Creating a positive environment for online learning can be enhanced using these practical classroom management strategies, by DR ELIZABETH MAHER.

Online learning can present some unique challenges and opportunities when you are aiming to increase time spent on instruction and increasing student engagement.

It is reassuring to know that the same practices used during face-to-face teaching are just as relevant and effective during online learning.

The following strategies are recommended to maintain continuity of learning and build consistency across the school to create positive, predictable and safe learning environments during online learning.

Practices used in face-to-face teaching are as effective during online learning.

Online classroom management strategies Identifying and defining expectations

Apply the same school-wide expectations to define behavioural expectations for online learning. Keep these simple, clear and concise. See the sample matrix below which lists three expectations (Respect, Responsibility and Safety) and how students can demonstrate each of these.


  • Join online on time
  • Be seen on screen
  • Participate in break out groups
  • Have relevant materials


  • Follow teacher instructions
  • Use the raise your hand feature to speak
  • Wait for your turn to contribute
  • Mute microphone when others are speaking


  • Be present and focus
  • Ask in chat if you need help
  • Use kind words and gestures

Behavioural expectations for online learning should be clear simple, clear and concise.

Teach and monitor expectations

Teaching the behavioral expectations is necessary because it makes it clear to students what they need to do to be engaged and successful and reduces the time you spend away from instruction to re-direct or correct behaviours.

Teachers can describe, model, include examples and non-examples, and provide practice for students to demonstrate the expected behaviour. Monitoring the behaviour throughout the sessions will allow you to acknowledge expected behaviours and respond to behaviour errors with re-teaching or reminders.

Acknowledge and encourage behaviour

There are several ways to deliver acknowledgments to students, which support relationships between you and the student while increasing the likelihood of positive behaviours. 

Strategies that increase positive interactions during online learning

  • Greeting each student by name as they enter the virtual classroom.

  • Providing specific positive feedback during the session (eg ‘Wonderful job using the chatbox when you had a question! This allowed me to finish explaining the activity without interruption,’ or ‘You demonstrated good effort on completing all of the pre-learning work, this is making a difference to how well you are completing the activities').

  • Planning to acknowledge students individually after lessons are completed. Rotate the students who receive these individual acknowledgments across the school week. This provides feedback to students, assists with highlighting areas of additional input and enhances relationships.

Students thrive on consistency and predictability in face-to-face and online teaching.
Consistency and predictability

Students thrive on consistency and predictability. Use a similar lesson format each session to allow students to focus on your instruction rather than putting cognitive energy into transitioning to unexpected activities or delivery methods. A consistent lesson format makes it easier for your lesson planning as well. 

Online lesson format

  • 10 minutes - introduction and behavioural expectations review
  • 15 minutes - whole group instruction
  • 20 minutes - break-out room
  • 10 minutes - whole group share
  • 5 minutes - wrap-up

Provide students with Opportunities to Respond to encourage engagement.

Engagement strategies to encourage positive behaviour and participation

Provide students with Opportunities to Respond. This is an effective method for encouraging engagement. Here are some ideas for using Opportunities to Respond in the virtual classroom:

  • ask students to respond to a multiple-choice question in the chatbox
  • have students make their own response card that they can hold up in front of their camera
  • prepare a Google Survey to assess learning of a concept
  • students can display a thumbs up or thumbs down
  • polling on a question or reaction to a comment

Use a similar lesson format each session to allow students to focus on instruction.

The AISNSW Framework of Behaviour Support and Student Engagement provides service offerings and resources for teachers. The Classroom Management Processes and Practices component of the framework encompasses the delivery of professional learning to schools as well as access to resources for proactive and practical strategies.

For more information, contact the AISNSW Student Services Team or Senior Education Consultant Dr Elizabeth Maher.

With thanks to Positive Behaviour and Intervention Supports organisation.

Photo credits: With thanks to Al Noori Muslim, Kamaroi Rudolph Steiner School, Meriden School.

New to AISNSW and want to receive AISNSW Education News updates? Click here to register, and select ‘AISNSW Education News’ on the Areas of Interest/Subscriptions page.