Distance learning has gone mainstream. The U.S. Department of Education report “Evaluation of Evidence-Based Practices in Online Learning” states that “on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instruction.” Consider the following:
- In the 2006–07 academic year, 66 percent of the 4,160 accredited US colleges offered college-level distance education courses. (Source: National Center for Education Statistics)
- In fall 2007, 22 percent of U.S. college students took at least one web-based class. (Source: Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008 from the Sloan Consortium)
Would you believe I have a B.A. in education? Though not a teacher by profession, I’m passionate about education. Perhaps, that’s why I’m a writer — to educate people. Being deaf, I knew I never wanted to teach in a classroom, but I’ve worked with online classes at a major university’s M.S. program. Distance education opens doors for many of us. You can develop expertise in any subject you want.
Online education might make teaching a possible career for those who wouldn’t consider working in a classroom. Is teaching the career for you, or perhaps something you can do on the side?
Types of Teaching Careers
Online programs don’t stop at postsecondary education. School districts offer online classes so students can make up failed classes, get ahead or take extra classes. Professional organizations, specialized schools and programs, community colleges and experts offer non-credit courses for people looking to learn new skills in their professions or hobbies.
I took a handful of online classes through my city’s community college affiliation with Education To Go. The price was right and it helped me conquer QuickBooks and do more with Photoshop.
As an example of the diversity of online learning options and opportunities for teaching posts available, here are some options for writing courses.
- Degree programs: Thomas Edison State College offers a B.A. in Journalism, all done online. Texas Tech has an M.A in Technical Communication.
- College-affiliated resources: Education To Go includes writing courses in its catalog.
- Experts: Professionals with teaching experience, like Christina Katz, conduct email classes. While you can go off and create your own courses to teach like Katz does, you still need to do marketing and earn credibility to encourage people to sign up with you when you’re not affiliated with a college or known organization.
- Online publications and resources: AbsoluteWrite, a popular resource for writers, gives instructors a space to teach their classes. While AbsoluteWrite and its staff don’t teach the classes, it allows credible professionals to affiliate themselves with the respected AbsoluteWrite name.
- High schools: My local independent school district offers English classes in its eSchool.
How to Qualify
For college programs, you typically need at least a Master’s degree and others require a PhD. Danielle McIntosh, White River Online teacher, teaches at a local district’s public online high school that serves students all over Washington State. Before working there, she had 10 years of teaching special education. “Boise State University offers a certificate program for online teaching. However, almost everything has been on-the-job training in my situation,” McIntosh says.
Author Christina Katz believes that credibility is the first qualification to becoming a teacher. “Credibility can come from degrees, experience, word-of-mouth and having been published on your topic of expertise. When it comes to credibility, I don’t think it comes from any one thing but the accumulation of many things — especially what others say about you,” she says.
Each online program has a preference as to what application or system it uses as the base for its courses. Some use a third party solution while others create their own system.
Tools of the trade include email, headsets for online lectures/webinars, Microsoft Word and Excel for reviewing student work and tracking grades. Depending on the course type you teach, you may need specific tools or applications. One course I worked with used a web-based simulator where students entered decisions and could see the results of their actions. Danielle McIntosh uses Moodle as well as APEX and PLATOWeb for content.
Margaret Garcia recommends looking for posts through the web sites of online colleges or programs. She points out that some schools have stringent hiring requirements while others don’t. “Most people break into online teaching through University of Phoenix — they have an easier hiring process and though they don’t pay well, they are willing to give a break to a possible good teacher. Cappella University, on the other hand, is one of the hardest,” Garcia says. She works with as many as five different online universities including National University and Kaplan University.
In “Get Known before the Book Deal,” Christina Katz recommends starting locally in the classroom with live students to gain experience before teaching online. She suggests looking into organizations, conferences, local meetings and events and adult education centers. While this takes away the web working aspect, it’s just for a short time with places near you. Not only research the sites of those offering online classes, but also remember to network and seek out other teachers who might have insight to offer and decision-makers behind the programs.
Would you consider a career in education?
Photo credit: LittleMan