Effective Strategies for Distance Teaching

It is the third week of social distancing in 2020, and I am constantly amazed and overwhelmed by the number of best practices being shared by colleagues and other educators. It is 2020 and the number of platforms to learn from and to share information about is just too many. Even so, I thought it might be a great time for me to share some of the best practices I have learned for effective online teaching strategies with my TESL community.

Many of us teaching at Ontario colleges were given a week to transfer our courses to distance learning. Keeping in mind that one week is definitely not enough time to learn and plan to teach from a distance, here are a few strategies that I follow while planning my courses.


To begin, I make sure I stay consistent in three ways.

  • First, I post and make information available on a specific day on the learning management system (LMS), which is the day we meet for classes every week.
  • Next, I try posting course material in the following ways:
    • watch
    • read
    • write
    • participate.
  • For each lesson I post, I either make a video or find a video for it; I also make additional written information available on the lesson discussed in the video; and I provide an opportunity for my students to practice their learning either through participating in a discussion board, taking a quiz, matching information, or leaving an audio message.
  • Finally, I maintain consistency between assignment expectations and rubrics used to mark student work. Many courses have pre-made rubrics suggested by the departments we teach in, and if we adjust what we teach in our classes, we have to make sure that our rubrics reflect what we teach and mark students accordingly.


When posting course material, I consider accessibility; in other words, information is posted in more than one format. For instance, when posting a video, I provide a transcript of the video. If I make the video myself, I use screencast-o-matic (paid version) to video record, which allows me to make a transcript. You may also upload your video to YouTube and add captions to it. Next, when posting a PowerPoint, I make sure there is a voiceover for it and a separate audio file for it if possible. Also, when posting a file, I try posting both a Word and a PDF file to make sure students can open the files and use DocReader (it reads it to students). Finally, since students are required to submit assignments online, I provide assignment instructions both in writing and in video. I screen record going over the assignment expectations, and I explain how the rubric will be used once an assignment is submitted. Providing an A-grade assignment sample and going over the strengths of the assignment in a video is also a great way to instruct students on developing a high-quality assignment submission.

Building Community

Staying connected online can be challenging. One way I try to overcome the barriers is by using a discussion board. As outdated as it might sound, I find it an effective way for students to post their questions and stay connected. I request students to subscribe to the thread so that everyone receives an email when someone posts a question. This way, anyone with an answer can respond; also, when I respond to the question, I might be answering a question that other students have. This can be a time-saver in our online class!

Please share your best practices with us below.

Hi everyone! My name is Sherry, and I have been teaching adult learners for the past 18 years. I am an OCT certified teacher with a master’s degree in Education. I teach English, ESL, OSLT, research and report writing courses at a post-secondary level of education. As an educator, I am passionate about incorporating diverse instructional strategies that would benefit students with various learning abilities. I am also passionate about research and implementing various ED-Tech tools in developing and instructing various courses. I am very glad to be a part of the TESL Blog team.


7 thoughts on “Effective Strategies for Distance Teaching”

  1. Excellent point re: adding captioning to videos. I also agree how important it is to keep consistent. Also, limiting the tools being used will help lessen the stress that the learners are feeling. Thanks for sharing your best practices here. You nailed it!

    1. Thank you for the positive feedback Jennifer!
      You are right consistency is certainly a key online.

  2. I agree! I have low levels and just the fact that they posted “Good morning friends!” I am so happy!
    Thank you, for the great suggestions. We are doing our best, and sometimes we over-plan putting up so much work.

    1. Thank you Cristina,
      I agree that sometimes with over planning we could over whelm, but I also worry if I have enough for our learners who go faster. I often leave a message saying let me know if you finish the week sooner, and you would like to start the coming week earlier, or I might have the LMS set up that way to open the next week as soon as our learners finish their current week!

  3. I also have the paid version of Screencast-o-matic and love using it to record my lessons. I like your idea of making a voiceover with PowerPoint slides. I will incorporate that in a future lesson!

  4. Thank you Annetta, I have also been using google slides for my powerpoints and voice overs for them, and they are easily shareable with a link, which I really enjoy the feature. Happy Friday!

  5. Thanks Sherry, your practices are very helpful. I try to incorporate things to cater for mixed levels, but not too much to become overwhelming. I keep the communication open as suggested. I will incorporate the screencasts. Sometimes, I become overwhelmed trying to help my students. Thanks for the writing on representation.

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