15+ Tips That Will Change The Way You Approach E-Learning

To support teachers transitioning from in-person lessons to virtual instruction, we’ve compiled some of our best practices to develop and deliver lessons to keep your students engaged and learning.

Lesson Planning

  • Break learning into smaller chunks (10 minutes or less) and focus on essential information.
  • Establish a clear structure for each class to maintain student engagement.
  • Prepare visible step-by-step virtual learning procedures in your slides.
  • Script out questions and display them visually in your presentation.
  • Plan varied and specific student actions throughout class (e.g. annotation, breakout rooms, writing reflections, online polls, independent work, etc.)

Setting Expectations

  • Acknowledge that virtual instruction may be a new experience for both you and your students. Patience will be needed on all sides.
  • Adapt your class expectations to the online classroom (e.g. respect, engagement, participation).
  • Model and practice classroom procedures using your online platform (how to answer/ask questions, how to show agreement or give praise, how to submit assignments).


  • Emphasize student actions: Consider how much time students will spend just looking at their screen. Create additional student actions to eliminate extended periods of inactivity.
  • Highlight real-world connections: Students may be more prone to distraction during virtual instruction. Be sure to plan an effective hook for the lesson and utilize multimedia.
  • Make it personal: The fact that you can’t meet in person means you need to make your lesson even more personal. Some ideas: use your webcam, add music and graphics, etc.
  • Student-to-student interaction: Use “breakout rooms” feature if available in your online platform and have students respond to one another in the chat window.
  • One-on-one interaction: Send private chat messages with specific feedback, questions, and praise.


  • Continue to ask open-ended questions and follow-up questions, but include instructions for how to respond.
  • It’s appropriate to cold call once students are comfortable using tools to respond. You may wish to start with gentle questions the first few times you cold call.
  • Have all students send their responses to you in a private message. Then share select responses and ask follow-up questions.


  • Some platforms allow you to place individual students or small groups into breakout rooms. Provide differentiated assignments to each individual or group, and enter each breakout room to provide targeted feedback and support.
  • Provide “Choose Your Own Adventure” assignments—multiple options with different degrees of rigor, preferably with some overlapping tasks.
  • Send individual students direct messages with alternative problems or assignments. You can later share the answers and explanations publicly or privately.

Matthew Pietrafetta

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