Skip to content

3 ways online teaching professional development improves virtual and in-person skills

Even though I have my doctorate degree, I felt like learning specific online teaching methods would strengthen and expand my overall skills.

By Shoufen Jacobson

Before I started online teaching with a nonprofit provider, I was geared toward hybrid instruction. Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, I’d already been developing online components for AP Computer Science A and AP Computer Science Principles while teaching face-to-face in Charlotte, North Carolina. When I started fully online instruction, I wanted to know more about the virtual learning process and the related methodologies.

For inspiration, I signed up for VHS Learning’s 4-week Online Teaching Methodologies course, which gives teachers the resources, strategies, and collaborative activities they need to succeed in the online learning space. Even though I’ve earned my doctorate degree in education, I felt like learning specific online teaching methodologies would strengthen and expand my overall teaching skills. So, I signed up for the course last year.

Here’s what I learned from the experience:

1. I’m mindful of more opportunities for interaction. Learning online methodologies has made me a better teacher. For example, we discussed the core learning process (aka, the human interaction among the students) and the interaction between the teacher and the students. Teachers can use a private support area, discussion area, virtual office hours and even online cafés to help students interact with and learn from each other. The course made me dig deeper to provide opportunities for my students to interact with each other and to support their social-emotional and academic advancement.

2. I offer more meaningful feedback. The course really emphasizes constructive, immediate and detailed feedback to help kids dive deep into learning. Whenever I see students post a message, I try to answer them right away. If you can answer quickly, it’s almost like real-time. I believe formative assessment and constructive feedback truly drive learning to move forward.

We also had to respond to online scenarios, which works really well for newer teachers whose university programs may be more focused on theory versus practice.

3. I put myself in my students’ shoes. I got a front-seat view of exactly what students experience when they engage in virtual learning. Every week during my course, for example, I would write a reflection journal entry on what the course materials covered that week, what I learned from it and where I felt improvements could be made.

That experience gave us teachers the opportunity to use the same platform that students would be using. Now, if students are having trouble with the platform, I can easily direct them and help them work through the issue, since I’ve used the platform myself.

Online learning is here to stay. For one, not every school can offer every course to every student in brick-and-mortar classrooms. Online, students get a wider variety of learning opportunities so schools can better utilize their district’s own teaching resources. This is just one of many reasons why teachers should understand the unique aspects of online learning and the pedagogical skills that create quality, virtual learning experiences.

Learning online teaching methodologies not only helps teachers enhance their online instruction but also gives them quite a few lessons for their face-to-face teaching toolkits. By learning the best practices, teachers can take their most effective instructional strategies everywhere they go.


Shoufen Jacobson is a teacher based in Charlotte, North Carolina, who teaches online with VHS Learning.

This article was published by District Administration.