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Emergency Online Teaching: Part 4

Welcome back and I hope you are surviving emergency remote teaching! Now that you know how and where to place your teaching resources (Blog #1), ways of communicating with students (Blog #2), and how to provide feedback and grading (Blog #3), let's dive into the basics of teaching online live.

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First things, first. What virtual teaching platform are you using? Some common ones are Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Teams. Which online classroom you decide to use will depend upon your school, of course. The main functions of a virtual meeting room include:

  • Audio/Visual

  • Chat

  • Screensharing

  • Whiteboard

  • Annotation tools

  • Breakout rooms (hopefully!)


Regardless of the platform you use, you will want to understand how students get access to the room and provide that information to students. In the case of Zoom, for example, you have the choice to set up a link that is always available or to schedule meetings. Here is a good overview of the differences and how to enable access to the room. Personally, I set up a one-time link that is always accessible. It makes it easier for students to grab the link and join.


You need to be able to hear students and allow them to hear you. This is the most basic and essential function. Here are some best practices.

  • Do the audio setup wizard

  • Most online teaching platforms provide a function to test your audio.

  • If you cannot hear using this setup, make sure that your computer sound is on and that your headphones work.

  • Entering the virtual classroom a few minutes before students to complete this action is a good idea.


Many students have a video camera but not all. (And some that do will pretend that it doesn't work. Certain students may be hesitant to be on video. Many for good reason.) Teacher-enabled video is important. It allows your students to see you as you are teaching. It enhances motivation, builds community, and establishes presence. Make sure that you are in a professional space (as much as possible) so that you focus your students and can teach the online class without distractions. You can even use a virtual background if you are competing for office space in your home. But, that's for another time. After all, this is emergency remote teaching!

Screen Sharing

The ability to show your screen to your students is equally important. It allows them to see the lesson you are teaching and, in some cases, even collaborate in real-time. Look for the share screen icon in the virtual classroom. It will prompt you to choose what you plan to share. (Some common things to share are PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, or even the course itself!) For Zoom users (I call Zoom Ninjas), here is a guide to online teaching.


The last thing I will mention is the "chat" feature of online teaching environments. (There is so much more to know but remember that this blog series is dedicated to emergency online teaching.) Entering a "welcome to class" message in the online chat is the first thing I do when teaching live. It starts the conversation and also provides a space for students to reach out if they can't hear you. Pedagogically, it also promotes real-time discussion and connection to both the teacher and the students in class. You can also use it to differentiate instruction in real-time. (But, that is meant for a different blog series on the more advanced techniques of online teaching.)

I hope you have enjoyed this blog and found it useful. The last blog in the series will be dedicated to personally "how to survive" that first week of emergency remote teaching.

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