Guide To Online Teaching: Best Practices And Useful Tools

A brief best practice guide for online teaching and some of the top tools to help you out.

Guide To Online Teaching Best Practices And Useful Tools

Online teaching has seen a huge surge recently for obvious reasons. Some schools have been forced to take this path, other learners are seeing the amount of time spent at home as an ideal opportunity to learn new things, and teachers are seeing this opportunity of flexible, home-based tutoring as a great way of making an income. Whatever the reason, and there are many, this rise in numbers whether by choice or not is likely to continue. Yet, online teaching, has its difficulties too, technical and practical issues that need to be thought about and analyzed if you want to be the best teacher you can be. Whether you are teaching privately or as part of a state school program, your online teaching success is not a matter of chance.

To give you the best chance to succeed read the guide to best practices below and check out the great tools that can make your teaching life a whole lot easier.

Article overview:

In the meanwhile, you may be interested in these 23 Free Google Slides and PowerPoint Templates for Teachers.


Online Teaching Best Practices

1. Online Teaching Best Practices

Online teaching, like classroom teaching, is varied and wide-ranging, in a not only subject but also style. However, there are certain general guidelines that are worth considering in order to make the best job out of the situation and help you deliver the best lessons, fulfill the learning outcomes and create a dynamic and creative learning environment.


1.1 Be organized

It is so easy to become lost in courses, lessons, class groups, and different curriculums, to lose track of homework, assessments, attendance, etc. especially when you are based online. You are using your computer to teach, so use it to the full. Set up files got each group and subfiles, and make sure they have clear titles that you can understand without having to open everything. This will help you during your present courses but also be invaluable for later courses, so you can access and edit previous worksheets, and presentations without having to start from scratch. Set these up under a wholly separate category from your personal files, it helps keeps a distance between work life and home life.

The other key here is to organize your time, set a time for work and time away from work, don’t get dragged into doing crazy hours, it’s easy to do but in time won’t benefit anyone. Be disciplined.


1.2 Engage

Teaching is about engagement. Even if you are online teaching, there needs to be personality, otherwise why not just let the students read the books. Part of your job is to motivate, explain, inspire, and create an atmosphere for learning. The ways might be different from a physical classroom but the essence is equally important. Think about the classroom strategies you use, and consider if they will work as well in an online teaching setting. this can vary between subjects and definitely between groups, so be flexible in your approach.

Try to keep your personality. Humour, interaction, questioning, chatting, and personal touches are what will bring your classes to life.

There is a tendency to over-plan for online teaching, a fear that you will run out of things to do. Be careful to go at the speed of the students, not just what you want to get done. A well-planned activity at the end of the lesson is great but not if it interrupts a great discussion- you can always use it next time.


1.3. Provide materials

You are already using a computer and the internet so you’ve got a whole host of materials available to teach from, but that doesn’t mean the traditional textbook methods are useless. Many prefer a combination. Yes, the internet will provide up-to-date articles, videos, news sites, and plenty of innovative activities but it is possible to run these alongside your books. Many textbooks, especially for online learning of language have special digital versions that you can have up on your screen and annotate, often these include extra materials too.

If you are using online materials make sure you check out the links before the lessons and watch the videos in full. You don’t want to get any major surprises during the lessons.


1.4. Establish rules

The best classrooms are the ones with established rules and expectations, this goes for online teaching classrooms too. Ideally, the students should have a very clear set of expectations of behavior and requirements from the very start. Think about how they should be encouraged to communicate (some platforms have hands-up buttons), also discipline, assessments, timelines for work, deadlines, etc.

This is still a lesson it is not an online chat  – the sooner you establish the classroom etiquette the better it will be for all involved.


1.5. Establish patterns

It is even harder to keep the student’s attention when online teaching than in the physical classroom, so it is vital to keep lessons moving. Long texts or videos don’t work unless you break them down into smaller chunks and add in questioning or activities. It’s a good idea to think of your lesson like opening a website if you are suddenly hit by masses of text, poorly presented, you immediately switch off. If the text is broken up with pictures, graphics, colors, fonts, good layout -then there is a much better chance you will read it. Your job as a teacher is to make the material accessible -as a good web designer would do.

