Keeping Engaged: How To Prepare For Online Teaching

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The transformation from being an in-class teacher to an online teacher doesn’t happen easily. You might think that your teaching experience is enough for a smooth transition to online teaching, but, no matter how many years of experience you have, online teaching needs a distinct skillset and a different approach towards your students and the material. Being a subject-matter expert is different than being a proficient online instructor.

All teachers know that it’s important to keep students engaged. This is difficult enough in a live classroom setting, let alone a virtual classroom. It can be an isolated learning experience, even when teaching a group.

This article will help you prepare yourself and your students for remote learning.


Teacher-led classes are known as synchronous classes. This means that the instructor and students have to be online at the same time. An example would be university students all logging in at the same time as the instructor to listen to a lecture or join a discussion.

Asynchronous classes, on the other hand, have more student involvement. Instructors provide the material, lectures, and tests that students can access at a time that suits them. Usually, students are expected to go online at least twice a week and can contribute to the lessons at any time.

A teacher needs to utilize both learning methods to engage students. You don’t want to give too much autonomy to students to keep them on topic, but at the same time, you also want to maintain structure within your classes.

Take Advantage of Smaller Groups

Online teaching usually has fewer students, especially if you’re teaching asynchronous classes. This gives students more opportunities to learn, something that is typically more difficult in a large group. With smaller groups, you have more of a relationship with your students and can provide them with more relatable material.

Most students tend to be more at ease in smaller groups, which makes them more likely to speak out when they can’t comprehend something. For instance, physics often has difficult topics to grasp, such as spectroscopy. Students would feel more comfortable in a small online class, asking common questions, such as ‘what is spectroscopy used for?’ or ‘how does it help astronomers and space exploration?’. As the instructor, you can find different ways to answer these questions posed by students and guide them to explore answers on their own.

You have more freedom to drive discussions and encourage students in their search for answers rather than spoon-feeding them. As an example, You could have students watch a relevant video or read a related article before engaging with you online. This will help you use your online time more effectively. The idea isn’t to add more homework, but rather to let students explore their learning choices and abilities in the time that they have.

Lesson Planning

Lesson planning is just as essential for online learning as it is for classroom learning. In a regular class, you might improvise sometimes, but this will be less effective in a remote teaching environment. Students’ needs are different when online and you have to address those needs through lesson planning. Students have to feel and see that they’re achieving more than just submitting their assignments for a grade. This is your opportunity to carry on discussions and debates that should keep everyone engaged.


Utilizing games for learning was not always an approved method, but it’s much less controversial these days as long as it’s not overdone or used in a way that doesn’t help the student learn. Healthy competition within learning is something you can employ online. One of the best ways to use a game is to reinforce a lesson already taught and purposefully integrate it in a way that supports specific learning criteria.


Not every student has the motivation to learn remotely. Some students are very eager to learn online, but what should you do about an unmotivated student? Your role in motivating them is one of the biggest challenges that you will face. You can personalize your support based on the student and make sure your feedback is prompt and relevant. Encouragement for all students is also recommended.

The important thing to realize about online teaching is that it’s not the same as being in a classroom, neither for you nor the students. You need to make adjustments and adopt new methods that work online. You might not be familiar with online teaching, so you might not find the best approaches on your first try. But, once you get the hang of it, you will find it just as rewarding as being in a classroom.

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Samantha Acuna is a writer based in San Francisco, CA. Her work has been featured in The Huffington Post,, and Yahoo Small Business.