Tips for Online Teaching

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Diplomatic Language Services has transitioned classes online. While we navigate this rapidly changing situation, the health and safety of our community of staff, instructors, and students remains our priority. We understand your growing concerns around this uncertain event. We understand you may be looking for guidance and tips for online teaching. 

In recent years, we have seen an increase in distance learning classes, which have proven as effective as in-person training. Fortunately, our LMS and Zoom platforms allow us to conduct classes online with minimal interruption. By ensuring our instructors and students can smoothly transition to online language teaching and learning, we are helping to prevent transmission of the virus. Below, DLS curriculum developers have compiled their best practices (as well as a few activities) when teaching online.  

Do’s & Don’ts for Online Teaching 

If you’re having trouble discerning what sort of changes should be made to your teaching as you transition from the classroom to a virtual space, don’t worry! Refer to the table below for important things to keep in mind while developing online lessons.



Do adapt your normal lesson plan for the online setting.  Don’t just plan to teach the same way online as you do in the classroom. 
Do open all materials (videos, files, etc.) you’ll need before the class begins.  Don’t assume your materials will open without trouble when you want them. 
Do use a lot of visuals/graphics to maintain student interest.  Don’t leave students staring at the same PowerPoint or document for too long. 
Do change activities regularly to help students stay engaged.  Don’t stay on the same activity for more than 10 or 15-minutes at a time. 
Do be more dynamic and expressive than in normal classes.  Don’t just be a talking head with a monotone voice. 
Do speak clearly and enunciate more than usual.  Don’t assume students can hear you as well online as they can in person. 
Do look at the camera when talking, so it looks like you are addressing students.  Don’t only look at the faces of students, especially if their faces appear far from the camera. 
Do pay attention to students’ faces and body language to check their engagement.  Don’t hide the students’ camera view from your screen. 
Do hold full-length classes.  Don’t cut your classes short. 
Do give students regular breaks.  Don’t skip breaks to end class early. 
Do have a plan for communicating with your students if your technology fails.  Don’t sit online wondering what happened and when your student will come back. 


Activity Ideas for Online Teaching 

As instructors adjust to a new teaching format, it is important to have engaging, productive activities to keep the student’s interest. We’ve suggested multiple activities to try whether your student needs listening, reading, speaking, or project and task-based activities.

Listening Activities 
  • Select a relevant YouTube video for your students to watch. Get them to tell you what they know about the topic and predict the content. Then, play the video and have them check how their predictions match up to what was actually talked about.  
Reading Activities 
  • Have students explore online newspapers for interesting new articles or headlines.  
Project and Task-Based Activities 
  • Give students thirty minutes to research a topic and present their ideas. 
  • Have students prepare a presentation. They can create a PowerPoint to give their presentation. If allowed, record students while they are presenting. Use their recording to give feedback to the student.  
Speaking Activities  
  • Use role-play and information gaps.  
  • Have students describe pictures online. Have them tell you who is in the picture, where they are, what is happening, and why it is important.  
  • Choose a current topic. Once a topic has been decided on, your student and you should each prepare five questions on that topic. Then, ask each other the questions you prepared.

Going Forward 

As you likely know, many schools and universities have moved all classes online and the situation is evolving quickly. Remember to stay home if you are not feeling well, report any known COVID-19 cases, and self-quarantine whether it is flu, COVID-19, or another infection that can affect your immune system. We will continue to provide updates as new information becomes available. Please reach out to your LTS or to Diplomatic Language Services Human Resources department if you have any questions or concerns.

Thank you for doing your part in contributing to the wellbeing of our community!

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