Learn how to teach online by using our 15 proven ways to be an effective online teacher guide even if you’re just starting out as an online teacher or want to improve your teaching skills.
The objectives of teaching online are just like those of teaching in-person.
And these involve making sure there are effective learning and teaching strategies.
Perhaps your goal is to make money from home.
Or become known as the go-to online teacher in your field.
But these you can only be achieved if your students feel they are getting value from your lessons.
That’s why you must strive to know how to be a good and effective online teacher.
What is an online teacher, anyway?
You’ve probably heard about them.
They also go by the titles distance tutors, remote teachers, and online instructors.
An online teacher is simply a teacher who shares his or her classes on the web.
In traditional setups, the teacher meets students in a physical classroom.
Online teachers share their content over the internet.
And students can access the materials through their computers across the world.
Students could learn from the comfort of their homes, offices or internet cafés.
Online teaching can be done for any level of learners.
They could be K-12 learners, corporate workers or university students.
This is a good opportunity for any university professor, a K-12 teacher or a subject matter expert or influencer on any subject.
You stand a good chance of managing a flexible job as an online teacher.
If you want to learn how you can get started, see our beginners 7 steps guide to online teaching.
You can actually start making money from home through teaching!
Successful online teaching involves bringing traditional classroom best practices in online classes.
Such practices include being present, creating engagement and making the lessons interesting.
To do this, it’s important to master the following tricks that can make your online lessons effective.
If you want to know how to start an online class for FREE, read our guide about it.
Table of contents:
15 Proven Ways To Be An Effective Online Teacher:
- Lead Your Class
- Be Yourself
- Be Focused On Students Needs
- Connect With Your Students
- Set Some Guidelines
- Organize Class Content Intuitively
- Pass The Ball To Your Students
- Have A Visual Presentation
- Create interest, Constantly
- Create A Supportive Online Community
- Provide Good Examples
- Invest In Copywriting
- Ask For Feedback
- Use Resources That Are Readily Available
- Know How To Close
#1 Lead Your Class
Let’s assume you were teaching in a regular classroom.
You won’t just share notes and disappear till the next class.
In most cases, you’ll come to class early.
Or stick around after class to allow time for questions and answers.
You might also reach out to students who might be lagging behind and help them to catch up.
This is equally important in online teaching.
But how do you ensure your presence is felt in an online class?
Be consistent in posting weekly announcements.
This can be a post about the upcoming topic or a review of the previous topic.
Schedule time to respond to questions asked by students in online discussion forums or sent to your email.
Create time for online office hours and communicate it to your students.
You can always ask them to book an appointment if necessary.
Mark and return any work done by students in the agreed time.
Post notes, references or a video to clarify answers to a question that most students didn’t get.
Join in online discussions and share your views about a subject with your students.
By being present and active in online forums, you also encourage your students to do the same.
This creates a learning environment that’s close to a traditional classroom.
#2 Be Yourself
This can seem easier said than done.
In any case, it’s easy to flow with the existing energy in a normal classroom.
But It’s not like this in online teaching.
If you aren’t careful, you are likely to lose your energy, emphasis, humor or that unique style of teaching in the process of recording your content.
Whether filming videos or writing text, you can infuse your teaching personality by:
- Being authentic – If you are writing, write as though you are talking to your students. Show understanding and ensure them of your support. This is true for recording videos as well. You can use our 12 steps guide for making better videos next time you need to start an online class.
- Also, talk as though your students were in front of you.
- Practice immediacy – yes, there’s the distance between you and your online students. But, it doesn’t have to show in your communication. So, avoid writing in a detached tone.
#3 Be Focused On Students Needs
Each audience has different needs that can affect how you plan the lessons.
Take, for instance, children.
Most of them don’t make a decision about whether to learn or not. And they don’t choose what to learn.
They are mostly directed by their parents. And they might not be very enthusiastic to take such lessons.
So, it’s upon the tutor to make the lessons interesting enough to keep the children motivated to learn.
This is not the case with adults.
For adults, the drive to learn comes from within.
They most probably want to accomplish a task.
Or gain skills to do something.
Lessons for adults might not be very entertaining, but should be more task-oriented.
#4 Connect With Your Students
When there is no connection between the tutor and learners, some students might feel disoriented.
Others might become disengaged and lose interest in the class.
Without individual connections, an online teacher might not point out that some of his or her students are lagging behind.
Besides, connecting with students builds trust. And trust is a very important learning ingredient.
There are several ways an online teacher or instructor can connect with their students.
Give your students the opportunity to know you.
Start with an introductory session where you tell the students about yourself.
Allow them to say something about themselves as well.
Encourage the students to share their personal and educational goals as well as their interests.
It will tell you something about their motivation for taking the course.
If this isn’t a live lesson, you can always write a brief bio of yourself.
Create a section to post such content.
You can post your bio and invite your students to post theirs.
Everyone can add a recent photo and any other information that one may want to share with members.
#5 Set Some Guidelines
Let the students know what to expect at the beginning of the class.
This includes pointing out their responsibilities as well.
You could do so by having guidelines for the entire class.
Any class plan should have some learning outcomes.
