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Engagement Strategies For Online Learning

Updated: Apr 24, 2023

Do you feel your child has always struggled to stay focused in class?

Did the shift to remote learning amidst the pandemic pose an even greater difficulty for both you and your child?

You might be thinking, "if my child couldn’t focus when school was online, how could Zoom coaching sessions be engaging or meaningful?”

Some students may not thrive in a conventional classroom environment due to factors such as feeling overloaded, distracted, inconvenient scheduling, or incorrect presentation of course materials. In such circumstances, it might be more appropriate for the student to consider online learning or personalized one-on-one instruction.

One-on-one virtual teaching allows students to manage their learning process while also providing advantages for teachers, coaches, or therapists.

In this article, we will explore the concept of one-on-one teaching. You’ll read some tips and tricks for parents and teachers, as well as learn the advantages of this teaching model.

What is one-on-one teaching?

One-on-one teaching involves a single student and teacher. Rather than being in a group setting with other students around, one-on-one instruction provides a setting for more interaction with fewer distractions, meant to increase student engagement.

One-on-one virtual learning provides an opportunity for students who are busy, employed or have non-traditional schedules, pursue education at their own pace.

Sounds sweet, right?

In an online setting, this means that learners can access course content whenever they have the time to do so. This may involve a personalized one-on-one session or pre-recorded lessons that students can access based on their enrollment.

“In times where small instructor-led classrooms tend to be the exception, electronic learning solutions can offer more collaboration and interaction with experts and peers, as well as a higher success rate than the live alternative.”

The concept of one-to-one teaching was popularized by the work of Khan Academy Founder, Salman Khan, in his book, The One World Schoolhouse: Education Reimagined, in which he suggests that students would benefit more from working on lessons at their own pace, then approaching teachers when specific challenges arise (rather than being forced to move at the same pace as their peers).

“Can you imagine if someone told Einstein, Okay, wrap up this relativity thing, we’re moving on to European history? Or said to Michelangelo, Time’s up for the ceiling, now go paint the walls. Yet versions of this snuffing out of creativity and boundary-stretching thought happen all the time in conventional schools.”

Benefits of one-on-one

As you can imagine, there are many upsides to learning directly from a single teacher who gets the opportunity to focus all their attention on just one student.

Quote stated: Reminder-Building a trusting relationship enables discussion of personal and professional attitudes, a key benefit of one to one teaching.
Importance of trusting relationships

Some of these benefits include:

High-quality interactions

Within this close-knit learning environment, teachers and students are actively involved and attentive. While instructors may have pre-planned lesson outlines, the central objective of engaging students allows for complete autonomy to set the learning pace and ask any questions they have.

Using this approach, students will be involved in productive and meaningful interactions within their online course and with their teacher or academic team, resulting in high-quality learning outcomes.

Personal Attention

In traditional classes or group sessions, teachers may proceed even when a student is absent, which may hinder student learning, as they may fall behind and miss out on important lessons.

However, in one-on-one instruction, both the teacher and student need to be present for the session to take place, ensuring that the student does not miss out on any valuable learning opportunities.

Students may feel hesitant to speak up or participate in group settings due to fear of judgment, which can cause stress and impede learning. Virtual classes or remote learning eliminates these stressors and especially benefits those with special needs or disabilities.

Easier to gauge progress

Individualized instruction helps teachers understand a student's progress and needs, allowing them to tailor teaching and address weaknesses, leading to better preparation for advancement.

Reduced distractions

Traditional classrooms have distractions that hinder student success, such as disruptive classmates or differing academic levels. One-on-one instruction eliminates distractions and draws attention to the student's personal needs.

Personalization of assignments

In one-on-one instruction, teachers align student interests with progress to create personalized assignments. In this model, teachers can choose topics based on student feedback, leading to better engagement and enthusiasm.

As research shows, a teacher's understanding of what lies at the edge of a student's zone of proximal development is one of the most powerful influencers on student achievement.

