Student Success in the Online Classroom 

I work remotely as an ESL teacher for a Chinese company teaching English as a Second Language to students aged six to thirteen in China. From my observations, the cultural expectations in China are highly focused on academics.  

I’ve witnessed students attend class through a mobile device while eating dinner, in bed sick, or completing other homework while waiting for class to begin. It’s not unusual for students in China to have 12-hour school days, then come home to learn English.  

Many of my students are initially silent, very formal, and even completing more homework than I have assigned. It is to my assumption that these students have a highly rigorous educational experience in their Chinese schools than what I offer. However, over time, my students become open to sharing various stories with me, and their parents provide feedback to my supervisor about how much their children like my classes. 

I have noticed that my student-centered teaching approach creates motivation to learn English and to continue education after a very long day of formal schooling in China.  

Students’ motivation is paramount for second language acquisition which can be achieved by teacher’s creating a positive academic atmosphere (Almulla, 2023; Wang et al., 2022). Strategies to achieve a positive academic atmosphere could include:  

  • Higher teacher engagement 
  • Positive rapport and relationship 
  • Less focus on academic grading and rigor  
  • More focused on overall progress 

Strategies I use to create a positive rapport and relationship with students include: 

  • utilizing ice breaker conversations to start the class 
  • taking interest in students’ personal life events and hobbies 
  • asking how the students’ week has been and following up on previous events 
  • keeping a friendly demeanour  
  • smiling and maintaining a soft tone of voice 

Language teachers have the capability to foster a pleasant and relaxing online learning atmosphere to motivate student autonomy and positive emotions towards learning that contribute to language acquisition. The connection and friendly atmosphere between teacher and student benefits learning success, especially in an online environment.  

Student-centered learning creates a positive rapport and teacher credibility which encourages interaction and creates an atmosphere of open communication that helps foster student satisfaction, motivation, and engagement (Eden et al., 2022). In an online education setting, the degree of interactivity facilitated by technology fosters heightened feelings of connection, trust, and interaction for students which results in the students feeling more connected to the teacher and content (Eden et al.,). The student’s perceptions of the online class environment, teacher, and content as enjoyable can be achieved through student-centered methodologies thus contributing to motivated second language acquisition and continued ESL education.  


Almulla, M. A. (2023). Constructivism learning theory: A paradigm for students’ critical thinking, creativity, and problem solving to affect academic performance in higher education. Cogent Education, 10(1) 

Eden, J., Mirabito, T., Rogers, R., & Hoffmann, N. (2022). Impacting student satisfaction, engagement and motivation in online and traditional classrooms. KOME, 10(2), 60–75.  

Wang, J., Zhang, X., & Zhang, L. J. (2022). Effects of teacher engagement on students’ achievement in an online English as a foreign language classroom: The mediating role of autonomous motivation and positive emotions. Frontiers in Psychology, 13.  


Patricia Patel teaches English and ESL to local students and students residing in China. She is a member of TESL Ontario and holds the CTESOL designation. Patricia has a Bachelor of Arts in Equity, Diversity and Human Rights and a Master of Education with a focus on digital technologies. Patricia is currently pursuing her Doctor of Education in Curriculum and Instruction - Online Teaching and Learning from Liberty University. Patricia is passionate about creating and delivering equitable, inclusive, and accessible education. She hopes to motivate students through cultivating a warm and inclusive class environment. Patricia loves to share her knowledge and enthusiasm for ESL teaching and learning by writing blogs for TESL Ontario.


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