Creative Online Teaching Strategies

Teaching Strategies of Award-Winning Online Instructors

In the spring of 2020, many classes will experience a dramatic transformation from a traditional setting to an online environment. To adapt their education quickly, many teachers are experimenting with remote teaching for the first time. It is important to have previous experience, and it can be hard to try to help our pupils in this new approach when so much other is going on at the same time.

Fortunately, a recent study published in the open-access journal Online Learning by Swapna Kumar, Florence Martin, Albert Ritzhaupt, and Kiran Budhrani reveals the stories of a group of eight award-winning online instructors with a combined 109 years of experience teaching online courses. The authors of the study conducted interviews with university-level professors to learn more about their approaches to online training. These approaches apply to students in grades K–12 as well because the instructors emphasize things such as relevant course materials, a flexible approach to student work, and the importance of reflection in learning—all things that are necessary for elementary and secondary education, as well as higher education and professional development.

These five insights into how the instructors approached their award-winning class designs were revealed to the authors as a result of their interviews.


There is a plethora of internet stuff to connect to and reference, but integrating true primary materials is a terrific approach to ground learning in real-world context and experience. Authentic sources, real examples, and cases drawn from our history or the natural world provide the rich context and nuance that hypothetical designs or made-up examples often lack. Case studies drawn from history or the natural world provide the rich context and nuance that hypothetical designs or made-up examples often lack.

Students’ critical thinking and engagement can be boosted when they are asked to study and interpret primary materials and current events content. The teachers who participated in the study provided the following examples:

Student discussions in an online forum were expected to include “snippets of recordings from a radio show that aired once a week and was linked to course themes.” For example, a history teacher could distribute this list of ten notable historical broadcasts to his or her students.
“Courtroom videos and recorded discussions with prosecutors regarding certain areas of legal matters are available for viewing.” A variety of Supreme Court cases, including the Bush v. Gore election-related cases from 2000, are available for students on Oyez to listen to live arguments in real-time.
“Pre-recorded podcasts with experts on the course topics to serve as models for students’ thinking and to provide authentic material.” One approach is to listen to a podcast in which science professionals are interviewed, such as Ologies with Alie Ward.


When it comes to external media, it’s also crucial to give the material in a variety of formats to keep your audience engaged. Including video, audio, text, and interactive content in a course can help to make it more interesting for students. It also makes a course more accessible via the following means: It is a big disadvantage for students who have difficulty with a particular medium, such as students who have reading disabilities such as dyslexia or students who have video disabilities such as hearing or concentration problems, when that medium is the only method for them to connect with the subject.

The following are some good instances of mixed-media approaches:

In a history lecture, show students a radio broadcast, newspaper clippings, and an interactive map to reinforce the lesson. Afterward, students can find themes that appear throughout all of the resources.
Instruct students to create a synopsis of a subject in a piece of literature using an excerpt from the book, a television interview with the author about the book, and a series of web or print comics that reference the book as inspiration.


Students can demonstrate their understanding of the rich instructional resources outlined above by generating products that are similarly rich in content. Students’ creations should contain opportunities for them to collaborate as well as possibilities for them to express themselves individually. Several examples are provided by the study’s instructors, including:

According to the instructors, “Students developed digital stories using technologies such as Photo Story or PowerPoint after selecting a topic that was related to their subject-matter expertise and that connected course content to their personal life.”
To complete the assignment, students were asked to read critical articles or texts and prepare a brief (2–3 minute) audio presentations. Here’s some information on how to assist kids in creating a podcast.
“Students participated in an online debate regarding the advantages and disadvantages” of a course topic. Debates can take place in real-time (through Zoom or other video conferencing software) or in real-time (over the internet) (using VoiceThread or even just a discussion board).


Reflection and metacognition are critical components of learning in any setting, and in an online environment, teachers must be deliberate in their efforts to assist students in reflecting. However, the authors of the study note that their teachers’ reflection activities went above and beyond testing understanding; such activities intertwined quizzes, discussion posts, podcasts, and articles with prompts to encourage students to reflect on their learning.


Moreover, students should look ahead to comprehend how their upcoming work will build on the foundation they have previously established. Teachers may not want to discuss all of the specifics of their lesson plans with students, but every student should be aware of the general direction in which they are striving to progress. Because the interlinking of our course material can be lost in the online format, it is important to highlight (and reiterate) the links between activities so that students can see how they all fit together as a whole.