Thrust into Online Learning Overnight? Changing Your Mindset to Thrive

Are you overwhelmed with the idea of teaching online?  Is this something that you believe that you simply can’t do? Have you said things like, “I don’t believe in online learning.”  Or “I don’t think online learning can be effective.” Or “I don’t think I can do it.”  

Now, in the flash of a virus, you are an online teacher and your students are online learners.   You have not had any time to redesign your lessons or your course.  What do you do? 

If you are thinking this way, you will want to change your mindset. First of all, what is a mindset? Your mindset is the sum of your thoughts and beliefs, in this case, about online teaching and learning. These thoughts and beliefs affect your attitude and your motivation for teaching. 

So, here is an approach you might try.

Change your self-talk.  Rather than saying to yourself, “I don’t know how to teach online,” say to yourself, “I don’t know how to teach online. Yet!”  With that simple addition of “yet”, you change from feeling helpless to making a plan to improve (Dweck, 2007, 2014). You begin asking questions, such as , “How does teaching online work?  What are some of the first things that I need to do, or learn.  What is my path forward to being an effective online teacher?” 

Once you have decided that you will become an effective online teacher, then you make a plan as to how to proceed. You decide what to do first, and so on. These choices include the usual strategies for developing and practicing new skills. The strategies for developing your skills for online teaching might include the following:  

  1. Identifying resources to help you learn the basics of online teaching, 
  2. Talking and sharing ideas with colleagues, 
  3. Learn the one or two absolutely essential tools,
  4. Implementing and practicing best practices for teaching online, and then
  5. Using your new skills until you develop confidence

Part of your new self-talk might include reminders, such as 

  • “I must be patient with my own learning, just as I am patient with my student learning.” (Hopefully this is true.)  
  • “It takes time to develop new skills.” 
  • “My students are also learning how to learn online.  They have new skills to develop, too.” 
  • “It is probably wise to simplify or modify planned activities and projects.” 
  • “it is probably wise to focus on developing the core 4-5 basic skills for teaching online, such as communicating with my students on a regular basis, setting up a rhythm of interaction, and being really, really clear about the purpose and expectations of the remaining curse activities and how they will be graded.   
  • “I probably have many of these core skills already. I just have to figure out their online version.” 

As mentioned above, this is all new for your students, too, so make them part of the learning process. Get feedback as to what is working or not working for them. Ask for ideas or help in implementing tools, and tricks and techniques for using them. Students are great problem-solvers, and they enjoy being part of the solution and sharing their talents as well.

I hope you find these ideas helpful and encouraging. Comments and suggestions are welcome!

Boettcher, J. V. (2006-2019). Ten Best Practices for Teaching Online. Retrieved from

Dweck, C. (2007). MindSet: The New Psychology of Success.  Ballantine Books. Note: Adding the word “yet” to a statement of belief, attitude or skill is from this book. 

Dweck, C. (2014). The Power of Believing You can Improve.  Retrieved from  A ten-minute Ted Talk.