Online Teaching: What to Know in 2021

Online Teaching: What to Know in 2021
Masooma Memon

Written by:
Masooma Memon

Aug 09, 2021
An illustration of someone taking an online class.

Thinking about dabbling into online teaching? Awesome! 

There’s no better time to teach than now as the distance learning market is expected to grow to over $375 billion in five years.

Besides the market’s skyrocketing growth, teaching online expands your reach — allowing you to teach students outside your local area. It gives you a lot of freedom to create a flexible lifestyle too. 

But there’s a big difference between teaching online for the sake of it and teaching online with proper planning. Do it well and the endeavor will not only be rewarding for your students, but also for yourself. 

So let’s show you how to teach online the right way by diving into everything you need to know about succeeding at it.

Table of Contents

 

How Does Online Teaching Work?

Online teaching involves teaching students over the internet — no school admission or dress code required. 

The good news is you don’t have to be a teacher by profession to teach online. 

If you’re skilled at something, let’s say creating videos, you can teach others how to do so. Or, if you’ve mastered a process such as live streaming or setting up a Shopify store, you can create an online course and train others. 

But while there are lots of perks of tutoring online, there are some challenges to it as well. 

Top of these is the fact that distance learning can feel isolating. Students might feel disconnected and unmotivated. In fact, 42% — almost half — of the students struggled with feeling motivated to take their classes during lockdown 2020. 

Not to mention, recreating a classroom’s environment, humanizing the course and keeping in touch with students are no easy feats.

As a teacher, you need to be mainly focused on the content you’ll teach. Online teaching platforms and tools handle most of the heavy lifting work involved. 

For instance, the right online teaching tools can help you present your class to the students. Zoom, a video conference tool, is just one example of how it can help you connect with students online in one-on-one and group video calls. 

Similarly, Demio can help you give webinars — interactive education presentations, which you can host both pre-recorded and live.

The best part? Students can interact with you on the spot by sharing their questions in the Q&A sessions (typically post-presentation). Even taking polls and engaging with each other in the chat box.

Another tool that you’ll need in your kit is Visme, a visual design tool that helps you create webinar slides, presentations, infographics, quizzes, lecture guides, worksheets and more. 

A collage of educational templates available in Visme.

The plus? You don’t have to be a designer to use Visme, thanks to its drag-and-drop interface and tons of free graphics, icons and templates. 

Let’s say you’re sharing a timeline with your students. Instead of handing them raw dates, make learning interesting by visualizing the information using a ready-to-use timeline template such as the one below: 

A timeline template showcasing the Voyager missions.
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

That said, an online teaching platform facilitates learning sessions, bringing you and the students together in a virtual classroom of sorts. 

In a sense, the platform is a virtual school where instructors share their course content and meet students. It’s here that you’ll share all the learning aids you create such as the style guides, lesson plans, videos and so on. And, it’s all here that you’ll charge for your effort. 

From a student’s lens, online education platforms are where they find courses they’re interested in and take classes. 

If you’re affiliated with a school or university, chances are they’ve already picked a platform to facilitate the learning. So, you’ll just need to go with the flow on this part. 

However, if you’re an independent tutor, you’ll want to weigh all the pros and cons of an online teaching platform before choosing it. 

We’ve put together a list of reliable platforms for you to explore at the end of this guide. For now, let’s walk you through some proven tips to conduct classes online. 

 

7 Helpful Online Teaching Tips

When teaching online, it's important to be engaging so your students are able to pay attention more easily. However, that can take some serious prep work on your end.

Luckily, we've got 7 helpful online teaching tips and some templates to help you get started.

1. Make yourself notes (and some coffee).

The best way to get started is with a brainstorming session on how you plan to teach. The aim is to be clear on things like: 

  • The learning style you’ll adopt 
  • The length and duration of the course
  • The teaching material you’ll use 
  • The way you’ll test your pupil’s learning 

For example, you might want to lean on live presentations and webinars for teaching. Or, you could have one-on-one sessions instead of group lessons. 

You can also take a hybrid approach to engage your students by mixing things up — having one-on-ones as well as group meet ups. You can also divide your class up into small groups to help make learning more individualized while also making the most of your time with students.

Once you’re clear on all this, you’ll be in a better position to plan the course, create lesson plans (including what you’ll cover in each class and the pace you’ll adopt) and design all other learning materials. 

Don’t forget, if it’s a lengthy course, extending over months, you’ll want to lay the plan in a calendar like this one: 

A blue and purple calendar template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

2. Plan your online course.

Once you’ve outlined the full course and divided it into lessons, get to work. 

