- If so, what are the related terms and conditions?
Confidentiality and copyright
- Do the students and/or teacher need to sign a confidentiality agreement before the first lesson?
- Does the student need to agree that they will not copy or transmit any lesson materials provided by the teacher to a third party?
Method of payment
- Which method/s will be accepted for payment?
- Are all lesson payments expected in advance?
- Can payment be made on an “installment plan” basis?
- Are “refer a friend” discounts or other incentive programs offered?
- Under what terms?
Lesson feedback and followup activities
- Do you, as the teacher, agree to provide written or audio feedback about each lesson?
- Do you agree to offer a progress report or some kind of assessment at the end of a course?
- Do you agree to mark homework or review exercises outside the lesson times?
- How should homework or review exercises be submitted?
- Will students get a certificate when they finish your lesson course program?
Method to conduct the lesson
- Which telecommunication method will be used as your primary communication platform?
- Which telecommunication method/s will be used as backups?
The above list might seem like overkill, but it never hurts to do a little contingency planning. It’s better to have a response to a sticky question codified in advance, than to make business decisions on the fly.
A well-thought-out Terms of Service page that you can refer students to will save you a lot of time and avoid potential misunderstandings.
Finally, always give students an opportunity to read your Terms of Service before they commit to paying for lessons and be sure to check if they need anything explained.
Have you ever had a difficult situation arise with a student due to a misunderstanding about your service terms? If so, please leave a comment below.
The author of this post lives in Japan with his wife and family. He has taught English part-time (online and off) for more than a decade. He is passionate about WordPress consulting, online marketing and using the power of the internet to help people achieve their dreams.
He thinks that until you’ve tried sashimi tuna with wasabi, soy sauce, hot sake and a cold beer chaser, you just haven’t lived.