Tailored learning and communication style

One-on-one teaching allows for personalized communication and learning styles, reducing misinterpretation and increasing direct access to the teacher for clarification.

Environmental, emotional and instructional tips for teachers
Effective interactions in instruction

Now that we thoroughly discussed the benefits of one-on-one lessons, let's expand the conversation to online engagement.

Online student engagement

Many online students claim that they require a higher level of motivation to keep up with their coursework compared to traditional classroom students. The flexibility of online learning, which allows students to study at any time and from any location, can sometimes make it too easy to procrastinate, overlook, or lose interest in assignments. That’s where we come in!

“My kid couldn’t focus during online Zooms with the school. How would you make their coaching sessions engaging?”

You will find that in a one-on-one educational setting, the student has the opportunity to communicate candidly and sincerely with their coach or teacher. The instructor provides individualized attention and listens attentively to the student giving them timely feedback. Moreover, they provide immediate assistance to the learner in dealing with any obstacles and keep the student's attention engaged throughout the session.

One-on-one instruction provides an opportunity for students who are busy, employed, or have non-traditional schedules to pursue education at their own pace.

Because many students with non-traditional schedules or special learning needs organize their school plan with less guidance than students on the traditional educational path, they need to have strong executive function skills.

What are executive function skills?

Executive functioning (EF) is a term used to describe a set of cognitive capabilities that influence behaviors including the following:

  • setting appropriate goals

  • planning and organizing

  • developing steps to achieve a goal

  • using strategies for problem-solving

  • remembering, attending

  • prioritizing and self-discipline (e.g., avoiding distractions and inhibiting unsuccessful impulses)

  • monitoring progress

Executive function coaches and specialists teach students how to apply the skills above to managing online school. Here are some of our favorite strategies:

EF engagement strategies for online learning

Executive function coaches employ a range of techniques to promote and reinforce the aforementioned behaviors, thereby motivating the student to consistently hone their skill set. To achieve this, we employ a diverse array of strategies, which include:

  • Creating a prioritized daily "To Do" list.

  • Engaging learners by teaching self-advocacy skills

  • Aiding in the color-coding course material, folders or notebooks by subject area, and designating a consistent location for papers and work for each subject.

  • Providing direct personalized support at the start of lessons to ensure comprehension of assignment directions, which may involve reading the directions aloud and having the student repeat them in their own words.

  • Consistent daily or weekly check-ins to monitor and reinforce on-task behavior and work completion,

  • Setting mini-goals to establish achievable objectives for specific time periods.

  • Brainstorming internal rewards to encourage goal attainment

  • Remaining vigilant for warning signs of potential frustration or overwhelm and offer emotional regulation strategies as necessary

  • Coordinating the family to support student progress through the use of family team meetings

Executive Function coaches rely on the right set of tools

Selecting appropriate tools for teaching online is essential, taking into account purpose and learning style. However, it is equally important to educate students on the proper use of each tool. Setting clear guidelines on how and when to use each tool can help to alleviate confusion and ensure efficient and effective communication.

A wave like pattern separated into 5 boxes that speak about effective tools to improve online learning
Virtual tools to enhance online learning

Some popular online tools we have found useful for interacting and collaborating with students include:

  1. Online communication: platforms such as Zoom, Google Meet, or MS Teams, allows us to connect through video conferencing. This helps to replicate the traditional classroom experience in an online environment.

  2. Chat or messaging: these are important for students as they provide a platform for ongoing communication and collaboration with their coach. They also enable students to ask questions, share ideas, and receive feedback in real-time, which can help to foster a sense of community and engagement.

  3. Digital whiteboard: this feature provides an interactive visual aid that can enhance learning and comprehension. Teachers and students can use the whiteboard to illustrate complex concepts, brainstorm ideas, or work out problems collaboratively in real-time.

  4. Online video platforms: EF coaches share personalized, pre-recorded videos on platforms like Loom to make learning more fun and interesting. Students can also use these videos to learn on their own and to come up with creative ways to explain what they've learned for their assignments.