They help the students understand what they are likely to achieve by taking the class.
Also, talk about the end of class assessments and expected pass marks.
You should also let the students know if there will be continuous assessment.
Will it contribute to the final score?
#6 Organize Class Content Intuitively
Put yourself in the shoes of your students.
How easy is it to navigate your content?
They need to find quizzes, videos, and resources easily.
They also need to understand the flow of the class.
It should be easy to know where to begin and what to do next.
This boils down to how you organize your content on the learning system.
Organize the content methodically and systematically.
Ensure that the end of one session will lead to the next step they are supposed to take.
Many course publishing systems have a preview button that shows how the content appears in learning mode.
Go to preview mode and navigate the class content just like a student would.
Is it easy to find everything you want them to find?
Is it evident what the student should do? How are the menus, folders, and modules organized?
They should aid the student in accessing content, learning activities, and assessments with just a few clicks. This will keep their focus and attention on the learning material. If there’s something that you need to correct, go back to editing mode and adjust.
#7 Pass The Ball To Your Students
You need to create opportunities for students to get involved.
This pushes them to interact with your class content more.
Give assignments and continuous assessments in between the modules.
Mix individual and group assignments.
It can be a question, a problem to solve or a topic that they need to research further.
Graded continuous assessments work well to push the students to read through the course materials.
#8 Have A Visual Presentation
Let’s be real.
Human beings are very visual.
We are attracted to pleasant sights.
We also want to spend time in beautiful spaces.
This holds true for an online class.
Students will likely enjoy reading a visually appealing class.
This will increase engagement too.
When creating the course, don’t just stick to one media element.
Mix several options to improve your class presentation.
Here are some tips:
- Add relevant images to complement your written content. You could work with a designer or source for royalty-free images and photos online.
- Use a video – record an explainer or find relevant videos online. It’s important to give credit to the source if you use other people’s work.
- If you are giving a lot of written content, break it into properly-spaced paragraphs, lists and bullet points. Use headers and sub-headers too.
- Use graphs, concept maps, and charts to explain your content.
The above mix of presentation elements will also keep your class interesting.
You can also look at these 30 Free Google Slides Templates For Your Next Presentation.
#10 Create A Supportive Online Community
It’s one thing to have an online community and another to attain unity.
An active and supportive community motivates those who might want to learn at the sidelines.
As the online teacher sets the pace for an interactive and interconnected class.
Come up with activities that encourage teamwork.
Ask students to give their thoughts about a topic.
Encourage them to post their questions on your online forums and have others answer.
You can also give topics for group discussions.
Have each group share the answers in your online class forum.
#11 Provide Good Examples
Examples are necessary for aiding students in understanding a concept better.
Remember this is not a classroom session.
A student can’t raise their hand and ask a question.
It becomes helpful if you can go ahead and use examples to explain concepts.
For mathematical or scientific lessons, you could solve a problem step-by-step to illustrate how you apply any formulas you’ve given.
Even when you give assignments, share a sample of a completed task.
It enables students to get an idea of what you expect.
#12 Invest In Copywriting
It’s possible to misinterpret written content.
Unfortunately, you won’t be always available when your students are taking the class.
Every student is going to take your class in their own time.
This means you can’t offer clarifications as soon as they come across something that’s unclear.
Consequently, be careful with what you write.
Always craft your message clearly.
Whether this is the class content or the responses on discussion forums – they should be clear.
Tell your student the importance of writing clearly too.
Encourage them to use simple, clear and polite tones.
#13 Ask For Feedback
A good online teacher is one who is committed to continuous improvement.
This is where the feedback from your students comes in. You don’t have to wait until the end of the class.
You can ask for feedback after you’ve done several topics.
Listen to any praise or critique they give to your online teaching style.
You get a chance to know what you are doing well and areas that need improvement.
You could also talk to your colleagues or other online teachers to evaluate your class.
In case you have access to a professional instructional designer, that’s better.
Ask them to review your class.
But the most important thing is to act on observations that can help improve the experience of your students.
Some of the things to look out for are the organization of course content, tone of written text, clarity of instructions.
#14 Use Resources That Are Readily Available
Sometimes you might want to give materials for further reference.
Instead of asking students to buy expensive textbooks, consider digital resources.
In any case, they are learning online.
They have access to a computer and the internet.
So, make use of these resources.
Incorporate materials that are easily accessible via the computer or smartphone.
Some reference materials you can easily find online include news articles, online videos, infographics, ebooks, and digital publications.
#15 Know How To Close
At the end of the class, give a summary of important takeaways.
It’s also important to give a final assessment.
Consider a graded assessment that tests a student’s mastery of the learning objectives.
This helps your students to gauge their understanding of the class content.
Both the class summary and assessments help the students reflect on everything they’ve been learning.
Teaching online can be as rewarding and as effective as teaching in-person.
What many don’t realize is that the same principles of effective learning hold.
But their application differs.
To succeed online, you must adapt in-person pedagogy principles into online instruction.
Use the above tips to improve your online classes, attract more students and learn how to be a good and effective online teacher or instructor.
Comment down below on other tactics or tips you can give to improve online teachers.