Male teacher preparing to teach online

Tips to thrive while teaching online in second semester

Would you like to better support remote students and feel more confident of your remote teaching experience – all without burning out? We all survived magnificently in the pivot to teaching online in 2020, but how can you continue to thrive in this new, ever-changing teaching environment? 

All our students, domestic and international, are vital to our success and we need to provide them with an optimum learning experience. When considering your teaching for the coming semester and next year it can be helpful to review what really makes a difference in online learning. Student feedback from ANU TWIRL/SWIRL surveys indicates some important things we can do to support our students and keep them studying and learning despite being remote. 

Here are three areas you can focus on to help your teaching and your students: 

  1. Build relationships with your students. All the evidence suggests your students want to have a relationship with YOU! “Online, it is important to establish a strong teacher presence to motivate students and ensure they feel cared for.” Some tips for increasing your teacher presence include:
    • A welcome video – ‘talking head’ can give the lecturer a level of ‘visibility’ and presence without having to always ‘be there’. Read the tips and tricks about Connecting with your students – Welcome videos
    • Strategically increase lecturer presence without being ‘always on’, e.g. through podcasts and video.
    • Create an FAQ forum or a Dialogue tool to answer student questions on content and also on admin/organisational issues such as dates and deadlines – answering once can save repeated responses.
  1. Build relationships between your students and tutors. Importantly, students want to also feel part of the larger student group, and have some other people who know who they are and care about how they are going. Despite it being second semester, there are likely to be students in your course who do not know anyone else in the course or at ANU. You can help everyone feel part of the course by emphasising the importance of connecting.
    • The ANU Crawford Playbook has some suggestions for initial Zoom (synchronous) sessions to build interactivity and you can add asynchronous activities to cater for time zones and working preferences.
    • Check out icebreaker suggestions and practical tips to build community in your course. Simple things like Friday afternoon informal Zoom catch-ups have been hugely successful for some courses.
    • Know who your students are – and let them know how they fit with the rest of the group. This can be done in forums, Zoom sessions or more anonymously by using an early feedback survey and making the responses visible to everyone. Students have reported that SELT is too late for their feedback to make any difference, so conducting an early first couple of weeks survey can help.
  1. Improve your communication: Save time, emails, stress and confusion by ensuring all the information students will need is online and easy to find in your Wattle site.
    • Does your school or college have a set template of items that need to be included in the Wattle site? Having consistency across the courses helps students navigate their way through the program.
    • Have a look at good-practice examples and use them as a model for your own site, such as this self-enrol Wattle site that was developed specifically to demonstrate straightforward and effective layouts to help establish clear communication with students.
    • You can give your Wattle site a facelift that will improve the student experience with only a few tweaks. For example, CLT has worked with the Research School of Psychology to streamline some course Wattle sites for more effective communication. Watch this short video with some before-and-after examples for one of their Psychology courses.

Would you like to find out more about simple changes you can make to your teaching sites for Semester 2? Email and book a personal appointment with an Educational Designer from CLT.

June 2021

Claire Brooks and Scott Rickard are Educational Designers at the Centre for Learning & Teaching. 


Hughes J. (2020) Themes and suggestions for improvement. CLT-internal publication.   

Lee S. J., Srinivasan S., Trail T., Lewis D., & Lopez S. (2011). Examining the relationship among student perception of support, course satisfaction, and learning outcomes in online learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 14(3), 158-163. 

Rapanta C., Botturi L., Goodyear P., Guàrdia L., & Koole,M. (2020). Online university teaching during and after the Covid-19 crisis: Refocusing teacher presence and learning activity. Postdigital Science and Education, 2(3), 923-945.