Share your plan with your students-to-be by creating a course outline with a "what you’ll learn" overview in it.

A syllabus template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

Next, work out lesson plans. 

These are bite-sized plans of how you’ll cover the entire syllabus with your students, providing direction and a well-thought-out action plan to cover the miles. 

Besides, lesson plans make students’ mindsets as to what they’ll learn in a given class. Visme gives you a template pool for lesson plans such as this funky one:

A creative lesson plan template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

And this one that’s suitable for a weekly round-up of what students will learn:

A weekly lesson plan template available in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

3. Create learning material.

Another handy tip for a successful attempt at online teaching is to have all course raw material ready before the session starts. 

Between Visme’s library of templates containing presentations, checklists, printable worksheets, checklists, reports and infographics, along with its ease of use, you’ll be able to get the work done in no time. 

To begin with, check out this Visme presentation template — we’ve got tons where this one comes from so feel free to browse the library. 

A graphic design bootcamp presentation template available to edit in Visme.
Customize this presentation template and make it your own!Edit and Download

If you plan on teaching with infographics, you’ll love this one that teaches by sharing bite-sized info on the topic: 

An infographic template available to edit in Visme.
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

And this one that uses a flowchart to explain a process: 

A process flowchart template available to edit in Visme.
Customize this infographic template and make it your own!Edit and Download

You can also create reports for sharing students’ performance. If you’re teaching junior classes, you’ll want to address the report to the kids’ parents. 

A preschool report card template available to edit in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

But if you’re targeting an adult audience, you can create a report that captures their performance so they can tell how well they’re doing and what needs improvement. 

A blank report card template available to customize in Visme.
Customize this template and make it your own!Edit and Download

4. Create outlines for yourself before every class.

This is key for avoiding slips and blabbering on screen.

The thing is: we’re all human and presenting online can feel overwhelming. This is not to say you don’t have adequate grip on your subject; you absolutely do. But there’s a sea of difference in presenting in front of your audience and in front of a camera. 

A fleshed-out outline or a rough outline containing all the main pointers you’ll cover can help. It refreshes you on what you’ll be talking about. 

Not to mention, it navigates your lesson so even if a student jumps in with an urgent question or further explanation call, you won’t be derailed. 

Making class notes or an outline also comes with another perk: they leave you with clarity of thought. This, in turn, makes your lesson delivery clear — positioning you as an organized mentor who knows what they’re talking about, leaving a solid impression on your students. 

Remember: an organized teacher who’s clear about what they’re teaching exudes confidence, expertise and the they-know-what-they-are-talking-about vibe. All these are factors that grade teachers highly in their students’ eyes. 

So simply pull out a piece of paper or document (whatever you prefer) and write down the pointers you’ll cover. 

You can also use a tool like Notion to make your outlines and save them in a centralized space. This way, you can reuse the outline for delivering the same lectures in other course sessions. 

A screenshot of a class outline created in Notion.

5. Recreate a classroom’s environment.

But what’s a traditional classroom’s environment like? It’s a closely-knit, interactive environment where pupils are expected to actively participate, sharing what they’ve learned or already know about a topic. 

Reading an educator’s mood, approval, encouragement and more with non-verbal cues also tends to be common. 

Not to forget, a teacher can call on any student to answer a question and gauge their attentiveness. So how do you replicate all this in a virtual setting? 

A few suggestions: 

Humanize the process.

If you’ve been thinking of planning a self-taking course, think again. 

Chances are such a course suits your audience’s learning preferences. Most people, however, need human interaction to keep their learning in check.

Leave them to their devices and they might never get started or might drop midway through the course. 

Therefore, it’s essential you humanize the process. Meaning: get comfortable with video lessons. This could be through video conferencing that brings a virtual class together or creating video lessons that students can access anytime. 

Using Visme, you can also create animated videos and download them in MP4 to engage learners.

Another way to humanize the process is to keep in touch with your pupils via email, hosting short meetups every morning and having weekly and fortnightly progress check-ins. 

In an online challenge, #30DaysofContent, the ContentUK community, for instance, had regular check-in Zoom calls to discuss progress, challenges and other random stuff. 

When you’re herding a group, teaching them something, it helps to go the extra mile and host informal online sessions too. These help bring everyone together to know each other under the no-study-today agenda.  

