Session 6B | Paper 2 Teaching online: 15 years, 10 lessons

Dominic Pates


This paper looks back on 15 years of teaching, training or helping others teach and learn online and draws out ten key lessons learned. These reflections will give a broad picture of different approaches and factors to consider regarding teaching and learning online.

In the ‘Great Onlining’ (Noffs, 2020) of 2020, large numbers of educational institutions found themselves adopting fully digitally mediated approaches to teaching and learning through circumstance rather than by choice. Digital education practices might have been more commonly the domain of early adopters or the already-interested prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, but as societies across the world found themselves locking down in order to limit the spread of the virus, many schools, colleges and universities had to move teaching, learning and assessment fully online in order to be able to continue operating

I first experienced teaching online in 2005, when I agreed to take a class via video conference with a student based in Osaka while I was sat in a cubicle in Tokyo. With about 30 minutes notice, it was my own ‘in at the deep end’ induction into online teaching. Strange and unsettling as it was for both of us, the experience nevertheless demonstrated to me that real-time teaching was still possible without being in the same physical space as the learner. Providers such as the Open University have long ensured that higher education was available to people not physically on campus via earlier generations of asynchronous technologies, such as textbooks and television. Computers have been used in the classroom in many ways for decades. COVID-19, however, has accelerated many of these longstanding trends and arguably mainstreamed acceptance of the role that digital technologies can play in educational contexts.

This paper draws on 15 years of personal involvement with the interplay between teaching and learning and connected digital technologies, and shares key lessons learned from these experiences. Amongst the topics, the paper confronts the myth of the ‘digital native’ (Prensky, 2001), explores learning theories for the Internet age (Siemens, 2005), and extols the benefits of communities of practice (Lave and Wenger, 1991) for learning to teach better online.

Slides from the session

Loader Loading...
EAD Logo Taking too long?

Reload Reload document
| Open Open in new tab

Recording of the session:

Paper 2 starts from 28:14 into the recording.


Lave, J; Wenger, E (1991). Situated Learning: Legitimate Peripheral Participation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Noffs, D (2020). The Great Onlining of 2020: How adult education theory can inform optimal online learning. Retrieved from  (last accessed 16/03/21).

Prensky, M. (2001). Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 No. 5, pp. 1-6.

Siemens, G. (2005). Connectivism: Learning as network-creation. ASTD Learning News, 10(1). Chicago.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email