Online teaching can be exciting, rewarding, frustrating, demanding, and challenging all at the same time. The opportunities for new online teaching opportunities are becoming limited now because of the number of schools that offer online classes, and the process of landing a quality adjunct position has become very competitive. For example, it is not uncommon for someone who is highly experienced and educated to receive the dreaded no thank you email from a human resources department, without anyone ever having taken the time to contact them to discuss their background. So what do you do while you wait for your first (or next) online teaching opportunity? The answer can be summed up as becoming prepared for the role and continuing your professional self-development. There are essentials or best practices that every online instructor needs, which will allow you to become prepared once you are familiar with and understand how to apply them.
The work of an online instructor is measured through contractual facilitation duties and end-of-course evaluations, along with periodic classroom reviews. However, meeting the minimum instructional expectations does not ensure you are effective with the process of classroom management or creating optimal classroom conditions that promote learning. You must have the right mindset about your role as an educator, feel comfortable working in a virtual environment, have the time available to devote to your class, and be skilled in managing a class while coaching students towards meeting specific learning objectives. Online teaching is not just focused on a process rather its purpose is centered on the developmental needs of every student. You must become a teacher, mentor, instructor, coach, and facilitator.
Online Teaching – The Basics
It should go without saying that as an online instructor you must manage your time efficiently and have a well-developed schedule. The two components of classroom facilitation that require the most time throughout the entire week involves participation in class discussion and providing meaningful feedback. If you wait until the end of a class week to begin to work on your instructional duties you will easily find yourself overwhelmed and likely to experience stress, along with potentially missed deadlines. The unfortunate side effect of reaching this point is that it will show up in your attitude, the tone of your posts, and the quality of your involvement, interactions, participation, and feedback – all in a potentially negative manner. Your students will quickly pick up any hints of stress and frustration and this can cause student disengagement from the class.
There are instructional basics that will be first determined by the faculty contract you sign, along with any other documents such as a faculty handbook. There are specific requirements concerning the number of days you are expected to check into the class and post participation messages, timelines for completing feedback, responding to student inquires and questions, and the list continues. It is extremely important for the development of your position with the school to read and re-read the required policies on a regular basis to remind yourself of the general expectations. Be certain to also know how updates are communicated to faculty, whether by email or through the faculty website, so you remain current and are not taken by surprise. Aprenda com o Le will receive periodic class reviews and audits that will help to improve your instructional practice, and you need to be open-minded to the feedback provided so you are able to reach your full potential as an educator.
Another basic aspect of your instructional strategy involves the expectations you develop and communicate with your students. What you want to avoid is holding your students accountable for something you believe they should do if it isn’t obvious to them. You should consider providing clarity about the learning activities and assignments, taking into consideration specific elements that you want to emphasize. For example, if you are teaching an undergraduate class and students are just starting to learn a formatting style, clarify what the expectation is for their work. You could provide a sample paper template and other resources to guide them. It is helpful to establish high expectations for your students, provided that it is attainable and you offer constructive feedback, guidance, and support. When you establish standards that prompt their development you are demonstrating your belief in their capacity, as long as you support their progress as they work towards self-mastery.
Online Teaching Challenges
The initial challenge for new online instructors and students is making a transition from interacting with others face-to-face, with the benefit of visual and verbal cues, to digital communication. While some students may equate interactions via social networking with proficiency in communication through a technologically-enabled environment, there are some distinct differences. One of those differences is related to communicating in complete sentences and articulating your thoughts clearly and concisely, versus text speak or short, abbreviated statements. In addition, exchanges and messages through status updates or other online posts does not require the use of proper spelling and grammar. With time and practice any educator or student can become proficient with this form of communication and interactions. The instructor has the greatest responsibility to engage students and help them become acclimated to the virtual classroom.
Another perceived challenge for online instructors is the distance factor as the belief is that they are at an immediate disadvantage. A common misconception is that you cannot help students if you cannot see them. It is actually the opposite that is correct – an online instructor has a potential for more interaction and involvement with all of their students. Most online classes have a built-in discussion activity and most online schools require their instructors to provide substantive, meaningful feedback. This can help to engage students in the learning process and establish productive working relationships. The level of commitment and dedication made by an instructor will ultimately determine how well the class functions and the students perform. It is easy for students to become discouraged and disengage from their class if the instructor is not virtually present and involved with the class on a frequent basis. The more an instructor is engaged in their class, the greater their responsiveness to students will be in the long-term.
There is a challenge that is related to time management and commitment and it is preparation, which occurs if this is the first time a class is being taught or the first time an instructor teaches a class online. It is imperative that the materials are thoroughly reviewed as that information needs to be utilized as a knowledge base during class discussions, along with all learning activities and written assignments. If you haven’t read the materials the class discussions will not be as engaging as they have the potential to be and it will be difficult to provide a thorough assessment of the written work submitted by your students. They look to what you post and what you state in your feedback to guide their comprehension and analysis of the course topics. If you aren’t prepared it could result in a missed learning opportunity. Being informed and prepared means you are knowledgeable and ready to guide the learning process.
The Essentials & Best Practices for Online Teaching