Successful online teaching secrets

In a previous article, I wrote about the importance of considering synchronous and asynchronous approaches to teaching this fall (see link below).  Like any other method of teaching – no one method is best. The role of the teacher is to know which method or approach is best given the course content or dynamic. In conversations with PA faculty across the country, some continue to have most of their teaching live or synchronous despite the significant time commitment to do so. Others are doing some on-campus teaching; however, the majority of course delivery is still occurring in an online format. The key to success is to keep it simple!

Here is a list of approaches to consider. Remember to let students and the nature of the content of your course dictate whether synchronous, asynchronous, or both are best.  However, using a blend of both tends to be better.

  • Keep your lectures – whether live or taped - less than 20 minutes and include engaging content-related activities before, during, and after the video.
  • Use breakout groups for active discussions, but be sure to bring the entire group back together at the end for closing discussion and remarks.
  • Instructions and directions are critically important when teaching online. Be sure you provide clear and detailed instructions to the students and orient them to the platform you are using if they are new. I use both a short video to orient folks to my course layout as well as written instructions.
  • Keep it varied – finding ways to engage students verbally, physically, textually.
  • Ask for feedback from your students on how things are going.

Regardless of whether you are using synchronous or asynchronous learning – feedback is essential. Consider all the ways you can provide feedback – written (e-mail, text, emojis, gifs), verbal (on live meetings, via recorded messages). And remember, feedback needs to be both positive, being sure to let students who are doing well know they are doing well, and corrective when students aren’t where they need to be. We have the propensity to focus only on those students who are struggling.

It doesn’t matter whether we are teaching in person or online. Our goal remains the same, providing our students with the best opportunities, support, and guidance we can to foster their learning.


Online Teaching: When do I teach live versus letting students learn individually? (



Lawless, C. (2020, April 23). Synchronous vs Asynchronous learning: Which is right for your learners? Retrieved from

Méndez-Carbajo, D., & Wolla, S. A. (2019). Segmenting educational content: Long-form vs. short-form online learning modules. American Journal of Distance Education, 33(2), 108–119.

Orlando, J. (2016). Apply neurology to online videos. The Teaching Professor.  Retrieved from

 Orlando, J. (2019, November 9). Chunking content: A key to learning. The Teaching Professor. Retrieved from

Parisi, S., & Thornton, D. (2016, June 24). Tips from the pros: Tips for effective video instruction. The Teaching Professor. Retrieved from

Pomales-Garcia, C., and Liu, Y. (2006). Web-based distance learning technology: The impacts of web module lengths and format. American Journal of Distance Education.20(3). 163-179.

 Roddy, C., Amiet, D.L., Chung, J., Holt, C., Shaw, L., McKenzie, S., … Mundy, M. E. (2017) Applying best practice online Learning, teaching, and support to intensive online environments: An integrative review. Front. Educ. 2:59. doi: 10.3389/feduc.2017.00059 Retrieved from

Sebastien, N. (2020). Engagement: The secret to teaching online this fall. Faculty Focus. Retrieved from


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