Transitioning to online teaching: a few reflections to consider

Blog by Carolina Valladares Celis School of Education

In one way or another, most lecturers and teaching assistants at the School of Education are already familiarised with the use of technologies to support our teaching. For instance, Blackboard is regularly used to upload resources for students – either to prep before class or to communicate and reflect afterwards. Using technology to deliver our teaching, though, is a different matter.

Although the transition to online teaching delivery may sound intimidating at first glance, we should be able to see this process as manageable and feasible. Here, I share some reflections and suggestions that might be useful in this process:

  • Changes take time. With so many changes happening around us, having to deliver our teaching through new means may be overwhelming. To simplify this process, it would be important to understand that having to learn a brand-new set of skills to deliver our teaching is not necessarily expected now and that it is ok to use software and platforms we already know. Changes take time. Therefore, subtle, rather than a disruptive alteration of our teaching is likely and expected to occur. There are a few reasons for that. Firstly, we need training and time that was not previously considered in our agendas and that we cannot just simply take from nowhere. Secondly, students, as much as staff members, might be unfamiliar to new platforms or tools that are likely to be introduced to them in different units. Hence, maintaining consistency with our previous channels of communication with students might be a sensible solution for effective teaching.


  • Adjust your expectations. Expectations for students should also be sensible. We need to understand that the new conditions emerging from the health contingency may interfere with their engagement with their studies. New time differences, caring responsibilities, mental health issues or lack of adequate facilities to study from home could negatively affect their motivation, availability and engagement. Under these new circumstances, we should adjust our expectations and do our best to provide them with equal opportunities to engage with the class. Synchronous or asynchronous communications might be preferable depending on the circumstances faced by our students and on the purpose of the activities.


  • Exploring possibilities. Whenever we feel prepared to further explore platforms we already use (or even new ones), asking for advice from colleagues is always a good idea. If you think you may need advice, do not be afraid of asking; feel proud of your endurance. If you are asked for suggestions, be kind and supportive; show your empathy and responsiveness. Self-exploring new platforms and software on the web is another excellent way to pursue independent training, here are some suggestions of digital resources to support your teaching:


Tools for synchronous communications

    • Videoconferencing: Depending on the size and purpose of your online meetings, webinar or video-calls could be useful for you to offer live communication with your students. Blackboard Collaborate, Blue Jeans, Skype for Business and Webex are paid platforms by the University of Bristol that can assist you for these kinds of meetings. Other options such as Zoom or Google Hangouts are not part of the University paid subscriptions, but might be worth having a look at them.


Asynchronous communication

    • Narrated slideshows: can help to deliver your teaching although they don’t allow bidirectional communication with your students
    • Blackboard discussion boards and wikis: can support communication with your student as well as collaboration among them
    • Padlet: can foster collaboration through different templates for discussion.
    • OneDrive: can help with the delivery of products for formative assessment or for collaboration among students.

Of course, there are many other resources and tools out there for you to use and explore. Asking colleagues or searching on your own might be the best way for you to explore possibilities. Just remember that transiting to online will require time and that your expectations should be adapted according to the new circumstances. Finally, remember that none of the new means you will use for delivering your teaching online is capable of substituting or offering the same kinds or degree of interactions. Online and face to face teaching are qualitatively different.

Carolina is a PhD candidate at the School of Education. Her research interests are related to the pedagogical use of technologies in education. She has teaching experience in Mexico and the UK in various educational levels including primary, upper secondary and higher education. Follow on Twitter:  @C__Valladares