Nowadays, the job of a remote teacher is getting more and more popular. Great remote teachers effectively use modern technologies, prepare lesson plans which include several innovative online tools and appeal to their learners, keep them engaged and help them digest the material. The shift from the face-to-face classroom environment to the virtual reality, however, has some challenges.  As a remote teacher, much of your work and instruction are done with the computer, so you must be computer literate and be well aware of the software and other programs that you use for instruction. Here, I will present some tips from my personal experience of how to become a great remote teacher. Currently, I am working online both with teenagers and adults, and most of the tips come in handy and applicable for both age groups irrespective of the level taught.

Keeping contact with the students

You should look directly into the camera lens rather than at the screen. Learners will feel you are looking at them in the eye and it creates a sense of being valued. You can stand up or move closer to the camera, when necessary. For example, you can show a close-up of your mouth when teaching pronunciation.

Use gestures and facial expressions

Use gestures, be energetic to seem more lively from the screen. A simple smile will tell your learners you are happy to be there with them. Be natural, however, as a forced smile will make the wrong impression. 

You can also communicate with body language. For instance, hold eye contact to show your learners that you are listening with interest. Beckon them on with your hand if you want them to say more. 

Vary your volume, depending on what you are doing. Learners pay more attention to you if the volume of what you are saying increases and decreases. The pace of the voice is also very important. With beginner students, you need to talk more slowly and as for advanced learners, with a more natural pace.  

Shift the screen focus from you

From time to time you can move the webcam to some realia in the room, for example, a whiteboard, some pictures or an object which has some connection with the lesson topic. 

Keep the learners engaged 

Keeping learners engaged is one of the challenges all teachers have. For example, learners may get bored, lose interest in the activities. In case of online classes, these kinds of problems may arise more often because students are mostly sitting and looking at the screen most of the time, may make more efforts to listen to the teacher because of some possible technical problems. Some students even manage to scroll Facebook* pages instead of doing the tasks. As a result, they get more distracted and bored. To keep the learners engaged, you can shift their focus from the screen to their household surrounding. I usually assign them to bring some objects from home (if you study the household items), open their fridge and list the food items there and what they would like to buy (in case you are covering the topic of Food ). If they need to interview somebody, they can do it with one of their family members, or even call their friends during the lesson. If the interviewee doesn’t know English, the interview can be in their mother tongue and the student reports back to the teacher in English.

Some other tips

  • Use online flashcards and interactive games to liven up the class and make the learners involved during the lesson. Here you will find some online tools which may come in handy for online teachers.
  • Dive deeper into the topic with the help of technologies. Have students interact on a shared blog or create and record dialogues. Here, and here you can find great tools for online classes.
  • Although you will, of course, be giving feedback during the lesson, many students like to receive some more feedback before/after a lesson. In online classes the urge for constructive and formative feedback is even more important since the learners don’t have the opportunity for an extra face-to-face communication before/after the lesson (you know when students come a little bit earlier for the lesson), the lesson starts as soon as the teacher starts the meeting. A well-arranged feedback procedure helps to keep them engaged and more involved in their studies. I usually send a quick email pointing out the things the students have done well and other areas that they should focus on. I use a lot online tools like Vocaroo (verbal feedback through an audio podcast), Jing (combines screen capturing and verbal feedback in a video format.) for more constructive feedback. Follow this link to read more about feedback in online courses. 

We hope that these tips will help you in teaching online. One must bear in mind that in case of online teaching, students may get bored or distracted much easier. The teacher mustn’t get demotivated, on the contrary by using one of our tips he/she may save the class and have happy students. 

*Facebook belongs to Meta Platforms Inc., whose activities are recognized as extremist and banned in the Russian Federation.
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