Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Teaching online

Nicky Hockley
This is a summary of a video featuring Nicky Hockley, made in her capacity as consultant for the Cambridge English teacher website.

Blended learning can be:
  • only a small part of the course online
  • half online
  • most online
  • the whole course online
Whichever it is, there are five main things to bear in mind:

1.  Which platform?

The most important factor here is to establish the aims of your course because these will inform the method of delivery.  For example, if you're teaching writing online, it would make sense to use a blog, whereas if you're teaching speaking, you might want to use a synchronous tool such as Skype.  If you're offering the entire course online, you should probably use a VLE.

2.  The livewire

The livewire are the people.  As an online teacher, you need to be present and helpful online.  You need to respond to students' comments in a forum, or written work submitted, in a timely manner.  Twelve hours is a good target to aim for.  You need to praise and encourage students as you would in a face-to-face situation.  In the beginning, you need to respond to all forum posts by students, but as the course goes on, you can respond less and less as students begin to support and help each other.  Even then, though, you should still aim to reply to about one in three posts.  If you're not going to reply to posts, you need to tell students at the beginning, so that they're not waiting for you to do so.

3.  Socialisation

Here, we're talking about getting to know each other online.  This is vital for creating a group dynamic.  You need to have specific socialising activities early on - 'My top 5', for example, where each student posts their top 5 of something.  Such socialising activities need to continue throughout a course.  Also, make sure you include pairwork and groupwork in your online course.

4.  Variety

It's important to use a variety of media - images, audio, video, etc. - and a variety of activity types - quizzes, forum discussions, getting students to produce things, etc.

5.  Start small

Start with one class as a pilot course.  Get feedback from students and evaluate yourself as you go.


  1. Hi, Andrea,
    Interesting blog. Twitter is fabulous.
    I would like to know if Vicky mention alternatives to different VLE? I'm in the process of doing research for my online lessons.
    Thanks for sharing you reviews

    1. Hi Debbie,

      Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

      In this video, Nicky didn't go into the different VLEs, but in other sessions I've attended, she's talked about the pros and cons of Moodle, Wikispaces, WizIQ, Edmodo and Blackboard. There are so many platforms out there now, I think it's a case of seeing what works best for you. Personal recommendation has to be the way forward. I'm just starting out with WizIQ - so far I'm very impressed!

      All the best,