3 Tips for Effective Online Teaching

Dr Tendai Charles

Faculty of Education


Regardless of age, gender, experience or qualifications, the vast majority of educators (worldwide) find teaching online to be a very challenging task. This is due to a number of factors, including the simple fact that (pretty much) all of us grew up studying in-class, on-campus, in a face-to-face context. Somewhere, stored away in our long-term memory, are numerous examples of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ teachers that we knew growing up in a traditional learning environment. But how many of us can reference examples of good online teachers we personally knew during secondary school? How many of us can remember that one university professor who always faced connectivity problems during his online lessons?



Online teaching and learning is not a new concept, institutions such as the Open University have been delivering accredited online courses for most of my adult life. The problem is that we educators have never been trained to teach online, so this is a new experience for most of us; and like all new skills, it takes several years of practice before we can master it. Personally, I’ve been teaching in a blended format (combining face-to-face with online delivery) since 2014. Based upon this experience, I would like to share the following three tips as food for thought.



Tip 1: Plan your online lessons

For many teachers in the K-12 sector, writing lesson plans is mandatory. This isn’t the case within the Higher Education sector, yet professors do an excellent job of teaching on-campus, finding ways to engage students in meaningful class discussions. However, I think for online lessons, we should all write lesson plans. These plans should include an approximate estimation of how much time will be spent on different stages of the lesson; they should indicate whether activities are teacher-led or student-focussed; and they should highlight which technologies will be used to facilitate tasks virtually. Believe me, it takes some time planning out your lessons beforehand, but it makes real-time lesson delivery a much more manageable process and improves the learning experience for your students.



Tip 2: Increase your use of formative assessment

Is it just me or have you also noticed that some students tend to ‘hide’ during online lessons? In my virtual classes, the confident, high-achievers always have their cameras on and are eager to answer every question posed. I guess they’re the same type of students who would sit in the front row during a traditional face-to-face lesson. Conversely, I have a handful of students who always have their cameras off (due to “technical difficulties” or so they claim) and they only answer questions when I call them out by name. Again, I suppose these are the types of students who would sit at the back of the classroom in a traditional context.



On-campus, we could support these learners by walking up to them at any point during the lesson, and check their understanding by talking to them. If they were working on a task, we could peek over their shoulders to see if they’re on-track or simply doodling. Unfortunately, we can’t do this in an online context, but what we can do is use frequent formative assessment quizzes (which do not count towards final grades) as a means of checking their comprehension of the topics we’re teaching. Without these regular concept checks, it is easy for the weaker students to really fall behind potential fail.



Tip 3: Find easy to use technology

People keep asking me “what are the top 10 apps I should use for effective online teaching?” and my reply is “what were the top 10 tools you were using on-campus in-class for effective face-to-face teaching?”… Regardless of whatever your LinkedIn feed tells you, the reality is there is no ‘top 10’. Think about how you teach in-class, you probably use PowerPoint slides and a white board. At most, you might occasionally bring some printed worksheets/handouts to class. So why should it be any different online? Personally, I now use Google Slides, the whiteboard feature built into BUiD’s learning management system (Blackboard Ultra), and as a replacement for worksheets/handouts, I use Google Docs/Forms. These technologies are very simple to use and work effectively in my context. As for Kahoot!, ClassDojo, Socrative and the other colourful apps being promoted, I don’t see them as a necessity. Instead of 10, find yourself 3 core apps to work with, and keep things simple for both you and your students.


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