ELI Online: The Advantages of Online Instruction

This graphic features a head shot of Assistant Professor, Phil Rice. To Rice's right is text that reads, "ELI Insights With Assistant Professor Phil Rice."

By: Phil Rice, Assistant Professor and Listening Lab Coordinator

If I think back hard enough, I can remember the good old days of asking students to turn to a page in their reading books, hearing the flapping pages moving quickly, and then calling on students to give their best answers. I remember the days of students frantically jotting down sentences and answers as I called them out from the answer key, and paperwork, oh yes, paperwork! I can clearly see the stacks of student papers piling up on my desk and my beautiful assortment of rainbow colored correction pens strewn about as I finally got down to grading that mountain of paper essays.

A few months ago, I couldn’t have imagined moving all of my teaching materials and instruction to an online platform. Of course, I used an LMS for occasionally grading and posting assignments, but moving completely to online synchronous instruction seemed daunting. I thought to myself, “At least this will only last a couple months.” Then I could get back to my desk, my whiteboard, and my amazing dry erase markers.

Well, here we are, six months later, still teaching online and continuing that method for the foreseeable future. However, instead of yearning to go back to the type of classroom instruction I once used, I feel that I have been able to adapt and see the unanticipated benefits of teaching fully online. In fact, I see some of these benefits as even greater than what the classroom can provide. Here are some specific examples:

Real time feedback

With Google Docs, I can have students work on their assignments while I am viewing them and giving feedback. I usually do this in vocabulary instruction. I can help students to use new words immediately as they are learning them, whereas a homework assignment or a quiz would have been my only way to see if students had understood the lesson.


By using the Zoom chat, I can get answers anonymously or publicly from each student on every question I ask. This makes a much more interactive class than one in which I call on students one by one.


By using Socrative’s  real time polls and quizzes, I can see whether students are understanding the questions on their quizzes in real time, and I can address misunderstandings on the spot BEFORE students submit quizzes. I have been able to help students during quizzes through private chats as well.


Quizlet vocabulary instruction allows me to motivate and inspire students through gamification and competition. We all know that sitting through lectures without participation can be difficult, and even more so when students are sitting down for hours in an online class. By assigning games, quizzes, and competitions through different websites, teachers can inspire their students to learn more.

Zoom Breakout Rooms

I can easily place students together based on interests, challenges, or strengths with the click of a button. No more do we have to walk around the classroom and figure out which groups had which students. It is all done automatically! This saves both the students and me time, effort, and stress.

These are just a few of the positive aspects of moving writing classes online that I have experienced. Even when I do return to in-person classes, there are technologies and methods that I will take from this experience and utilize in those classes as well. Although I do look forward to the day when I can see my students in person again, today’s technology has made teaching online more engaging, efficient, and exciting than ever.

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