How To Teach Online? Overcome These 4 Challenges

Teaching online can present many opportunities as well as many hurdles… and you’re definitely not alone! We’ve had our own share of ‘fails’ when it comes to online teaching, whether it be forgetting to turn your microphone on or off, to having an uninvited visitor interrupting your session (may it be a person or a furry pet).

Many of us have experienced this, however, it can be avoided. Here are 4 common challenges you may face when teaching online — and what you can do to overcome them.


1. Ineffective time management

Let’s go back to basics: similarly with face-to-face teaching, managing your online teaching time effectively ensures a great learning experience for your learners. 

Effective time management includes:

  • turning up 5 to 10 minutes earlier for scheduled live classes
  • clearly communicating the course schedule and expectations ahead of time
  • consistently setting aside time to respond to student questions
  • only assigning submitted work if you are able to mark and return it promptly

Ineffective time management will likely lead to disruptions and confusion among your learners. Keep in mind if you have learners from different time zones, it is essential that you have a consistent timetable with minimum class changes and clear communication ahead of time.


2. A distracting environment

In this day and age, you can probably think of an example where you’ve been in a distracting virtual setting; possibly a noisy background or the host of a meeting wearing something unusual. This can be very distracting to you and the rest of the participants.

If you’re the one hosting or teaching, avoid distractions wherever possible. Not only will this detract from your teaching content, but it will also cause you to lose your learners’ attention and engagement during class. Be prepared to find a quiet place with minimal objects and items in the background, or if you prefer, use a background filter to blur it out completely.

In terms of your own appearance, think about wearing discreet, presentable clothes and get yourself ready for your learners. Like any other face-to-face settings, the only impression you get is through the camera so dress to impress!


3. Improper IT set up or technical disruptions

Let’s use an example of a face-to-face classroom. If you walk in and see your pen is out of ink or the classroom lights are not turning on… how frustrating would that be? 

It is essential to invest in proper equipment when teaching online. The whole learning experience is determined by many factors, including: 

  • planning the lesson around your device’s capabilities
  • testing your camera, lighting, and headset before a live session
  • investing in a stronger internet connection

Begin browsing and researching online for the most suitable equipment for you. If you’re unsure, ask for advice and recommendations from your colleagues, friends and family. Teaching online shouldn’t be an isolating experience! There is an abundance of resources and tools online that can help you, including what we publish here on the OpenLearning Blog.


4. Lack of creative and engaging content for learners

It’s not easy to get learners to interact in face-to-face classes, let alone online. Focusing on community-based social learning is essential for high engagement, suggested by research to motivate learners. Look for strategies that will help you adapt your classes for online teaching. 

There are many ways to explore creative and engaging content for learners. For example: 

  • sharing ideas through collaborative sessions
  • participating in group discussions via polls 
  • giving and providing feedback
  • encouraging interaction with icebreaker activities.

If you’re looking to build an online course that is engaging and interactive for your learners, you don’t necessarily need to reinvent the wheel! You can use resources you already have to create an engaging online course.



Switching to online teaching presents challenges which can be made easier with ongoing practice.  As the famous quote goes, 

Mistakes are meant for learning, not for repeating.

OpenLearning has loads of free tools and resources that can help you in many areas of online learning and teaching. Join millions of others and read the OpenLearning blog here.


All the best in your online teaching journey!



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Featured Image by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

Topics: Course Design Tips

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