Tips for teaching online

Do you suddenly find yourself teaching online due to the COVID-19 pandemic? Do you need some support? Some ideas?  For teachers who suddenly find themselves having to teach online, Dr. Anna Cohen Miller who works at the Nazarbayev University Graduate School of Education in the Republic of Kazakhstan has compiled some excellent tips and strategies.  Thanks Anna!

If you have tips, tools, and ideas to share, please add them in the response box below. We can all benefit from your teaching wisdom and experience!

In my own work teaching online, one of the challenges I have found is the sheer diversity in ways to teach online. In my view, there are many ways to approach online learning, and there is an enormous range of resources that teachers can make use of. For example, it’s possible to organize a class around fully synchronous face-to-face meetings using online meeting rooms (e.g., Google Hangouts, Zoom, Adobe Connect, Blackboard). In these sorts of settings, instructors and students can give presentations, groups can be organized, and people can report out from small group discussions. The chat tool can be used to ask and respond to questions via text, or speakers can turn on their audio. Teachers can also rely on institutional Learning Management Systems (LMSs). Most readers will be familiar with LMSs such as Moodle, Blackboard, Canvas, and Desire2Learn (now Brightspace). These sorts of platforms typically allow for synchronous meetings where participants can see one another and include different tools (e.g., content modules in which text, links, and screencasts can be added, chat, quizzes, surveys, discussion forums, etc.).

Over the years, I have tended to rely on my institution’s LMS, which is currently Brightspace, while I know many instructors make excellent use of other teaching tools outside the LMS.  I’ve tried a variety of other tools that I’ve integrated into online coursework. Below is a document that former students (from an online course!) and I put together… if you are just starting to teach online, try one tool at a time, and start with those that are free! Develop your skills with those tools you like best.  You will quickly find what tools your students prefer.

Some of these tools are used by professional instructional designers (e.g., Articulate 360); others are very sophisticated tools that can be used by anyone who puts time into learning how to use it. Others are free…

Tool Application URL Platform Cost
Classroom response apps & surveys
Survey Monkey Administering surveys & polls Desktop & mobile $25/month +

Tiered pricing plan

Kahoot Game-based classroom response tool (students reply to questions on cell phones); Desktop & mobile Free
Socrative Real-time quizzes & responses; designed for K-12; Maximum of 50 students; only allows 1 classroom per account; multiple languages Desktop & mobile Free with a tiered pricing plan for more features
Poll everywhere Polling/response tool using cell phones https://www.polleverywherecom/ Mobile Free for 25 audience members; Tiered pricing plan for more features
Audiorecording & sharing tool
Soundcloud This is a tool where you can record audio tracks and upload these to share with others; you can use these to provide announcements to students; Also lots of great music Desktop & mobile Free for 30 days; $9.99/month after that


Develop online presentations and screencasts
Articulate 360 Develop sophisticated presentations that integrate with an LMS; provide feedback within the Quizzes presentations

Accessibility Compliant PC only; if you have a Mac, you need to run a program for PCs (e.g., VMware Fusion, Parallels Desktop) $1299.00 per user annually


Screencast-o-matic Record screencasts/videos PC & Windows Free for up to 15 minutes recording

$1.65/month billed yearly;

To remove ads, & add features; $4.00/month billed yearly

Powtoons Create screencasts/animated videos Desktop & mobile Free for up to 5 minutes

With tiered pricing plans

Videoscribe Create animated whiteboard presentations Desktop & mobile $35/month

$168/year with single user license available for $800

1 second everyday Create 1 second videos that can be used to create longer movies Mobile Free
Prezi Develop online presentations that integrate audio, video, documents, images, slides etc. Desktop & mobile Tiered pricing plan

From $7/month with tiered pricing plan for added features

ISpringSuite Develop presentations using Powerpoint for elearning Desktop


PC & Mac


$770-$970/year depending on features
Jing Screenshots & screencasts Windows & Mac $49.95 for single-user license (2 machines)
Camtasia Develop and edit screencasts Windows & Mac $249.00 for single-user license (2 machines)
Screenflow Develop and edit screencasts Mac only $129/single user-license
Skitch Take screenshots, mark up and share Also integrated in Evernote Mac/Windows Free


Mobile messaging
Whatsapp Cross platform mobile messaging  app to have synchronous discussions & send messages Phone app: Android & Iphone

Mac or Windows PC

Tellegami Create animated messages that you can send to students; record up to 2 minute messages; can embed the link into LMS Mobile: android & iphone EDU app is paid

In app purchases

Video commenting tool
EdPuzzle Use videos on the web  to insert questions for students & initiate discussions Desktop & Mobile Free plan

Teachers: $9.50/month

Plans for school districts

Synchronous video meetings
Skype Synchronous video meetings/telephone calls/text messages Desktop & mobile Free

Fees for calling to mobiles & landlines

Google Hangout Synchronous video meetings/telephone calls/text messages Desktop & mobile Free
News magazine: bookmarking, create magazines,
Flipboard Tablet app that aggregates feeds on any topic Desktop & mobile Free
Collaborative file sharing and editing
Google docs


Share documents; allows for synchronous collaboration Desktop & mobile Free
Bookmarking/saving online sources
Pocket Saves articles, website, videos Desktop & mobile Free



Social networking sites
Facebook Social networking site Desktop & mobile Free
Educational videos
TedTalks Ideas worth spreading Desktop & mobile Free
Organizational tool to help with online tools
If this then that


A tool to connect favorite apps to make “recipes” in order to organize multiple web services and automate various services Desktop & mobile



List compiled by J. Allen, C. Beach, A. Bliss, V. Brackebusch, S. Cherry, K. Clayton, D. Jones, El Mozo Reyes, K. Roulston, A. Walker, M. Weatherill, and C. Yang.

Updated March 16, 2020

Kathy Roulston 




3 thoughts on “Tips for teaching online

  1. Kathy, thank you so much for collecting these tools together in one space. I look forward to trying out a few I haven’t worked with before. For the Online Learning Collective, we have rebranded emphasizing our focus on Higher Education – Higher Ed Learning Collective – and are at over 24,000 members across 99 countries. Wishing you the best!


  2. Reblogged this on The Academic Compass and commented:
    Professor Kathy Roulston highlights resources I’ve written and developed for transitioning to online and distant learning, as well as providing a collection of excellent tools.


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