It’s also a good idea to keep consistency, again like branding. Keep colors and fonts consistent through all of your lessons and they become associated with you. The same goes for graphics and image style. Hold your work together by considering a consistent character to help present your work, all of these things help the student associate and feel at home in your lesson.


1.6. Online presence

Of course, you can’t be physically present in the classroom but online teaching opens up lots of opportunities for presence. Obviously, if you are running face-to-face lessons online you will be present on the online platform, but there is more to present than that. It’s a good idea to set times when you will be available to answer questions and queries about work, but there are other ways too, discussion boards, forums, and emails all show that the students are not being left alone. In many ways, these are ideal for forming learning communities and developing interclass relationships.


1.7. Learning Objectives

How easy is it to get caught up in the power of all the materials you’ve got at your fingers tips, all the interactive games, and presentations… I know. Be strong, and keep the lessons on track with clear learning objectives. The whole lesson should involve this focal point, objectives, and assessments, anything else is extra. Students quickly pick up on what they are actually getting out of the lessons and this is perhaps the biggest motivation of all for online teaching and learning.


1.8. Ask for feedback

Feedback is vital in all forms of teaching and learning, and feedback for online teaching has even more importance. Whilst the primary goal is to encourage and improve the work produced and explain issues, online teaching feedback does more. It establishes a vital personal link between you and the student that can otherwise easily be lost. Work emailed without feedback is work that has disappeared into the ether. An emailed reply is surprisingly personal and works wonders.

And remember feedback can work both ways, use this opportunity to ask how the course is going for the student, what they enjoy and don’t enjoy, how you can improve your lessons, how inclusive they are, etc.


1.9. Make smaller classes

In an ideal world online classes should be smaller than physical classes, although, of course, this may not always be possible. Lectures-type lessons can work well with larger groups but anything involving direct participation is better when limited in size. Discussion classes work best with up to 10 students, anything more and people tend to get lost and bored. Some platforms allow you to split the groups up, which can be useful. Another plus of some platforms is shared hosting by different teachers, which is also worth trying out.


1.10. Ask questions

Questions allow you to get a feel for the understanding of what you have delivered. In online teaching, you can use traditional open group questions or directed student questions. However, there are also possibilities to use online materials such as forms and polls to gather information.



Online tools that improve the teaching process

2. Online Tools that improve the teaching process

We are all looking for the magic bullet that makes online teaching easier. The good thing is that with the rise in online teaching numbers there is a rise in online teaching resources and tools. There are some great tools available that are easy to use and incorporate into your lessons. Here are some of the best.


2.1. Google Classroom

One of the most popular online teaching platforms is Google Classroom,  developed by Google for schools with the principal aim of creating, organizing, distributing, and grading assignments and allowing easy file sharing and communication between teachers and students and vice versa. Google Classroom is free for state schools and included in G Suite for Education although here is a paid version with additional features. there are some great features including security but also the possibility of creating separate classrooms and people pages plus google’s well-known easy-to-use functionality. However, Google classroom doesn’t give possibilities for virtual online classes and interaction is only through documents.

It’s a great tool to help in certain online teaching situations but it clearly isn’t a full, package on its own. Check out these 8 Google Classroom Tutorials for Teachers to Start Online Lessons.



Zoom is principally a video conferencing tool with extras for education. Very popular for online teaching with virtual lessons, Zoom has become a by-word for video conferencing in the last few months. It has high-quality video and audio, great teaching tools for screen sharing and annotating, a whiteboard, and easy integration with other teaching tools such as Canvas or Blackboard. You can use break-out rooms to separate groups, control chats and screen sharing, and file sharing at the touch of a button. Added to this the security issues that emerge at first now seem to be a thing of the past. there is also a touch button record (to cloud or computer) function and handy discipline tools like “remove to waiting room” and mute buttons. The basic package is free for 1:1 meetings, and they’ve just removed the 40 minute limit for group meetings, and there are paid packages for larger groups of over 100.

