The past year has taught educators to expect the unexpected and that online learning can ensure a continuation of learning in a time of disaster. To help educators everywhere maximize their newfound discoveries from the past year and continue to gain confidence in their online teaching capabilities, we’ve compiled a list of online teaching best practices from our PLS Classes instructors.

Offer Tiered Lessons

“Students in our classrooms have different needs. A benefit of integrating differentiated instruction (DI) practices is to meet student’s needs in an online setting. Depending on your learning management system (LMS), you can send specific resources to certain students. You can also create online groups based on various data points you have collected about your students.”

Learn more about our course: Differentiated Instruction for Today’s Classroom®

Team Communication

“It is day one of the school shutdown, and I am already hearing parents that are overwhelmed with all of a sudden being a home-school teacher. Parents are receiving different emails from different teachers every day, and a multitude of resources thrown their way, plus other schoolwork—much more than they could ever do in a day! Teachers must remember that some parents have no experience in this area and struggle to keep it all together. My advice is to work with all grade level staff to deliver clear, concise, and manageable instructions as a team.”

Learn more about our course: Building a Professional Network™

Use Humor Carefully

“Unlike in a face-to-face environment, it’s almost impossible to know how your joke or comment may be received in the online learning space. You must be sure that your words on the page convey the humor you intend and must be appropriate to your audience. Safe humor starts with self-deprecating humor. If you joke about yourself and your experiences, then you will be on fairly safe ground. Being able to laugh about your failures and share that laughter with your colleagues and students will encourage the same type of appropriate humor in return.”

Learn more about our courses: Facilitating Online Learning Communities™ and Building Communication and Teamwork in the Classroom™


Breakroom is a discussion board that gives participants a chance to talk about what is going on outside of class—world events, stories to share—an opportunity to connect that keeps the content-related discussion posts focused.”


“This is a free open educational resource. It’s quick to navigate as you can search by grade level and content, and it connects directly to Google Classroom, which is super helpful for assigning. I discovered this while doing blended and synchronous learning.”

The CK-12 Foundation’s mission is to enable everyone to learn in their own way. Its online tools pair high-quality content with the latest technologies. It equips students, teachers, and parents with everything they need for free.

Learn more about our course: Blended and Synchronous Learning Design™

Monitoring Discussions and Reviewing and Scoring Work

“Respond intermittently to discussion posts—striving for equity in those responses. For individually submitted assignments, be specific in feedback, focusing on the product (not the student) by highlighting specific strengths and areas for improvement.”

Learn more about our courses: Facilitating Online Learning Communities™ and Designing Motivation for All Learners®

Khan Academy

Khan Academy has some great lessons for students related to math, science, and ELA. They even put out a list of suggested daily activities to help students. These activities can help review specific skills.”

Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that offers online tools that help educate students. Its offering includes short video lessons and supplementary practice exercises and materials for educators.

Google Hangout

“Our professional staff will be using Google Hangout to both plan lessons and also possibly interact with students. All students have a district Gmail, so Hangouts is already available to them.”

Adobe Express

Adobe Express gives students the freedom to create anything from an infographic on types of animals to a slideshow or glide show of a favorite book talk. It’s a super easy program. I use it with my third graders and my grad school students, and the work produced looks like a professional created it!”

Learn more about our courses: Reading Across the Curriculum™ and Cultural Competence: A Transformative Journey™

Create a Communication Plan

“Have a clear communication plan, and clearly outline that plan to your students. Having a communication plan helps you use your time wisely and ensures that guidelines and expectations are clear to students.”

Learn more about our course: Classroom Communication™


“Scholastic just recently put some of their materials online during this disaster.”

Scholastic is the world’s largest publisher and distributor of children’s books. It connects educators and families through accessibility, engagement, and expertise. It is a leading provider of literacy curriculum, professional services, classroom magazines, and a producer of educational and popular children’s media.


“If you have videos that you would like students to watch, they can complete questions while watching to show they have learned the material.”

Edpuzzle allows educators to easily create beautiful interactive video lessons for students and integrate them into their LMS. Integrated analytics allow teachers to track students’ progress.


“This is an easy, step-by-step video platform that students can use to develop videos. I have had students create videos that help to tell story elements, teach about a nonfiction topic, and create their own ‘news reporting’ video with the additional use of a green screen.”

Learn more about our course: Teaching the English Language Learner™

Facebook Groups

“Search Facebook for groups that specialize in the topic in which you are interested. I have found some of my best resources collaborating with others online!”

Learn more about our course: Building Online Collaborative Environments™ Online


Blendspace allows teachers to create lessons with slide shows, worksheets, YouTube videos, and websites in about five minutes.”


Padlet is a free digital tool that can help teachers and students in class and beyond by offering a single place for a notice board. Students and teachers can use it to post notes on a shared page. The messages posted by teachers and students can contain links, videos, images, and document files. “Check out this Padlet that I started that the Southwestern Indiana eLearning and Curriculum Coaches are populating.”

Use Primary Sources

“Using a variety of primary sources (e.g., original documents, data, cartoons, photographs, maps, audio recordings, and videos) will increase student interest and engagement, illuminate the context of the material, and accommodate all learning styles. A wealth of primary sources—along with teaching materials and resources—can be found in the Library of Congress,
the National Archives and Records Administration, and the Smithsonian Images Collection.


“Teachers can enable a Nearpod for students to use without teacher guidance. If the district has a paid subscription, there are some awesome features students can use to demonstrate their learning.”

Nearpod allows teachers to make instructions interactive. It offers K-12 interactive lessons, videos, and formative assessments designed for distance learning, hybrid, and school-based settings.


SeeSaw is a free web-type blog that classrooms can use in a variety of ways. It can connect directly to your Google Drive, making it easy to upload activities that you want students to create. There is an optional video/microphone piece where students can record themselves. You can also share it with parents, and they can see their child’s work from the blog.”

Prodigy Math

“Easily motivate first to eighth-grade students to learn and practice math. Accessible at home or in class for free.”

Fun and educational math gates from Prodigy Math are free for students, parents, and educators.


“With Newsela, teachers can select articles for students to read, and then students can answer questions.”


NoRedInk builds stronger writers through interest-based curriculum, adaptive exercises, and actionable data.”

Mystery Science

Mystery Science is offering free memberships for up to one year, with engaging lessons in a variety of science‐related areas.”


“With Codeacademy, students can learn in‐demand skills like coding in different programming languages, web development, design, and data science.”

Codeacademy is an online interactive platform that offers free coding classes in 12 different programming languages, including Python, Java, Go, JavaScript, Ruby, SQL, C++, C#, Swift Sass, as well as markup languages HTML and CSS.


TED‐Ed offers a free suite of high‐quality videos on a variety of topics for learners of all ages, including supplemental materials, discussion questions, and opportunities to probe deeper into areas of interest.”


Flipgrid is a free video platform. Teachers can easily create a short video introducing a lesson or discussion topic. It can be a two-way platform as well, as students can respond to posts. It is fully supported by Microsoft and has incorporated Microsoft’s Immersive Reader capabilities.”

Did we miss any?

Do you have any resources to add to the list? Comment below to share!

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