Skip to content

Advanced tips on how to teach online

    How effectively did lecturers and teachers adapt to advanced online teaching since the global pandemic struck early in 2020?

    Online education was still in its infancy when lockdown measures forced educators to adapt to hybrid class-and-online teaching. Those of us who had some experience with online teaching before 2020 were the lucky ones, practicing skills others are often still struggling to adapt. The first step is to master the basics of online teaching and use the software effectively. The second important and challenging part of online teaching is to adapt education methodology by developing advanced teaching skills and activities to engage the students.

    How to prepare for online classes

    First, teachers should determine the situation of their learners at home. Do the students all have access to a computer/phone at home with a stable internet connection? How familiar are they with learning online, what are their digital skills and habits? Do they watch YouTube lectures? Do they consume other visual content online? Do they voice or video call their friends? Do they chat via WhatsApp and similar media? The answer to these questions will determine the strategy.

    Find out what the exact situation is for each student, discuss it with parents to ensure optimum learning conditions at home without interference or distractions from family members.

    In the perfect world, every student has access to a digital device and a stable connection, enabling blended learning. Send the students information and lesson material before class so that they can study it beforehand. Then do real-time Zoom or Google Meet classes with the students to practice HOTS (Higher Order Thinking Skills).

    For example, every Saturday before classes start, I send my students a short video explaining what we will be doing and what they need to prepare: Vocabulary, grammar, and something they should bring to class. Then like clockwork, we have our weekly classes to focus on practicing the required skills. This is done by putting them in groups to work together, enabling me to give feedback and make corrections.

    So – Make learning easy and engaging. Give them guidance via short messages, video, or audio. And hold regular online classes for them to practice the required skills.

    How to use the background with online

    There are indeed many new ways to use our backgrounds with online teaching. For example, students are often nervous and reluctant to answer because they need more time to formulate their answers, or because they don’t know how to answer.

    This problem can be solved by giving them sentence starters to help them explain themselves: The teacher should display sentence starters such as “I think that…. / I agree with…. / I don’t believe… / I have a question about…”

    These sentence starters or some helpful vocabulary can be written on a whiteboard, or it can be typed on share-screen, or even projected behind the teacher using a green screen option. Otherwise display it on cards in the background.

    Have appropriate props within reach to engage students. The teacher doesn’t need to be an entertainer but must know how to be entertaining to capture and keep their attention. Use colorful, fun backgrounds. Have a topic for each week and change the background to fit the lesson. If it’s travel, have a big Lamborghini or a beautiful beach as a background.

    How to solve online problems

    There will be problems with technology. Have a backup plan in case the student’s computer doesn’t work, or if they have audio problems, or your mic fails or the internet signal is lost or too weak. Whatever can happen most likely will – send a list of online procedures to the students and parents before the first class. They will have less anxiety if they know exactly what to do if there are any issues during class.

    In “First Days of School,” Harry K. Wong (1997) explains the importance of teaching students the rules and procedures for the class. Successful classrooms are those where students know exactly what is expected of them and how to do it. With online classes, that principle has not changed. Explain the procedures in class with your main activities and how to submit homework.

    Inform students what to prepare, how to join class, what they should do in the discussions. If their technology fails, how they can get the information or contact you. If their sound goes off what to do. If they get disconnected how they should rejoin.  How students can get in touch with the teacher and each other when they are doing group projects.

    It is important to be able to reach students as quickly and effectively as possible. Most teachers communicate with students via e-mail or the particular LMS (learning management system) their school is using, but since the disruption caused by Covid-19, other platforms such as Google Classroom, Class Dojo, or popular messaging apps like WhatsApp (UK, Europe, etc.); FB Messenger, Snapchat (USA) and WeChat (China). I use Kakao Talk in South Korea because I know that 100% of my students have it. I can send messages, voice notes, videos, and I know that they will all read it within an hour. They can also send me questions that I’ll get immediately and reply quickly. That’s way better than having to send a long email for quick questions and answers.

