How To Be A Good Online Teacher

Rachel Maltese
Updated June 22 2021
blended learning
Rachel Maltese
Updated June 22 2021

Teaching online isn’t new. In fact, online teaching had been growing in popularity for years before the COVID-19 pandemic. Online teaching, of course, has a range of benefits – including connecting teachers and students regardless of distance, increasing access to education for non-traditional students, and supporting students regardless of learning style.

In some ways, being an online teacher is just like teaching in a traditional in-person classroom. But there are many ways in which it differs. To be a good online teacher there are many tips, tricks, and skills that can improve your classroom. Before 2020, every teacher didn’t need to be an online teacher. But COVID-19 changed that. Today, being a good online teacher is a part of every teacher’s job.


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9 Rules For Being A Good Online Teacher

  1. Advanced Planning Is Key To Being A Good Online Teacher

We all know teachers always plan their classes. However, if you’ve been teaching the same subject for years, chances are there are some lessons you know so well, you don’t need a lot of preparation. However, because maintaining student engagement in online classes can be different than for in-person classes, it’s important that you revisit and adjust class materials originally written for in-person teaching. Changes you should consider making include breaking up lectures into smaller, bite-sized chunks and pre-recording lecture material for students to watch on their own time.


  1. Good Online Teachers Explore And Practice With Technology

Online teaching often involves using new technologies. Even if you’re familiar with a digital solution, tool, or resource, it may be new to some or all of your students. It’s important to take new technology you want to use in your virtual classroom for a test drive. While your priority will always be teaching, good online teachers can help their students problem solve technical issues that interfere with their ability to effectively participate in class.


  1. A Good Online Teacher Creates A Classroom Community

All classrooms are about community. But how you create community in a virtual classroom may be different than how you would do it in a traditional, face-to-face classroom. Be sure to give students time to introduce themselves on the first day of class (or even before your course starts). Also consider ways to replace the moments before and after class where students will typically chat, make small talk, and otherwise bond in a face-to-face setting.


  1. Having Clear Expectations Will Help You Be A Good Online Teacher

Students always want to get good grades. Making sure they know how to do that is vital. As an online teacher, it’s particularly important you spell out requirements in terms of assignments and classroom participation. Students in traditional in-person classes know that class participation means raising their hands. But what does class participation mean in an online classroom? Answering your questions as a teacher is one option. But it can also mean participating in group emails, chats, or projects. Your students will benefit from you clearly defining the parameters of what you expect.


  1. A Good Online Teacher Considers and Reconsiders What Formalities Matter

As many teachers and students had to shift to online teaching, there’s been much discussion about which formalities are important and which ones aren’t. Of course, you want your students to be on time to class and respectful. But it’s important to remember that students in online classes are often attending a classroom session from a shared home that may not have a dedicated space from which they can work. It’s important not to penalize students if they need to work at the kitchen table or if their pets or children occasionally come into view.


  1. For A Good Online Teacher, Classroom Time Isn’t Lecture Time

We mentioned this earlier but it’s worth repeating – classroom time should be focused on interactivity. A good online teacher focuses classroom time on questions, discussions, and projects while allowing students to do readings or what recorded lectures as part of their regular class preparation. This keeps students engaged during classroom hours.


  1. Group Projects Can Be Transformative

Group projects are a great way to be a good online teacher. These offer critical opportunities for student engagement and allow your class to additionally provide skills around project planning and conflict resolution. Group projects also offer students the opportunity to show off their knowledge and creativity to their peers.


  1. Virtual Office Hours Are An Essential Part of Being A Good Online Teacher

Sometimes students have questions for you as their teacher that are best addressed outside of the classroom. Perhaps they have a concern about their grade, a particular lesson that is confusing them, or a personal situation that may impact their virtual classroom performance and attendance. But regularly hosting virtual office hours where students can engage with you one-on-one online, you can build a better connection with your class and help prevent students from falling behind.


  1. A Good Online Teacher Is Compassionate

Of course, compassion is a key feature of any teacher, whether in a traditional in-person class or teaching online. But in these days of online teaching during a pandemic, it’s especially important to remember that students may need additional support and patience.


How to teach a class online


Advanced Features In Online Teaching

Online teaching can be so much more than just delivering a class over some sort of group video application. Some online teaching solutions offer many features that can enhance student engagement and improve the online teaching experience for everyone. These virtual classrooms include features like interactive quizzing, virtual whiteboards, shared note-taking, breakout rooms, and finely sliced analytics as a way to help evaluate engagement are only some of the features on offer. Persistent virtual classroom spaces and the ability to integrate any Learning Management Systems (LMS) your educational institution might be using are also available. Meanwhile, video creation, organization, and captioning solutions can help make your online teaching more engaging and accessible.



7 Free Online Tools For Teaching Online

Many free online tools can help support your online teaching activities. Here are just some of the options available and how you can use them in your teaching.


  1. Google Docs

This free online tool is easily accessible via the web. It provides basic word processing, spreadsheet, and presentation tools for free, and can help your students complete assignments regardless of their software resources. Additionally, Google Docs allows for shared viewing and editing of files, which can be great for supporting group projects.


  1. TED and TED-Ed

TED, and its associated education-focused program, TED-Ed, post talks on a wide range of subjects online for free. These brief lectures are compelling, interesting, informative, and often have a personal component. They make for great classroom (or homework) viewing and can serve as a jumping-off point for discussions in your online classroom.


  1. Wordle

Wordle is a tool for making free “word clouds” from entered text. These clouds can look great when added to presentations, but they are also an important tool in helping people understand the emphasis in various web pages, articles, stories, or other written content. Wordle word clouds can be a great way to initiate conversations related to media literacy and/or writing craft.


  1. Sumdog

Math doesn’t have to be hard, and if you’re teaching young people about numbers, this free resource filled with math-related games that adapt to the skill level of the player may be just what your students need.


  1. Audacity

Audacity is a free tool for recording audio in many different formats. From student podcast projects to homework assignments for an online music class, audacity might just be the tool you and your students need to handle your course-related audio needs.


  1. Evernote

Evernote is a free note-taking app that can also help students manage tasks and stay organized. It’s an excellent tool to introduce students to when addressing study skills and strategies in your online class.


  1. Doodle

Do you have your students working on group projects? Introduce them to Doodle and its free online polls to help them efficiently choose meeting times that work for their whole group.



Being a good online teacher is about many things. But as long as you stay flexible and curious and are willing to meld your skills as an educator with today’s web-based tools, you should be all set!

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