  5. Planning tools: Establishing routine using time management and scheduling apps like Google Calendar and Calendly streamlines tasks for online classes, appointments, and lesson planning. It helps keep everyone organized and leads to more efficient use of time.

How can teachers and parents encourage students?

To enhance executive functioning skills, teachers can promote communication and shared experiences among students. This can be achieved by:

  • Establishing mutual expectations between the teacher and students. Use synchronous events, such as webinars, whenever possible.

  • Creating opportunities for students to interact and ask questions about course content, learning strategies, and course processes. These opportunities will enable students to learn from each other and model effective executive functioning strategies.

  • Establishing regular routines in the course to enable students to plan and organize their work. For example, teachers can assign readings and ask students to respond to discussion board prompts twice a week.

  • Asking for feedback. When teachers ask for feedback from their students, they show they care about the student's experience and are willing to make adjustments to their teaching style. This goes a long way!

Four separate boxes that state: Planning & organization, goal setting, prioritizing and progress monitoring and learning/study strategies
Strategies to Support EF for Online Teachers

How can parents support and increase student engagement?

Parents are a big part of their child's education, whether they are learning in a classroom or online. They act like a coach and help their child succeed.

Even when children are learning online, parents can still play an important role. They can give support and encourage student participation, assist students in homework or classwork, just like they would if they were attending a school nearby

Read on for some strategies parents should implement at home.

1. Follow A Schedule

A stable routine helps students concentrate during sessions. Children should have adequate sleep and "Me Time" for recharging and personal activities.

2. Minimize Distraction

Minimize interruptions during your child's online classes by completing household tasks beforehand, creating a calmer home environment. Additionally, it may be beneficial to create a designated study area for your child that is free of distractions and has all the necessary materials within reach.

3. Emotional Care And Support

A strong family network and a positive home environment can make it easier for children to cope with their problems, like those that may arise during online learning. Parents can spend time with their children, and do fun outdoor activities together.

4. Limit Gadget Use

To prevent distractions during online classes, parents can limit their child's non-educational technology use. Today, this is a critical element in reducing procrastination, stress, and increasing wellbeing.

5. Allow for frequent breaks

To promote effective learning, frequent breaks, learning activities, or even physical training sessions, such as an exercise routine, should be implemented.

6. Digital Literacy A Must For Parents

As a parent, it's important to know how to use digital learning platforms to help your child since they may need your help. Even if you're not tech-savvy, you can learn what's needed for online classes. This knowledge can make it easier for you to guide your child and make online learning simpler.

Five sections that state: create privacy, good lighting, make it personal, control noise and stay organized
Tips for Creating a Study Space


Online learning or personalized one-on-one instruction may be more suitable for students who struggle with a traditional classroom setting due to issues such as feeling overwhelmed, distracted, inconvenient scheduling, or ineffective presentation of course materials.

This article delved into the idea of one-on-one teaching and its benefits for both students and instructors. It also provided tips and advice for parents and educators on how to effectively implement this teaching approach in a virtual setting.

To learn more about how an executive function coach can help your student manage online school and take advantage of the one-to-one learning revolution, visit

About the author

Gal Sharony is an executive function specialist and educational psychologist with Executive Function Specialists. She has helped students overcome learning and emotional difficulties by specializing in socio-emotional skill development and providing specialized support to help students achieve academic success.

Gal uses evidence-based practices to help create a more effective, equitable and inclusive learning space. She loves spending time with her family, enjoying the outdoors, painting and taking pictures, and doing yoga.


Apr 23, 2023

Do you offer 1:1 online instruction that replaces traditional school via EF Specialists?

Apr 25, 2023
Replying to

Hello! We can provide 1:1 online instruction that replaces school, as long as the curriculum is provided by the family or the school. For more information about this, please check out this article: Special Education: What curriculum should I use with independent study? (2022)


About 👋

EFS started with one teacher deciding that kids with ADHD needed better access to quality executive function coaching services. Since then, we have grown to a team of specialists working both private students and public schools to enhance executive function skills for all students. 

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