March 2022
Atipat Boonmoh, King Mongkut's University of Technology, Thailand

Prior to the Covid-19 epidemic, the majority of instructors around the world taught in a face-to-face classroom setting. They are all likely to understand the significance of online education. However, it was not easy for some teachers to teach entirely online because of the sudden change. Changing from physical face-to-face classes to online classrooms necessitates a shift in communication medium. Classes have been held using a variety of online meeting systems, including Zoom, Google Meet, and Microsoft Team. This online learning will unavoidably transform the way teachers and students communicate in the new normal.

A number of studies (Punsa et al., 2022; Kanchai 2021; Atmojo & Nugroho, 2020) demonstrate that the primary issue with online learning is a lack of student involvement and very little or no interaction between teachers and students. Online communication requires more effort and planning than communicating with students in a face-to-face classroom. In a face-to-face setting, teachers can communicate with their students via the use of body language and facial expression (Alawamleh et al., 2020). Simultaneously, teachers can view students' body language and facial expressions, enabling them to communicate successfully with one another. This is even more challenging in an online situation, particularly when teachers continue to speak while students remain silent and do not turn on their cameras. Teaching a second language or a third language to students even more challenging to the teachers as much of what is conveyed is through nonverbal communication. Students may be hesitant and unwilling to speak up, especially if they are new and do not know each other.

In this article, I share the techniques I used with students to enhance their online communication. The activities below are appropriate for high school and university students studying English. They can be used at the start of the first day of instruction.

Activity 1. Getting to know the teaching and learning platform

Aim: To familiarize students with the learning platform's available features and functions.

  1. Create a PowerPoint presentation for students about the selected teaching and learning platform. Explain the key features of the platforms. These may include screen sharing, joining a breakout room, transferring files or photos, using annotation tools, capturing screen photos, using reactions features, and changing the background photo. Allow time for students to explore all of the functions as they observe the teacher demonstrate.
  2. Provide students with a sequence of exercises in which they may put what they've just learned into practice. For example, ask certain students to select a photo they like or some documents in various formats and share them to the entire class, or ask students to display a specific reaction emoticon, or ask them to create any pictures on the shared screen.
  3. Emphasize the significance of communication in an online setting. Tell students that they can now turn on their camera, speak into the microphone, chat in the message box, use reaction emoticons, or communicate using annotation tools.

Photo caption 1: Example of getting to know the teaching and learning platform

Activity 2: Our favorite song is…

Objective: To allow students to get to know one another in a relaxed setting and to develop collaboration skill

  1. Inform students that they will be in a small group and that they must introduce themselves to the other members of the group. They must share their favorite music in a group, pick only one song, and prepare for a brief presentation.
  2. Using the Breakout Room tool, divide students into smaller groups. If required, the teacher can join each breakout room to meet students and support them with their work.
  3. When the time is over and students are back in the main room, remind them of the importance of communication and that everyone may have to turn on the camera and introduce themselves.
  4. The teacher may provide immediate feedback to each group, particularly if the group performed well during the presentation. This may assist members of the following group in implementing techniques to improve their presentation.

Activity 3: Our key important messages are…

Objective: To get to know each other and share and work together

  1. Inform students that they will be working in small groups. Students might work in the same prior group or be placed in a different group so that they can get to know more classmates.
  2. Play a short video clip on inspiring TED talks to the entire class of pupils. If required, repeat the clip. Ask the students to work in groups to summarize the most significant messages from the talk.
  3. Inform students that they must prepare this summary in a collaborative shared slide. This can be Google Slides, Jamboard, or Miro. The summary should be no longer than one page.
  4. Allow the students to work in the breakout room. After the time is up, each group takes turns presenting a presentation regarding their summary.
  5. The teacher uses the "Poll" tool to create a poll and asks students to vote for the group that presented well as well as the group that provided the most informative slide.
  6. The teacher discusses with students the factors that lead to effective communication, why some groups’ slides received the most votes and what characteristics should be included in good slides. Teachers may emphasize on students the need of using verbal and nonverbal language, as well as user-friendliness and informative visual aids, in order to improve online communication.

Photo caption: 2: Example of key important message from a talk

Sources: Josh Kaufman | 20 Hours to Learn Anything (Key Points Talk)


The exercises listed above are intended to help students interact successfully in online classroom settings. The teacher's efforts and the students' engagement will result in an enjoyable and exciting experience for the entire class.


Alawamleh, M., Al-Twait, L.M. and Al-Saht, G.R. (2020), "The effect of online learning on communication between instructors and students during Covid-19 pandemic", Asian Education and Development Studies, Vol. ahead-of-print No. ahead-of-print.

Atmojo, A. E. P., & Nugroho, A. (2020). EFL classes must go online! Teaching activities and challenges during COVID-19 pandemic in Indonesia. Register Journal, 13(1), 49–76.

Kanchai, T. (2021). EFL teachers’ ICT literacy acquisition to online instruction during COVID-19. LEARN Journal: Language Education and Acquisition Research Network, 14(2), 282-312.

Pansa, D., Pojanapunya, P., & Boonmoh, A. (2022). Students' perception of classroom learning and emergency online learning during COVID-19 pandemic. Pasaa Paritat, 37. (in press)

Atipat Boonmoh, PhD in Applied Linguistics and English Language Teaching, is an Associate Professor at School of Liberal Arts, King Mongkut's University of Technology Thonburi. His research interests include computer-assisted language learning (CALL), teacher education, and lexicography.