If you have ever thought about teaching online, you need to take some things into consideration. First, teaching online is very different than teaching face-to-face. The differences are in time commitment, learning curves with technology, and ability to build community with your students despite the lack of face-to-face interaction. Not everyone can make the transition from face-to-face teaching to teaching online, but teaching online can be as fulfilling as teaching a brick and mortar classroom if it is done right.
Start our your quest to be a successful online teacher by researching the school(s) you wish to teach for. Although some colleges will hire faculty with Bachelor degrees, most will require at minimum a Masters Degree. Some will even require a PhD. Others will require a minimum of two years work experience in your discipline BEYOND the Masters Degree.
Go through the required training. Once you have applied to the school(s) of your choice and are accepted, you will likely be required to attend a training session. Some schools have online training classes set up that new faculty are required to complete prior to being approved to teach. Other schools will require that you teach your first course with a mentor. Both of these options are good things, even if you have been teaching for many years. Do not let the requirement of training dissuade you from your dream of teaching online. You can always learn something new. Some schools will pay you for the training, others do not. If there is no pay for the training, consider it to be time well spent learning a new skill!
Be ‘Present’ in the classroom. Once you have completed the training and have your own online class to teach, create a plan for your involvement in the course. One of the things that makes students quit online classes is the lack of interaction with the teacher, so plan on being ‘present’ in class as much as possible. A good rule of thumb is to post the times you plan on being online so the students know when they are likely to get fairly quick response to their questions. Regardless of your planned online ‘office hours,’ let the students know that you will do your best to respond to any of their inquiries within 24 hours. In a face-to-face class, the students see the teacher once or twice a week – online they actually have much MORE contact with the teacher, which makes teaching online even more interactive than teaching face-to-face.
Prepare your course materials. It is important to have your course materials ready to go BEFORE class starts. Do not create the course on the fly, you will get frustrated and so will your students. Create the entire course before going online so you can just copy and paste it into the Learning Management System (LMS) and have it ready to go when the students come to class. You can schedule different parts of your course content to ‘release’ at specific times and dates throughout the course so the student is not bombarded with the entire course at once.
Set aside your online time. You will need to plan on being online a minimum of five out of seven days each week, for a minimum of one hour a day. This does not have to be all at one time, however. That one hour can be 15 minutes in the morning to see if any emergency queries came in overnight, maybe another 15 minutes at lunch time and possibly 30 minutes after dinner. The important thing is to be there, even if it is just to acknowledge a comment and let the student know you will be back with more information later. Set aside specific times each day to interact in the class.
Set up a dynamic discussion board. The heart of an online class is the discussion board. Ask open ended questions, participate in the discussion on a regular basis and assure the students’ participation by offering points for substantive posts. Let the students help each other in the discussion board – they will share information readily and learn from each other – this is a characteristic of adult learners and one we should take advantage of.
Provide substantive feedback. Students will feel somewhat alone, especially at first, in an online course. It is important to not only let them know you are in the class, but to provide timely, substantive feedback on their work. Not just any written assignments, but also on their posts in the discussion board. It is not enough to say, “Nice work.” Tell them WHY, and if it needs improvement, tell them HOW. The bottom line is be there for them and help them learn, just as in any classroom environment.
Teaching online can be exciting, interactive, and fun for everyone concerned, it just takes a bit of work and a change of mind set!