Tips for Teachers: Lessons From Being a New Online Student

North American

Online students feel new and uncertain sometimes, particularly during their first online course. I recently joined an online fitness program called The Unbreakable Body. While it’s been helpful for my fitness, I found myself reflecting on what it has felt like to be out of my element doing something new.

I felt unsure, second guessing myself, wondering if I’m on the right track, and needing reassurance. Every time I tried something in the site, I was online asking questions. I felt like I was asking stupid questions, being a pain, and taking up too much time. Let’s face it, I was freaked out! I was dipping my toe in the water, and trying to have the courage to face the big unknown.

Photo: Pexels

The Power of Encouragement
The thing that kept me going was amazing answers to emails. Answers came so quickly, and the emails always made me smile. Some things about the emails were essential for keeping me going, and stood out to me as a teacher:

  • They always started with gladness and joy that I was doing the program
  • Sandwiched in the middle was the answer to my question
  • Often they ended with something funny; always with an invitation to ask any other questions

Translating to Online Teaching
So how does that translate to online teaching? How can we apply these concepts to our work as Adventist educators?

The first few weeks in an online course are critical. One cannot over-communicate in the first weeks. It is important to encourage, call, remind, and make sure everyone knows what to do. It pays off in a significant reduction in questions, confusion, and procrastination towards the end of class. Be cheery. Be personal. Be you. Here are some examples:

  • I’m so glad you’ve joined this class.
  • Thank you for writing in with your question.
  • Let’s schedule a phone call and talk this over!
  • Awesome that you’ve gotten started with your studies!
  • Congratulations on finishing the first steps!

Fast Response Time
A fast response time to emails means so much for online students. A face to face student can come stand in your office door. An online student only has your phone or email, so answer emails quickly, even if it’s just to say you’re working on the situation and will get back to them soon. As the nervous new online fitness student, I kept thinking and wondering about my question while I was waiting for an answer. A quick response set my mind at ease and sent me continuing down my learning path.

If you haven’t experienced learning something new lately, I encourage you to find something new to learn. It doesn’t have to be online, just anything that will give you that new-to-you feeling. Then keep that in mind as you interact with your online students. Be encouraging!


Note: Article adapted with permission from the original blog format.

Article written and posted in English.


Janine Lim, PhD, serves Andrews University, USA, as Associate Dean for Online Higher Education, where her department supports faculty teaching on-campus and online. Learn more from her 20+ years of experience in distance education and instructional technology spanning the educational experience from elementary through lifelong learning. Visit Twitter ( or her blog (

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