The Surprising Skill That Makes Online Teachers More Effective

The Surprising Skill That Makes Online Teachers More Effective
Summary: Every day, online teachers draw from a deep well of diverse skills. But there's one (often overlooked) teaching skill which can have a massive impact on student outcomes. This skill also has career benefits for you, as it makes online teachers more effective.

What Is The Skill That Makes Online Teachers More Effective?

Online teachers draw from a deep well of teaching skills every single day. From the very second you fire up your computer in the morning, you’re furiously multi-tasking. And you’re often using several specialist teaching skills at the same time. But if you had to choose, what would you say is the single most valuable skill that makes online teachers more effective?

It’s hard to single just one out, isn’t it?

You might choose:

  • Sophisticated communication skills.
  • Extensive subject expertise.
  • Current industry knowledge, or perhaps.
  • Advanced technological prowess.

These are all obvious –and perfectly valid– choices. And, yes, they all have important parts to play in your online teaching skill-set. But there’s one particular online teaching talent that is too often overlooked…


Your ability to be patient has a massive impact on how effective you are. It can directly affect overall outcomes – for both you, and your students.

Surprisingly, the power of patience is a well-kept secret in the world of online teaching. It’s never going to attract the kind of flashing-lights attention that new technology will, for example. But I would argue it’s even more important than the latest eLearning software developments. Because we’re teaching human beings first and foremost. The right technology can definitely make learning online easier. But your students need more than good technology: they also need support, empathy and a human connection that technology alone just doesn’t offer.

This is where a little patience can add some humanity to the online learning experience.

5 Ways Online Teachers Can Use Patience To Help Students Achieve

Online teachers who take a patient approach automatically offer a higher level of support to their students. They tend to be a little more persistent when it comes to helping students to solve their problems. They’ll explain the question from a different angle. They’ll continue a dialog despite student resistance. They expect that the breakthrough moment is just around the corner. Patience is a subtle but powerful skill in online teaching. It means you’re able to:

1. Communicate Around Obstacles. 

A patient approach makes communication more effective. It helps you to consider the possibility that sometimes when a student is abrupt, he or she might simply be anxious (rather than deliberately rude).

2. Reduce Student Confusion.

When a student is struggling to understand a concept, patient online teachers will explain the core idea again. And this time around, they might offer a different example that resonates more closely with the student’s own experience.

3. Calm And Reassure Panicking Students. 

Distressed students often need to be reassured first and foremost. By exercising your patience muscle, you can help a terrified student to calm down, and actually listen. At that point, a student is more likely to see your practical advice as a viable way forward.

4. Empower Students To Become Independent Learners. 

So many online teachers are overworked. In a rushed work day, it’s too easy to just fire off quick answers to frequently asked student questions. But with a little patience, you can show students how to help themselves, by directing them to relevant resources. Students then begin to develop the skills to answer their own questions. That’s real progress for them – and less work for you.

5. Re-Orient Lost Students. 

Students who have lost their way in the course often simply need you to point them at a road sign. This takes only moments, but you need to be willing to stop for a second and help, rather than expect them to draw their own maps.

Patient Online Teachers Can Help Create Better Student Outcomes

The above list offers examples of just a few ways that online teachers can incorporate patience into their daily practice. These actions may seem trivial, but their effects are cumulative. And if you do them regularly, they’ll have a significant impact on your students.

For example:

  • Rather than drop out and disappear from your class, your students will be comfortable asking you for help (and will keep moving towards course completion).
  • With the right support, your students become more confident learners (and can achieve at a higher level).
  • Good teaching has far-reaching positive effects (you’re creating learners who are increasingly able to problem solve in other areas of their lives, too).

These are incredibly constructive outcomes – and perfectly within your control.

How Patience Also Benefits Online Teachers

While a patient approach can have a real impact on your students, it also has surprisingly positive benefits for you, both personally and professionally.

On a personal level, it’s truly satisfying to help a student clamber out of the darkness of confusion and stand in the bright sunlight of understanding. It’s personally fulfilling to watch students who started your course as nervous, self-doubting learners turn into confident achievers who successfully pass the course, and get real value out of the experience.

And patience has professional rewards for online teachers, too. There’s more on offer here than a feel-good glow. When you help students to achieve their potential, they usually notice. And grateful students can become vocal supporters of your online teaching style. You can quickly amass an impressive collection of positive student feedback as a result. Those comments are valuable tools when it’s time for your next performance review.

So the next time you find your patience is stretched to wafer-thin breaking point, take a breath.

Think about the benefits of this overlooked skill – and how it can help you to achieve your online teaching goals.