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Top tips for successful teaching online

Young girl raises her hand during a remote teaching lesson

Since the closure of UK schools began in March, teachers have had to adapt to online teaching, with the virtual classroom becoming the norm.

In that time, many teachers have moved from simple, emailed worksheets to pre-recorded videos and live lessons, making use of a variety of online tools.

One of our Member schools who have successfully navigated this transition and, over the weeks, adjusted their approach following parental feedback, is Epsom College.

Here, Director of Innovation and Learning Ollie Fernie and Head of eLearning Chris Telfer-Mason offer their top five tips for successful online teaching.

1. The balancing act

Although children appreciate hearing and seeing their teacher, it’s important to strike a balance between teacher-led activities and ensuring that students have time to consolidate learning by completing work at their own pace. Teachers should not feel under pressure to be “live” talking all the time.

Fernie says, “Pupils appreciate teachers being there on hand, live, to help them but, equally, some students, depending on age and ability, want the opportunity to take their time. So, it’s about finding that combination – at least one in a series of lessons over a week could be live.”

2. High-intensity Interval Teaching

Online teaching is more intensive than delivering your lesson in the classroom, so think of it like a work out: you need bursts of short activities with intervals between. Use the approach of ‘chunking’, familiar to all teachers, to achieve pace and variety without exhausting yourself or the class.

Telfer-Mason says, “I might do a physics demo via a webcam in the lab, then have some chat, before setting a task for them to complete independently and then coming back together, going over the main points, making some notes and moving onto another activity.”

3. Flexible approach

Now is the time to embrace technology and make the most of the many online tools to enhance your teaching. Nothing can replace traditional classroom interaction, particularly the visual cues which enable instant assessment. But there are many ways of quickly assessing progress and interacting with the students, from questions in the chat box to more sophisticated software.

Quick quizzes through Microsoft Forms, Google Docs and Socrative are popular with teachers and students alike. For a more extensive “real time” formative feedback, try the PowerPoint add-in Pear Deck… this is a game changer!

Fernie explains, “Using every teacher’s mainstay, PowerPoint, you can add an interactive link on each slide, with a multiple-choice question and a text box for the pupils to type an answer in. You see it live while they're answering or you can put links to videos, which they can watch, and then comment on.”

And students don’t have to work in isolation. Telfer-Mason adds, “Using Teams and OneNote, you can start a lesson in a big chat room and then move them into small groups for collaborative working.”

4. Marking pressure

Avoid the stress of marking overload: don’t try to mark every piece of work. It’s unnecessary and will take a long time, especially as students seem to upload or send work in all sorts of different formats. Teachers can still effectively deliver feedback verbally, by using peer assessment, through text chat functions and even with the automated marking functions of online software such as Microsoft Forms.

5. Be kind to yourself

Firstly, congratulate yourself for upskilling so quickly. Teachers have been taken out of their comfort zone and developed their professional practice in a new landscape. Even if facing a camera is not for you, Fernie says teachers can take pride in their achievements: “Despite this sort of hesitation and anxiety at the start, I think there's been a lot of confidence-building in the use of technology.”

Managing workload is critical, so try to avoid too many hours adapting resources for online learning. Telfer-Mason says, “At the start, each lesson was taking a long time to prepare but now we’ve streamlined that process. There are plenty of video clips available on YouTube and Teachit, but you can even make your own very quickly, using Explain Everything or screen recording. And don’t forget to share resources and ideas with colleagues.”

Finally, for your physical and mental wellbeing, remember to just breathe and relax; try and spend break times and evenings outside or away from a screen.

Image: Kawee/

You’ll find more tips and resources for schools and organisations that work with families in our Members section. Membership is free until the end of June – more info here.


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