To learn more on how to use Zoom for education, check out How to use Zoom for Education [+ Useful Tips and Ideas]

2.3. Digital Cloud

A digital cloud is an information store that is mobile and accessible everywhere, through an internet connection. For teaching, this means that you can save work from your machine at home and access it from another machine by simply logging on to the required site with your password. Well-known examples are Google Drive, One Drive, Dropbox, or plus others. Your cloud can be personal or you or your school can give access to others. In practice, if you are sharing heavy files, the cloud is the way to go as students and colleagues can download directly from your cloud. This is particularly useful for schools to store resource books and material so whole staff groups have access.


2.4. Google Calendar

one of the great benefits of online teaching is flexibility regarding time, you don’t have to make sure a classroom is free, you can work “unsocial hours”, etc., however, this can mean your whole schedule has been thrown out of the window, things change quickly, lessons need to be rearranged and you need to keep track. Google Calendar is a free application that can help you organize your time and schedule and sync everything. It has some great features that can be really useful when teaching online such as Scheduling meetings with groups using “Find a time” or “Suggested times.”

Other tremendously useful features are that you can attach documents to events and event reminders so students will be guaranteed to turn up with the material required, automated email invites, desktop reminders and notifications, and a world clock for international lessons.


2.5. Office 365

Office 365 is Microsoft’s way of bringing together all its creative, communicative, and collaborative tools in one place. Students and educators at eligible institutions can sign up for Office 365 Education for free, and the A1 package includes  Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Skype, and at present Microsoft Teams, plus additional classroom tools such as Forms. All great tools and with masses of variety to create a full curriculum, assess, and deliver. There are more advanced paid-for options too.


2.6. Communication apps

There are many other communication platforms such as Slack, or Microsoft Teams, where you can deliver online lessons, and Facebook Groups where you can keep in touch with students. Shop around, and see what’s popular and what your students are into. Be open-minded, all communication is good.


2.7. Online test solutions

One of the biggest causes of concern for online teaching is assessment. It is difficult to give tests, especially timed tests, and guarantee honesty. Even if the pupils are on screen, you can’t be sure what is just off-screen, and pupils can be very inventive. There are options online. Why not try a custom web-based Testing tool that allows you to easily create secure online Exams & assessments with advanced settings such as time limits, public & private test access, randomized questions, instant feedback, multiple-choice, matching, short answer, video, audio, essay & more Question types with Free and professional pricing options.

Another possibility is Google Forms a tool that allows collecting information from users via a personalized survey or quiz.


2.8. Plagiarism checkers

Plagiarism is nothing new and certainly not confined to online teaching. There are a number of online plagiarism checkers such as or that will help ease your suspicions. It doesn’t take long for word to get around if you catch someone.

2.9. Pre-record lessons

Why not consider pre-recording lessons or at least parts of your lessons. Online teaching is intensive and hard work, a pre-prepared section can give you the opportunity of putting something of real quality together that you can use time and time again. There are many online, including free online, applications that can help you create a video of yourself. A further option would be to create a character through Adobe Character Animator that can deliver your lessons for you. This adds interest and engagement for the learner and allows you to sit back, assess the learner, stop, and answer questions and further discussion without having to focus on the delivery. It also means you’re viewed as a pretty cool teacher, which can help too.


Final Words

Online Teaching is likely to go away and is going to be a part of our lives long-term in varying proportions of learning activities. A well-prepared, well-organized teacher with good online teaching skills is not going to be out of work. If you want to improve as an educator, diversify, add tools for when you get back to the physical classroom, or concentrate on the new online teaching trends then these tips will help you on your journey.

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Lyudmil Enchev

Lyudmil is an avid movie fan which influences his passion for video editing. You will often see him making animations and video tutorials for GraphicMama. Lyudmil is also passionate for photography, video making, and writing scripts.

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