    How to get students to be original creators

    Engaging learners and keeping their attention is the primary duty of teachers online. The best way to do that is by making them the focus of the lesson. Their lives, likes, and stories should be the driving force behind the lesson content. Teachers should stop trying to educate students only from books and talk about themselves, but rather get the students to share something of themselves every week.

    In your weekly video or pre-class message ask them to prepare something. For example, to share a photo with their best friends, with their family, about their weekend, their pets, places they want to go in the future, past trips, memories, birthday presents, parties.

    Ask them to draw a picture. If the topic is animals, let them draw their favorite. Try and link it to the topic or theme from the week’s class. Otherwise do a show and talk about their toys, gadgets, stationery, comics, and so on.

    A great advantage of online teaching is that students can share stuff… from their homes. We can’t do that in a classroom. But now they can provide content for the lesson and bring the connection to their lives. With every lesson the teacher should ask: How can my students share something from their own lives to add to what I’m trying to teach in the lesson.

    How to teach students to adapt to online class

    If you are using Zoom, Meet, Skype, or any other platform, you remain limited if you and your learners do not know how to effectively use it. Don’t be boring and send them a “how-to video” or translated text if you are teaching English. Get them to engage with the platform by playing competitive games and thereby also learning how all the functions work.

    How do you do that? I call these games “Pickers.” I play a game with students whenever I want to pick students to do a demonstration or determine the order in which they have to do dialogue.

    For example, to teach them how to use the whiteboard function on Zoom – tell them that the first ten to write their names down are exempt from doing the dialogue. They’ll rush to figure it out.

    Do the same with messaging: “Send a message to the group and say what number you want to be with your presentation. Send me a private message with your name.” To teach them how to react with emoji functions, say: “Last four people to show me thumbs-up have to answer the questions.”

    By playing these games students become more competent at using the app. Get them to practice using the whiteboard to save their content. This way students have fun and the teacher gets to control the class… By being the leader.

    How Biggs’s 3P model fit in with teaching online

    Teachers are familiar with the Three P model of John Biggs for teaching and learning: Presage (present) – Process – Product, which equals Teaching/lecturing – Learning-focused activities – Learning outcomes by using the learned skills.

    This is especially common in online courses, where the predominant model is to consume content and then discuss the information afterward. However, at some point we want students to engage in meaningful projects. We want them to be problem-solvers, creators, and designers. In other words, we want students to develop a maker mindset.

    The Topic – Explain – Example method: Explain the topic or main idea by using some personal examples. Then ask learners for an example from their own lives. Put them with a partner and tell them to read and practice dialogue. They must create their own dialogue, using what they’ve just learned. Then put them into new groups in which they produce something, for example, make a movie scene using famous characters, using the dialogue from the lesson.

    Online classes should not be boring lectures just to cover the curriculum. The focus should be on helping the students develop critical skills by building exercises where students can be creative.

    Examples of asynchronous learning

    Online teaching provides the opportunity for asynchronous learning; for the flexibility students need to study in a self-paced manner. As mentioned before, students can interact with the lesson content in different ways, for example, to make a movie scene using famous characters.

    This is a great way to let students be more creative and not as shy. When they act out dialogue or fun scenes playing another character (made up or famous), let them have fun with it. They can act it out with family, friends or use toys and record it on camera, and in this way, students can learn asynchronously using their phones to video record everything. The idea that we should be shy in front of cameras is a thing of the past.

    Give students questions for homework that they have to practice with a partner. Let them record pictures, audio or video as evidence. In the digital age, they should have to perform something outside of class to show their skills. If they are young, get their parents involved. Let them take a video repeating words of objects in the house or record themselves saying sentences. This is a fantastic way for us as teachers to embrace technology and use it to promote learning and help students to bridge the gap between lessons and real life.

    Having a weekly online theme

    #Young learners #animals #sports #weekend #food #pirates. Zoom now has new functions which include filters. Use these filters to make class fun, but don’t let it get out of control. This is not only limited to young learners; older students and adults also like to liven things up. If your teaching platform does not have such filters, ask the students to draw a picture of that and hang it behind them. This links up with students being original creators. Let them draw pictures of themselves or whatever the topic is for the week.

