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Online Instructor - Is it for You?
The computer and internet age has pushed the envelope of traditional educational formats. Just a few years ago, Online education was a second thought, maybe not a thought at all, in the minds of traditional brick and mortar schools. Today, if an educational institution does not have online programs – they are missing thousands of opportunities and dollars from traditional and non-traditional students.
With some extra time on my hands, I thought I would explore the world of online educators – some easy extra money – Right?
Wrong! Boy, did I have a lot to learn.
Let me share my journey to becoming an Online Instructor.
To begin the journey, I set criteria for selection – 1. Must be an accredited school, regionally and national accreditation – no diploma mills! 2. Offer degrees that match my skill and experience areas. 3. User friendly online education format. 4. Good record of accomplishment in online education – good reviews from students/peers. 5. A quality training and/or orientation program for new instructors.
From these starting points, I performed web searches and identified six potential schools. By visiting their web sites, I discovered a wealth of information regarding the schools, accreditation and online degrees offered. Next, searches included using the schools name and various criteria e.g. satisfaction, alumni, etc. These queries revealed web sites and blogs dedicated to specific topics on the subject of the school. Some were positive sites; others were dissatisfied students with an axe to grind.
The next step involved telephone contacts. Making contact with the schools online experts was a challenge – most referrals were to a website or email account. At two schools, I actually spoke to a live person! (This added some points to their score!)
With information assembled – I was now ready to move forward to the application process. The information packages requested were very similar in nature for each school. They included, a detailed educational history, including submission of college and graduate school transcripts, detailed work history resume and any experiences in teaching/training of adult learners. Three references, preferably from academics were the expected norm. (It’s been so long for me, most of my professors are retired or no longer with us!)
Two schools rejected me off-hand. Their criteria for online instructors included an earned doctorate. My MBA did not fit with their instructional criteria, for graduate or undergrad instruction. Two schools requested that I develop a course – prior to any reimbursement. They required their instructors to select a textbook from their lists, develop a curriculum and all instructional supports for an online course. These schools failed my selection criteria both in terms of instructor support and remuneration. The final two schools both had good records of accomplishment in online instruction, user-friendly learning environments and good matches for my skill areas.
The final decision key- training and orientation for new instructors. School 1 presented an online manual for instructor’s preparation. Study the manual, take an online test, pass, and you were ready to go. School 2 presented a different approach – one that set it apart from all the others.
For School 2 , I was enrolled in an online instructors training course. A month long course in which I became the student/learner. All of the requirements expected of students applied to the potential instructors. Weekly assignments were graded, participation and discussion expectations were set, and methods of instruction were tested. The course was facilitated by an experienced online faculty member – one who was dedicated to quality education and setting the bar for future expectations.
A few of the class members washed out after a week – they did not realize the instructor commitments of 16-20 hours per week were the norm – not the exception.
After passing the instructors training course, I was offered the opportunity to team teach a course. This process involved working with a mentor – an experienced online facilitator. The facilitator provided a systematic process for setting up the class. The then reviewed each instructional component prior to my posting in the classroom environment. Constructive feedback on work products was frequent and appreciated. The mentor monitored all components of instruction; feedback to students, individual and team work assignments, grading of assignments and instructor online interactions.
Weekly performance evaluations were provided by the mentor. These documents provided feedback for needed improvement areas or kudos for a job well done. The students provided formal evaluations of the instructor/mentee at week three and the conclusion of the course during week six. These anonymous evaluations shared some excellent insight into my performance as an instructor. Since the majority of the students are practicing professionals – they are experienced in providing feedback for performance appraisals.
The final step included an evaluation by the Universities online faculty committee. This evaluation included all the steps in preparation for the course work, mentor evaluations and student feedback. Having successfully passed all the requirements, I was promptly offered a position to provide instruction for future classes.
The Online instruction format is not for everyone. Students must be dedicated to a level of professionalism that has not been expected in the typical classroom. Time management is crucial for success in the online environment. Both individual and teamwork skills are tested – the experience is not just an individual effort. Working in teams to solve challenges in today’s work world is critical for the success of the organization.
For instructors, the same criteria hold true. To approach this instructional methodology is not an easy task. It requires dedication to the model and a true enthusiasm for sharing your acquired skills and experience. Personally, I have found my online instructional experience both rewarding and challenging. A vocation I look forward to enjoying for many years to come.
Online Instruction – Is It For You?
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