10 Tips for Effective Online Teaching

Ready to teach online? We offer 10 tips for successful online teaching.

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by Heather Mullinix

Published on August 19, 2021 · Updated on July 26, 2022

Reviewed by Dr. Samantha Fecich

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10 Tips for Effective Online Teaching
Image Credit: J_art / Moment / Getty Images


Due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of students learning online continues to increase at colleges and universities. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), 73% of postsecondary students were enrolled in at least one distance education course in the fall of 2020.

Online learning offers students flexibility and the opportunity to access education and training from anywhere. As more students choose remote courses, more instructors are shifting to online teaching. Online learning can pose challenges for educators. The tips below can help you ensure your online classes are rich and rewarding for students.

Why Online Teaching?

Teaching online can free teachers from set schedules, long commutes, and working in physical classrooms. Career opportunities abound for instructors working in elementary and adult education settings and at high schools and universities.

According to NCES, 14.1 million postsecondary students were enrolled in at least one online learning course in fall 2020. Many schools have turned to online instruction during the pandemic, with 43% of students in fourth grade and eighth grade enrolled in remote education as of February 2021.

Online learning can provide college students with the flexibility to reach their educational goals. Individuals seeking to further their education can complete courses around work schedules or family commitments.

Teaching online does require a shift in teaching style. Online teachers become coaches, guiding students through the material. Students must take a more active role in their learning process.

Pros and Cons of Online Teaching

Pros

Flexible schedule. You may be able to choose a work schedule that works best for you. If you need to change a class time to accommodate appointments or other commitments, you may not have to seek approval. Less travel. Avoid long commutes to campus, saving you both time and money. No set location. Work remotely from your home or wherever you may be. You can take extended trips or visit family without missing class. Opportunities to innovate. Develop creative lessons that incorporate technology to offer students an immersive educational experience.

Cons

Lack of community. Many students and faculty miss the personal interaction of in-person learning. Technical issues. Internet service outages or technology glitches can frustrate students and teachers. Difficulty conveying information. Some classes work well online. Other courses may require problem-solving and creative thinking to move to an online classroom. Fewer opportunities for experiential learning. Hands-on learning may not be possible with the online learning model.

Top Tips for Effective Online Teaching

Create Your Syllabus

Your syllabus serves as a road map for students throughout the course, setting expectations and outlining assignments. Make sure to include your contact information, office hours, and the best way to contact you. Offer basic information on accessing the course content and explain course objectives. Be sure to clearly state your grading criteria and any class policies. If you will penalize students who turn in work late, make sure they know what time assignments must be returned.

Explore the Learning Platform

Online teaching platforms offer a wealth of resources. Spend time learning how to use your platform before the start of the course. Find out if your school or employer offers training sessions or instructional coaching. You may also be the first person a student reaches out to with technical issues. Learn to troubleshoot common problems and make sure you know who to call if you cannot help a student resolve an issue.

Offer Live Lectures

While many online classes do not require students to log on at specific times, you can offer students the opportunity. Offering live lectures through video streaming can facilitate class discussions and provide more student-teacher interaction. You can include a chat function or other method to let students ask questions or discuss the material. Be sure to record the session so you can share the recording with students unable to log in at the time of the lecture.

Include Graphics and Slides

Charts and graphs can easily communicate information to students. Many students may learn better with visual representations of data or key points. Photos and other graphic elements can also help hold students' attention. Create slide presentations that incorporate these elements. Your slides can also review key points from lectures and serve as lecture notes for students. You can send the slides to students after a lecture so they can use them as a study guide as they prepare for exams.

Use a Variety of Teaching Methods

Teaching online allows you to be creative. In addition to recorded lectures and reading assignments, you can use interactive quizzes or games that help students understand the material. Facilitate online discussions of reading assignments. Encourage students to interact with each other and offer input. Many learning methods suit some students better than others. Try to include a variety of instructional methods to offer every student the opportunity to succeed.

Use Open Source Resources

Using supplemental resources that require separate subscriptions or restricted access can make it hard for students to complete the work. Coordinate with your library to ensure students can access academic journals or other materials you share. Otherwise, stick with open-source materials available to everyone. If you post something that is only accessible with a subscription, expect an inbox full of messages from students who can't access the material.

Provide Timely Feedback

Don't put off grading assignments. Many courses build on material throughout the semester. Timely grading and feedback allow you to check student progress and pinpoint areas where you may need to provide additional instruction. Feedback also lets students identify areas where they can improve. Online teachers must possess good time management and organizational skills to keep the class moving forward.

Offer Virtual Office Hours

Online office hours can allow you to form connections with students despite the distance. Students can bring questions or concerns about the course to you for one-on-one discussion. If your classes meet asynchronously, office hours also ensure students can check in with you throughout the term if they experience challenges with assignments. These virtual office hours can be held by phone, chat, or video conference. You may vary your hours from week to week to ensure all students have the opportunity to connect.

Facilitate Collaboration

Group projects can be valuable learning experiences, but online students can't necessarily meet at the university library for a planning session. Ensure your students know about tools that can help them work together while working remotely. Identify software that's available through the school, such as a subscription to Microsoft Teams, or free services like Zoom. Include accountability measures to ensure all team members participate in group assignments.

Preview Your Lessons

Before a class goes live, double-check your work. Preview slides on a phone or tablet to make sure they display correctly. Make certain links to websites or other resources still work. Have a colleague view the class from their computer to identify any issues before students log on. Test your internet connection for streaming videos and making video calls. You can reduce technical challenges by taking proactive steps.

Frequently Asked Questions About Online Teaching

Can you make money online teaching? true

You can make teaching online your primary career or supplement your income by instructing occasional or seasonal courses. According to Payscale, professionals with online education skills earned an average annual salary of $62,000 in April 2022.

Some online teachers work for multiple schools as adjunct faculty. Others may work full time for colleges, school systems, or educational service providers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, tutors earned an average of about $20 an hour in May 2021. This flexible position can allow teachers to earn extra income during summer breaks or help students earn money while building their teaching skills.

How do I become an online teacher? true

Teaching online requires both the educational experience and technical skills necessary to succeed in an online classroom. College and universities typically hire online teachers with master's degrees and some in-person teaching experience.

To apply for K-12 teaching positions, applicants must possess a bachelor's degree and a valid teaching license. Licensing requirements vary by state. Some schools may require experience teaching in-person before hiring you for a remote teaching position.

Online teachers can also find positions in industry training programs, technical bootcamps, tutoring services, or English language learning programs. Educational technology companies may hire online teachers, as well.

Can I teach online with a bachelor's degree?

It depends. Most postsecondary institutions require in-person and online teachers to have a master's degree or higher to teach college-level courses. Some online education providers may accept an instructor with several years of industry experience in certain fields, such as coding or computer information technology.

Elementary or high school teachers may begin teaching online with a bachelor's degree as long as they hold a valid teaching license. Applicants interested in these positions typically must possess a minimum of a bachelor's degree in education. Organizations hiring tutors or other non-credit teaching positions may not have specific educational requirements.

Is teaching online worth it?

Many teachers enjoy the flexibility online teaching offers. Teachers can often set a schedule that works best for them. Online teaching allows you to work from home posting assignments, grading papers, and communicating with students.

Online teaching does come with challenges. You need access to high-speed internet, and you must be comfortable working with technology. Just like online learners, online teachers need good time-management and organizational skills. You must make extra effort to connect with your colleagues and your students through various communication channels.

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