Back to Basics: Teaching Remotely

Welcome to our Back to Basics series! In this series we explore some of the foundational methods, practices and terminology for teaching reading and writing. This series is for those new to the field of literacy, beginning tutors or those who would just like a refresher. This week we discuss the challenges and opportunities of teaching remotely.

The use of online remote learning has increased exponentially since the beginning of the pandemic. Remote teaching is most appropriate when you cannot accommodate face-to-face meetings with your learner. Alternatively, you may wish to introduce some digital literacy lessons, access online-only materials or find new ways to increase engagement with your learner. Remote teaching is not necessarily an easy format to transition to for an adult literacy tutoring session. Remote teaching can be over the phone, online using video calling applications (apps) such as Zoom, via text messaging, or a combination of all three. With a bit of guidance and some creativity, tutoring remotely can be a valuable experience for the learner and tutor.

Benefits of Remote Tutoring

Literacy Unlimited has outlined some of the wonderful benefits to teaching remotely.

  • Building knowledge, resilience and confidence by stepping outside of your comfort zones and learning something new.
  • The learner can add basic digital skills to their bank of essential skills.
  • You and your learner will be exposed to new approaches to learning that you might not have been using in your in-person sessions.
  • Computers and phones can offer accessibility options that in-person activities may not (e.g. text can easily be enlarged by zooming in, converted to speech by screen readers or be accompanied by audio).
  • Some learners have more options to work independently between sessions.
  • Opens the possibilities for a blended learning approach of in-person tutoring combined with remote tutoring.
  • More flexibility and control over your schedule.
  • Eliminates the hassles of, and time spent on, commuting.
  • Events beyond your control, such as extreme weather or health-based restrictions, will not stop your tutoring sessions.

Challenges of Remote Tutoring

Starting remote tutoring may be daunting for both you and your learner. Ensuring both your and your learner’s online safety should be a top priority. Establish whether your learner has some basic online safety skills before beginning the online sessions.

Finding suitable materials may also feel intimidating. However, there are many great online resources you can use. Review the resources listed below and use other vetted and recommended resources from your organization, another literacy organization or Decoda.

“Inclusiveness is one of the key concerns when it comes to online learning. While online courses could make access to training easier for disabled adults or for those living in rural communities, the pre-requisite of basic digital skills and devices, as well as a reliable internet infrastructure can limit access significantly.” – The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD)

Ensure the learner will benefit from the remote teaching format and that they have the hardware, software and internet access they require to learn online.

Improving adults’ digital literacy skills and working on self-motivation will help improve access and completion rates for online learning. Issuing digital badges is just one method that has been shown to be quite helpful with improving motivation for learners. Additionally, having confident, well-trained online tutors using well-constructed digital curricula will assist with retention and completion rates.

While teaching remotely certainly has its drawbacks, learning online will only continue to grow in popularity. Therefore, we must learn how to best use these tools to help meet learners’ needs and goals. Check out the video below for some helpful tips for teaching online from an EAL perspective. The resources listed below will also help you to plan and execute great remote tutoring sessions.


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