Be mindful that research confirms students view online teaching presence as the entire round of interactions that they have with teachers. This includes everything from the emails you send to the announcement, assignments, the course’s organization and digital tools you use. Even your room’s background counts. 

As you follow through the online teaching tips shared so far, you’ll see that each is directed to help you improve your tutees’ experience. 

Leverage interactive content.

To be clear, interactive content is content that requires users to engage with it. In doing so, it holds their attention better. 

The videos that you create are a form of interactive educational content. On top of that, you can make interactive presentations as well as schedules.

You can also experiment with creating interactive infographics that link to other resources, contain videos and more. Here’s a full guide to creating interactive infographics. If you prefer video, here’s a tutorial to get you going: 

The plan is simple: rather than creating mediocre graphics for the sake of it, work on creating engaging visuals that make learning interesting. 

Schedule regular tests or class-end quizzes.

A third tip to mirror a traditional classroom’s environment is to quiz students to evaluate their understanding. 

To this end, schedule a Q&A session after every class, presentation and webinar. Encourage students to take interactive quizzes. Lastly, you can also question participants mid-lecture to ensure they’re attentive. 

Make it less wordy and more visual.

65% of the population are visual learners. So it makes sense to create stunning presentations, reports and other visual content to make learning exciting and easy for them. 

What’s more, it’s easy to get distracted online. Attending a boring lecture only aggravates the issue. The solution, you ask? Focus on holding your class’s attention by creating stunning visuals with Visme

6. Organize learning notes and resources.

This is key for improving student experience.

Annie O’Shaughnessy, a community college teacher, notes that unorganized links, files and browser tabs that you struggle to navigate can increase your stress level. Your students then mirror the same. 

The outline we recommended you make in an earlier tip will keep you well on track, reducing stress and odds of mishap. 

To add to that, take this two-pronged approach: 

  • Familiarize yourself with the tools you use. And, close any tabs that you don’t need to refer to. 
  • Organize all resources and notes in a library. Give students access to this library as well.

Making such a library packed with notes and additional learning material is going to be easy in Notion. You can simply add links to the video lessons you’ve delivered, attach worksheets you’ve created and create checklists to guide learning.

7. Gather student feedback.

Lastly, you need to ensure your students are enjoying taking the course with you. To do so, get on the mission to collate feedback. 

One, access analytics from Visme. This will help you keep tabs on each student’s learning progress — showing you if they’ve watched videos you’ve made or viewed the materials you’ve shared.

A screenshot of Visme's analytics.

Two, directly ask for student feedback with the help of forms such as Typeform and Google Forms. Make sure you ask questions such as: 

  • How is your experience taking the class so far?
  • Is there something I can do to improve the learning experience for you?
  • How do you find the learning material? Is it easy to find? Is it clear? 
  • Are you comfortable using the online learning tech? 

 

Online Teaching Platforms

Excited to start giving online teaching a try? Your next step is to find the online teaching platform that's going to work best for the format of your class.

Here's a list of platforms you can use to teach virtually:

Udemy 

This one’s an online teaching marketplace of 35 million students and 130,000 courses. You’re free to create your course and sell it for free. Udemy takes its cut for paid courses though. 

Thinkific 

Similar to Udemy, Thinkific lets you create, market and sell your course. But it’s loosely based on a freemium model so you can pretty much get started for free. Or, you can leverage the course-selling features that Thinkific offers for a price. 

Teachers Pay Teachers

This one’s a bit different from the two teaching and learning marketplaces we introduced you to. Teachers Pay Teachers is a place to buy and sell teaching materials such as workbooks, cheatsheets, slides and more. If you’re looking to sell your educational content, say after having given a course, this may be the right place for you. 

Teachable

Teachable is the place to sell online courses and consulting services. It’s like Teachers Pay Teachers. Except, you sell full courses here, not just educational material.  

Podia

Last on this list is Podia, a place to create and sell your course, digital downloads as well as handle students and payments on one platform. 

 

Ready to Kick Start Online Teaching?

You can easily pursue a strong career in online teaching or practice it on the side. 

Since virtual teaching is a growing marketplace, there’s lots of scope and tons of tools and platforms that can make it easy to find and teach students. 

All you need now is the will to start and a Visme account to begin planning and creating your course. So what are you waiting for? Sign up for Visme and get the ball rolling. 

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    About the Author

    Masooma Memon is a pizza-loving freelance writer by day and a novel nerd by night. She crafts research-backed, actionable blog posts for SaaS and marketing brands who aim to employ quality content to educate and engage with their audience.

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