Teaching Online Courses
What is it like to teach online courses? This is a broad question, but if we break it down we can come up with some general guidelines. First of all, in an online class the instructor does not have to meet her class in a particular room in a particular building on a particular campus. Moreover, the instructor in an online class does not have to meet her class at a particular time. In fact, she can fly from Rome to China and still keep up with her class. Not so with the traditional class. It does not matter what the subject matter of the class and it does not matter what level it is..it could be about online high school. The important aspect is that it is online and the instructor is not limited by space and time. But what is it like to actually work in the online system? On first try, just after signing on, the new instructor will gaze into a monitor and see sectionalized panels...color coded, perhaps. This format varies a bit from school to school, but in general the instructor will see a set of directions flowing down the left side of the monitor. Here are all the directions from week to week. These are lesson plans and all the instructor need do is to make sure they are complete. The first pane is Announcements and here Urgent or even Emergency messages are posted. Perhaps there is a storm in areas where some students from your school are living. You will need to make special arrangements with these students. Some classes may not be offered the next term and this message can be posted for all to see. On a less urgent message, the instructor may post her office hours and policies on late papers and plagiarism. Whether you want to teach for an online doctorate degree or online education classes, you will have to go through training. But before all this, you must locate a job. You will do this by surveying lists of schools that offer college credit online. University of Texas, among others, offers such a list. Write to Human Services at major universities and obtain a list. Then go through the list and pick out schools you want to work for. Keep in mind that you will be applying for an online job.
There are many aspects of preparation that you can complete in advance so that you are not rushed later. For example, you should update your CV and if you have any online experience then you should list it. You should make copies of your unofficial transcripts. The official transcripts can come later when the school is on the verge of hiring you. Also, you may need a notarized document to prove your identity. Again, wait until you are asked for such a document. You could save time, however, by locating a notary that you may need later.
The next thing you are likely to see on your monitor used for online teaching is Assignments. The assignments are listed each week and the criteria of acceptable performance are given in the form of a rubric. The assignments range from timed objective tests to demonstrations, to documented essays, to participation in group discussions, to role playing. The next phase shown on your monitor is Problems and Solutions. Here, the student is charged with the task of identifying problems and finding solutions that she can share with her class. She may discover a new way of navigation and then give a presentation on this to the class. Thus all profit from her discovery. This is characteristic of online teaching colleges. Another phase is Discussion Thread. Here a theme is introduced either by the instructor or a student. The theme may be any perennial idea for an online class. For example one may contrast the online curriculum structure with the traditional structure. The problem is passed from student to student and the ultimate idea is to get the students to respond to one another and to pose further problems to explore.
Grades grow out of the performance that student's exhibit. And in an online program, grades are electronically stored and averaged. The organizational packets of grades make a good basis for holding a conference with the student. The conference usually focuses on helping the student to improve. Most of the conferences are private and can take place by email, by telephone, by Skype, or by private cell. In some cases, where there is contention between student and instructor, legal counsel may be brought in on both sides. Thus, the conferences may focus on academics or personal issues, but the academic function is the more frequent. Ask the Professor will come to fore when the student wants to ask the instructor about a content question in the course. If the instructor thinks the question merits the student taking a tutorial, she may recommend such. Ordinarily, this function is focused on the content of the course and not on personal issues. Such is the nature of online professor jobs. Tutorials are varied. One may take a tutorial if she has a problem distinguishing between plural and singular verbs and nouns. The instructor will direct the student in the domain of English grammar. The problem facing the student may focus on how to use the online library. In this case the online robot will guide the student through the online library and in this way the student will get a double dose of the online function in process. The student may wish to avoid plagiarism in which case she may be directed to Turnitin.com, so that she gets an idea of its function and can use it to check her essays. Finally, the panel labeled as Student Lounge is just what it implies-a place for the students to hang out and not be concerned about being graded. This section is not graded. The purpose is to promote sharing among students so that they bond and become a support to one another in their academic career and beyond.
The maturation of distance education technology is creating a new career opportunity for individual with earned graduate degrees that want to teach at the post-secondary level for a living. State colleges, four-year universities and community colleges are following in the academic and technical footsteps of the for-profit colleges that award the bachelor degree online and the master's degree online. New and returning college students are eager to have the chance to earn an online masters degree in school counseling, a mechanical engineering degree online or an online bachelor degree in accounting from their personal computers. The traditional adjunct faculty member that is tired of not earning a decent living from college teaching on the physical college or university campus can actually earn a real living by teaching online for a growing variety of accredited online bachelor degree programs and accredited online master's degree programs. It is possible to accumulate as many as eight to ten online adjunct jobs at one time. These adjunct online jobs will actually pay the online adjunct instructor throughout the entire year because there is usually no summer break as it is experienced on the physical campus.