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6 Ways To Improve Your Online Teaching

Mar 31, 2020

By Ted Cross, Associate Dean of Graduate Programs for the WGU College of Business

Today, technology surrounds us. We have photos, games, communication, research, and more—right at our fingertips. Technology has drastically changed the way we do just about everything, including the way we teach and learn. Kids today know how to get a device to work better than their parents do, and as technology continues to advance, it will continue to shape their world.

Online teaching is one of the key ways that technology has changed the world around us. For places like Western Governors University, online teaching is crucial to helping thousands of students get the higher education they deserve, without disrupting their work and family life. Online teaching is also moving into younger educational institutions, K-12 schools are seeing more opportunities for online teaching and learning every day.

As a current or aspiring educator, this move to teaching online can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t need to be. This resource will provide six crucial tips that can help teachers develop and improve techniques and strategies to make online teaching and learning a great success. 

Don’t feel the need to be “on” all the time.

When teachers are in an online setting where they have to teach, there can be pressure to be “on” all the time. They may feel pressure to be constantly available for students since they aren’t face-to-face to teach them during the day. Students may also feel that their teachers will always be ready and available whenever the student is online, and this sets unrealistic expectations and creates bad habits for the students. Students may put off assignments, and then need to ask a teacher for help. Teacher response time could result in the assignment being turned in late. This can lead to learners becoming reactive, instead of proactive, about assignments and questions. 

Teachers feel this pressure for regulating a classroom that is always on. But as a teacher, you don’t need to feel that pressure to be available 24/7 for online courses. Giving yourself the freedom to relax and step away is crucial to success. It’s also very important that you avoid being constantly available for student success as well. You don’t always need to be working, and students can learn to be proactive in contacting you in order to have plenty of time to get the help they need.

Set a schedule and boundaries.

In any teaching setting, boundaries and schedules are crucial. But this is especially true for teaching online. As a faculty member, set up specific time limits for yourself to establish boundaries for those you teach. When you tell learners when you’ll be available to them, when to expect grades and feedback, and when lessons will be held, students can create realistic expectations and be prepared. 

Take a look at your teaching calendar and block out the time each day to teach specific lessons. Let students know that during this time, this is the only activity to be working on and the only activity that you’ll be teaching and answering questions about. Set aside other time for any questions that learners may have so you don’t get sidetracked or interrupted during an activity or lesson.

It’s important to also set up schedules and boundaries with parents of students. Let parents know the time when they can expect to hear back from you, and the time that you’ll be busy working specifically with students and unable to communicate with them. Setting this clear boundary will help create realistic expectations and understanding from everyone. 

Set personal boundaries for yourself and protect your time. Turn off your computer at a certain time so you’re not up all night working on online courses or teaching strategies. Use a unique browser for online courses so you don’t get distracted during personal time by emails from students or parents. Ask a family member or friend to help remind you of your teaching boundaries and keep you accountable. 

With a classroom that’s constantly available, it’s easy to get caught up in immediate responses and overwhelming amounts of work. When you set clear boundaries and schedules for your online courses and teaching, everyone will benefit.

Automate your content to take advantage of being online.

While there are some challenges to creating a virtual classroom, there are also many benefits. With a virtual classroom, teachers are able to automate content and have it all prepared ahead of time, fully taking advantage of the digital medium and enhancing their teaching time. Prepare video content, readings, assignments, or discussion questions ahead of time so you can save time for actually teaching and helping students develop skills.

Giving students an online schedule with automated content will tell them what’s ahead and can give them the maximum possible time to work on something. Students aren’t waiting for you to begin to teach—they can get started and come to teachers with questions or further instruction. 

Teachers benefit from automated content because it saves them so much time. Most teachers are already ahead on their lesson plans, and online teaching means that teachers can upload and automate their lesson plan content early, working out any problems or issues well before students will even see the content.

Utilize technology to help you save time and energy.

Technology is crucial to online teachers in a wide variety of ways. Students will need to use digital options in order to get the most out of an online learning experience and truly develop the skills they need. There are a wide variety of educational apps and software programs that teachers can and should use to help students.


Video options. Teachers can use video options like Zoom, Jing, Google Classrooms, and more to record online lectures or hold live lessons with their students. These tools are vital to give students a more visual interaction. Teachers can pre-record lessons or lectures that students can watch and re-watch at their convenience. Teachers can also hold live discussions so students can ask questions, interact, and get a more traditional classroom feel for their students. Any kind of video option is a great way to help students be more involved with their education.


Screen recordings. Teachers can utilize tools like Zoom and Screencast-o-matic to record their computer screens to help students learn. Teachers can walk through a presentation on a screen recording, can show students the steps on a website, or show them how to use a program on their own computer. Screen recordings give students a visual learning opportunity that has a more hands-on feel to it.


Digital text options. Teachers can use text options to engage students as well. Programs like TypeItIn allow teachers to make a bank of comments that can be activated via keystrokes, so they can embed comments or responses to email or chat. If a teacher is grading essays and is making the same comment about spelling or grammar, a pre-made comment can be easy to add in to the assignment.Teachers can also utilize online discussion platforms to help students interact with each other online. Asking questions and instructing students to respond and discuss gives them a new way to hear and learn from each other, as well as share their thoughts. 

There are a wide variety of technology programs that teachers can utilize to make online learning more interactive, engaging, and fun for students.

Take advantage of help.

Many teachers have classroom aids or parent volunteers that are prepared to help, and you can still utilize these helpers when you teach online. Have your classroom aids create worksheets or help with grading. Give your parent volunteers assignments to help create interactive and fun activities for online students Teachers can also connect with each other to get creative ideas about specific lesson plans and activities for online students. There is a wide network of people that are ready to help online teachers and students succeed.

Create a classroom setting that helps students feel connected to you.

Even when you’re teaching online, it’s important to create a classroom setting that students want to engage with. Live class sessions using technology can help create a classroom setting. Utilizing great visual aids can help students find fun and enjoyment from their learning. As the teacher, you can utilize technology to record fun videos so students feel connected to you, or host live class sessions or one-on-one conversations so students can still engage with you in real time. 

Students want and need that interaction with a teacher to trust and learn well from them. A narrative approach to teaching will help you create a classroom setting to engage students. Talk about yourself, tell stories, and create fun learning opportunities for students online. Call students by their names, remember details about them, and have stories throughout different lessons to really help you create a fun, comfortable classroom setting.

Online teaching is becoming more prevalent today, and teachers are required to go beyond their comfort zone to reach students. Technology is extremely useful in helping teachers create meaningful learning environments within an online setting.

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