    Let students add fun and clever cultural details from different countries — yours, theirs, maybe a third one altogether — to liven up a boring, standard-issue lesson. For example, in a theme lesson on China, the teacher can play traditional Chinese music in the background and use a Chinese backdrop and let them do their favorite kung fu pose. Then take a class photo with screen capture and share it.

    How to show evidence of learning online

    Screen capture is an easy way to preserve evidence of learning. Lecturers, teachers, tutors, and online instructors are required more and more to provide evidence of learning in our classes. This isn’t all bad once you figure it out. When students are in groups pick a group leader, and while they discuss something or practice a skill, the leader should make notes about what they have done. This is especially useful when you are using breakout rooms in Zoom where groups are separated.

    When writing dialogue, remind students not to type out whole sentences. Students must practice using a script and then create their own script by using the vocabulary.

    A common mistake they make is to write out the whole script. This is a massive error because instead of practicing their speaking they are reading everything which has no value whatsoever. The reason they do this is that they fear making mistakes which says a lot of the classroom culture. Language classrooms need to be places where students feel safe to make mistakes and students are predominantly doing most of the speaking.

    Actually, I encourage mistakes in the classroom. Do not let them read from scripts! They may write down words to remember the order but not much more. When they report back to the class, they can share their whiteboard. This keeps them accountable inside their breakout rooms.

    How can teachers show that learning has happened in their online classes? Some teachers record their classes, but in my experience, this is too much. Save the class preview and make notes of what happened in every class that you take. You can also have a simple checklist of what you want students to do or achieve during the lesson.

    When planning the curriculum, write this down for every lesson. When you send students their weekly preview, the checklist can be added. That way they know exactly what is expected of them during the lesson.

    Save these checklists on your LMS or in your class reports in case admin wants a look at them.

    How to adapt to teaching online

    With online or remote learning the faculty role changes from that of a lecturer to more of a coach or mentor. Students too are expected to take more active roles and more responsibility for their own learning.

    The major mistake many teachers make in this new era of online teaching is that they have devolved from group learning to a lecture mode where they talk the whole time. The uneasiness of teaching online makes education regress to a class where the teacher does all the talking.

    Teachers must resist returning to that outdated way of teaching. They must master the platform, build engaging lessons that target learners, and evaluate them by incorporating new technology. It’s that simple. Things are new and scary to many, so to combat this, educators should build routines that students will find comforting. Teachers should set routines for online classes just like they have set routines in the classroom.

    My online class routine as an example

    The following is my routine for my Zoom online classes. You don’t have to do the same but build your own set routine that students understand and can trust.

    It starts with an introduction and roll call. Next is a warm-up activity as an example for the class. The students then repeat the warm-up conversation in breakout groups and they must take notes. When they return from breakout class, they play a ‘picker game’ to decide who will give feedback. Send their names in a message or write their names on the whiteboard. If it’s a large class, only the selected student from each group must do an example. Ask them a riddle and they have to send you the correct answer or ask them to find something in their room. Keep things fun.

    Then follows the lecture part where the digital version of the book is shared. This is the teaching part of the lesson where everything is explained and discussed. The students are then placed with a partner or in a group where they practice an aspect of the lesson.

    When the students return from the breakout, pairs are selected to repeat the exercise for the class.
    It is then time to review the lesson. Finally, they have to practice for a final mom point.
    What is a mom point? Students have to be able to explain to their mom what they have learned or done in class. Let them practice it before they exit the lesson.


    Teachers need to evolve with technology to suit modern needs. Those who don’t adapt will quickly find that they have been left behind and will be out of a job. For the sake of the teaching profession and to teach the necessary skills our students require, we must get better at teaching online.

    📺 WATCH MORE 10 Speaking Activities ►…

    10 Listening Activities ►

    50 Reading Activities ►

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *