How to Jump into Online Teaching!

Anna S. CohenMiller
4 min readMar 11, 2020


4 Practical Steps and Questions to Ask Yourself

Photo by @chamara-madhushanka from Pexels

A recent estimate suggests 290 million kids are experiencing disruptions in their learning because of the coronavirus. It’s a disruptive time in education. Many universities are closing. Students are being sent home. Faculty are being told to start teaching online.

Every day more and more people are being thrown into online teaching. But where to start? As Naima Charlier, director of teaching and learning at the Nord Anglia International School Hong Kong says of the change to online teaching in China,

Teachers are trying and adjusting and sharing at warp speed what works and what doesn’t.

So, here are 4 practical steps and questions to ask yourself to help you quickly jump into online teaching and learning.

Step #1: Manage expectations

There’s no denying it. The learning environment and your teaching will be different than in the traditional face-to-face class. So, you will want to manage your own expectations of yourself and that of your students.

While online learning is a trend in higher education, most faculty members have not been trained in this practice. The first time teaching any new class always results in mixed results, which improve over time. Teaching online for the first time will be challenging. Your online class will likely not be the best teaching practice you have ever demonstrated.

The good news: Teaching online will give you a chance to practice a new type of teaching, you will be better next time, and you will help students learn.

Ask yourself:

Am I expecting 100% perfection in this class for myself? For my students? What can I realistically expect to learn in a few days in this transition to online teaching? What can I expect of my students in their ability to rapidly adapt to this transition to online learning?

Step #2: Be flexible in assessment

Your Learning Outcomes will remain the same but it will be important to figure out how to achieve those in online teaching. Likely, you will need to help your students demonstrate their learning in new ways.

Most universities have teaching and learning experts, an education department, or other resources to help you think through these assessments. In thinking through your assessments, you can try to figure out if you want or need to change assessments such as lab time, presentations, or group work.

Ask yourself

Can I remove any assessments that are not 100% necessary during this online period? How can I help my students demonstrate learning?

Step #3: Choose technology strategically

To be strategic in your technology use, you can use the platforms offered by your university (Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard) and also other tools in case those get bogged down with high traffic or other glitches. My students have gained a lot from my use of Seesaw’s digital portfolios, Google docs, and WhatsApp texting groups.

If you use a learning platform, they can be excellent for online teaching. They frequently offer built-in systems for video conferencing, creating discussion groups, break-out rooms, messaging, and areas for collecting information to share. Yet, if you haven’t been using these systems for online teaching, they can feel clunky and can be time-consuming to unpack all the parts for the needed rapid transition.

Ask yourself:

What type of technology system am I most comfortable with (maybe this means you have the most experience with it already, that you feel the most able to learn it quickly or have access to someone who can mentor you through its use)?

Step #4: Create an inclusive, supportive environment

Most importantly, this is a challenging time for faculty and students alike. You have a new opportunity to create an environment that supports learning. This could mean setting up additional online office hours or sending out an email encouraging students to come to you with questions or concerns.

While some students may be technologically savvy and comfortable with online tools, there are many others who are not. Students may be anxious about their abilities in an online setting, concerned about having consistent access to the internet, or worried about how to demonstrate their learning.

Plus, students may be facing extreme sickness in their own families and communities. They may be dealing with financial concerns or suddenly needing to take on additional care-taking duties with children out of school.

Whatever the reason, moving to teaching online means you won’t see when a student struggles. You won’t see the student who is visually impaired walk into your class. You won’t see the student who is 8 months pregnant, and you won’t see the shy student at the back of the class.

Ask yourself:

How can I create a classroom environment where students feel comfortable letting me know about their own needs and struggles?

Photo by Sarah Kilian on Unsplash

Remember that moving to online teaching and learning is a huge endeavor the entire educational world is experiencing. You are a part of a unique moment in history! It also means some mistakes will be made. Some by universities, some by you, and some by students. And all of these are okay.

You’re allowed to give yourself room to learn and make mistakes. And you can give your students that same grace.

Good luck and let me know how it goes!

What tips and experiences do you have about online teaching and learning? And remember to click the so more people get to see this post.



Anna S. CohenMiller

Research, Teaching, & Community-Building to Improve Equity and Inclusion in Higher Ed | | | |