Getting Ready For Our Digital Future

In my second post in this series on online teaching, I explained how I think that the current coronavirus pandemic might speed up the increasing demand for online language lessons. And whether it happens or not, I think it is a good idea for any teacher, whatever type of lessons you teach, to start thinking about whether they could transition to online teaching. This isn’t necessarily because you want or are planning to, but because you may need to.

If you are a bit sceptical about this, that’s not a bad thing, and as I said in the previous post, I don’t think that the demand for face-to-face lessons is going to disappear, and I would be surprised if virtual lessons overtakes them any time soon. But I do think it’s wise for teachers to keep up to date with what the technology can do because of the potential changes in the market after this pandemic, the decreasing gap between what can be done online due to advancing tools, and the increased likelihood of further pandemics in the future thanks to how we are treating the planet.

So what can a teacher do? Well, here are a few things to get you up to speed…

1 Familiarise yourself with Zoom

Right now, Zoom is the best platform for teaching online in my opinion. This is mainly because it has excellent screensharing options, enabling you to select exactly what you want to share with the learners rather than having to share your whole desktop. It has other obviously useful features, including a whiteboard, the ability to share your computer’s sound and you can record the lessons for later. Plus I find it very reliable, the students’ internet connection permitting of course. Download it, have a dig around and see what it can do.

2 Reflect on your teaching style

Every teacher has their own way of teaching, and when you move online, adjustments will probably have to made. An obvious example is physical movement, so if you’re a teacher who likes bouncing around the classroom, you’ll have to think about how you’ll cope with being confined to a smaller space. Reflect on how you could change what you do without compromising what makes you the teacher you are.

3 Analyse your lessons

Similarly, you should also start thinking about how the lessons you teach could work online. Some of your tried and tested activities aren’t going to work anymore. Mingles? Not so easy. Throwing a ball from one student to another? Tough. But online equivalents are possible, you are just going to have to use your imagination and creativity. The same will apply to some of the tasks that are in your coursebook. It might ask the students to discuss something quickly in pairs, and even if it’s technically possible to create break out rooms, you might want to consider if it’s worth the effort. There are many other elements of your lessons that should be reflected on.

4 Do some reading and watching


  • A great place to start would be here with my TEFL Commute colleague Shaun Wilden’s posts for OUP (1 and 2) which go into more technical details than I have.
  • Sandy Milin has written a thorough description of how to use Zoom (link).
  • Ceri Jones has written about moving classes online (1 and 2).
  • Tips from Graham Stanley (link).
  • Vicky Samuel has a huge collection of resources available on Pinterest (link).
  • Cecilia Nobre has her own resources collected together on Padlet (link).
  • Andreia Zakime has shared her 5 tips for teaching online (link).
  • 7 tips from Dimitris Primalis (link)
  • Jack of Teaching ESL Online has a lot of useful posts, but perhaps most useful at the moment is his updated guide to Zoom (link).
  • How to Set Up a Makeshift English Classroom Online by Myles Klynhout (link).
  • Teaching children online, avoid ‘edutainment’ but don’t lose the fizz! by David Valente (link).
  • Supporting every teacher: using a video conference platform for teaching online by Carol Rainbow (link).
  • Supporting every teacher: checking your students’ learning by Anne Fox (link).
  • Online teaching CAN replace ‘the real thing’ (link).
  • 3 ideas for synchronous online lessons on Zoom by Leo Selivan (link).
  • Teaching online- week one by Rachel Tsateri (link).
  • Developing online teaching methods for yourself and your students by Tom Garside (link).
  • Some Don’t and a Few Dos for Teachers Teaching On-Line by Susan Lee Scott (link).
  • Making the shift to online teaching – Some tips and tools to make life easier by James Fuller (link).
  • The transition to working from home by Sandy Millin (link).
  • How to set up your home office by Julie Moore (link).
  • Joe Dale has created this incredible list of resources and tools (link).


Watch Hugh Dellar demonstrate how he teaches with his coursebook Outcomes:

  • Angelos Bellos with his introduction to online teaching (link).
  • Lindsay Clandfield and Carol Rainbow with Teaching online – using your coursebook and ideas for breakout rooms (link).
  • Shaun Wilden again with Synchronous Teaching: Taking your first steps into teaching live online:

Higor Cavalcante allowed us to access 3 hours of his training course:

Laura Patsko’s webinar for Macmillan:

If you want me to add your post here, leave it in the comments below.

The future feels particularly unpredictable at the moment, so I would argue that teachers, no matter what you are teaching right now, should train themselves and prepare for the possible future. There’s no such thing as being too prepared.

This was the third of my posts on online teaching:

Part one gave tips to teachers who were new to online teaching.
Pat two explained why I think online teaching is going to be more important in the future.

Photo from:

Iwaria iconAMISOM via Iwaria

This post was soundtracked by:


9 thoughts on “Getting Ready For Our Digital Future

  1. To James: thanks so much for all the material you ´´ve posted !
    And thanks to your generosity to share it.
    No time to get bored during this lockdown.
    I am a teacher of English as a foreign language. I ´ ve been teaching for 30 years.
    Lately, I´ve started teaching in-company students online,via skype.

  2. Thank you for the links, James. I used to teach a while ago and (serendipitously!) my mum’s a TEFL teacher too. I’ve just finished the online teaching course by Future Learn in the UK and look forward to cracking on.
    Your post is timely as we must adapt to our changing world and I’m delighted that we have the software ready to use.

  3. 100% Agree with this. Great article.

    And I second your point about Zoom. It’s a super reliable platform with nearly all the features you need to run an ESL lesson from recording, to screen sharing to break out rooms … it’s a great choice.

    btw I have a blog and also podcast covering the evolving world of online ESL teaching. My focus is on tips and tools for the independent TeacherPreneur. I would be honored if you could include me in your list of resources above.

    Keep up the great content, James.
    Would be love to do a podcast interview with you next year.


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