Is Online Teaching for You? Five Things to Consider

Just like learners need to put a lot of thought into if they want to take online courses, teachers need to determine if the online learning environment is for them. Some educators have the same ideas about online learning, but this article aims to undo some myths while covering the basic thoughts to consider about online learning and teaching. Much of the information here coincides with tips from the article “10 Tips for Successful Online Learning.” There were many things I did not know about online learning and teaching. So, hopefully this beginning information will be of use to those wanting to pursue online instruction or blended instruction.

Track Changes for Word 2007

Misconceptions

Teachers and educators, just like students, have some misconceptions or preconceived notions about online learning. For example, some want to teach online because they believe they will save gas and time. But just like being an online learner, you may soon find that while gas may be saved, costs come in other forms, mainly time.

Grading does not always go faster. Instead of getting a stack of printed papers from the class all at once, you will have to download all the files to your computer. Sometimes you will have to do this one paper at a time depending on if the course management system the institution has. Even if you can do bulk downloads, if students have not named files properly it can cause additional issues and wasted time. Using Word’s Track Changes function can help in making comments on papers. Some teachers like to just type in comments in a different color as they go along or wait until the end of the document to make all comments. Either way, nothing compares to simply handwriting comments right then and there.

While the Internet seems to make people feel anonymous or distant at times, this is not always the case. Some students with weak skills in a certain area may gravitate towards online learning hoping to be lost in the crowd, passed along, or plagiarize without notice. However, you will get to know your students. It is easy to tell if someone goes from having many grammatical or mechanical problems to flawless papers with great organization and superior diction. As an English instructor, I like to stress that a writing voice can still be “heard” online: every writer has certain written mannerisms and writing style. If the function is available, professors may request that students post a picture of themselves for a profile so every can at least see what their peers look like.

Organization

Above all else, you have to be extremely organized. If you work online, odds are you will have more than one class at more than one institution and may also be working at a physical location either for the same type of job or something in industry. So, you need to have great organization skills to manage office hours, due dates, and other aspects of teaching online and potentially many jobs.

Because you will have documents coming in throughout the semester, you need to form a system that works for you in terms of downloading work, making comments and returning work. At minimum, I suggest having a main folder on your computer for each institution you work for. Within each main folder, make subfolders for each class. Then, within each class create a folder for each assignment. I also have a folder for each semester or term since many of my courses are the same. So, to avoid confusion I would have a folder for “Essay 1 May 2010” and “Essay 1 January 2011.” Of course I use abbreviations like “E1 May 2010.” This way if there is a discrepancy that comes up months later I can easily look at the hard copy of my grade sheet to see what term the student was in, like May 2009, and find their submissions.

Every institution requires that you keep hardcopies of your grade book. This can be done electronically using a program like Excel or a downloadable system like Gradekeeper or manually with a record book you would find at Staples or a similar office supply store. Clearly identifying each course with the title of the course, institution, and semester is a great start. If there is personal information about students on certain documents, make sure you shred them after a year to avoid breaking confidentially rules.

Time Management

This includes a couple of things to consider. The first is do you have good time management skills? You will have to be able to work out your day so you are not overwhelmed with grading or responding to posts and assignments every day or only at certain times during the day depending on your lifestyle and circumstances. Getting and staying ahead as much as possible is good, especially if something unforeseen comes up that delays you for a day. There are not the natural breaks in an online course that you may experience with in-person courses. Therefore, no matter how on top of work you are online, another paper or post can come in at anytime. Also, courses can literally start at any time: some institutions have weekly or monthly start dates. So, at times there may only be a couple of days break between courses.

A second aspect to consider is how much you can handle. Sure, there are people who get into online teaching because they see or hear you can make six figures. Is this true? Yes. But this is like any other case of too good to be true. You may not make much money per class taught. (For example, I have been paid anywhere from a little over $1,500 to a little over $3,400 per course: this range goes for community colleges and universities. Believe it or not, some community colleges pay more than a university.) An adjunct makes roughly a quarter of what a full-timer would. And if you have a Master’s and not a Ph.D. you may also be earning a little less. So, those who make six-figures are teaching a lot of courses…I mean a lot and year round! They will have anywhere from 3 or more courses going at the same time and for an unlimited amount of institutions. The point is, in terms of time management, know your limit. Remember, an online course is more work and time consuming than an in-person course. So, while you may want to keep steady work or make six figures, you may be burned out at three courses, especially entry level ones.

Communication

Are you a good communicator? While you may be excellent at face-to-face interaction, communications online are totally different. Tone, humor, and other nuances do not translate well in an online format or can be lost in translation and lead to disaster.

Often, you will have to set the example for acceptable dialogue, feedback, and other interactions online. At times this is done by actually providing the first post for an assignment or discussion. Other times, uploading a document/“handout” explaining how, when, and the type of communication provided and expected is useful. Like any other aspect of life, prevention is the best course of action. The more you stay on top of being present in the classroom and moderating feedback, the smoother the semester will go.

Patience

This may seem odd, but you need a lot of patience. Because communications for aspects like grading and discussion posts may be delayed or misconstrued, student issues and concerns can seem like they are ten-fold compared to on-campus courses. Also, because you are not there to say things verbally and address questions as they arise during instruction or discussion, students may take more time to understand certain concepts. Even if you leave many comments about the same issues that need to be fixed, students may continue to make the same errors for various reasons. Students may also feel like you are available 24/7, even with posted office hours and times available online. This can lead to multiple messages being sent the same day and the student going to a higher-up that you have not addressed their concerns. Typically, online schools require instructors to respond within 24-48 hours depending on the pace of the course. However, a student that sends a message at 5 am may assume a response will come back automatically like an IM message or within several hours. Just make sure you have patience and always respond professionally and within the time limit expected.

Stephanie Bradberry Crosby
Stephanie Bradberry Crosby | Source

About the Author

Stephanie Bradberry Crosby is first and foremost an educator and life-long learner. Her present work is as an herbalist, naturopath, and energy healer. She spent over a decade as a professor of English, Literature, and Education and high school English teacher. She is a doctoral candidate in Education: Curriculum and Teaching and doctoral candidate in Metaphysics. She is current owner of Naturally Fit & Well, LLC and former owner of Crosby Educational Consulting, LLC. Stephanie loves being a freelance writer and editor on the side.

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31 comments

bohemiotx profile image

bohemiotx 5 years ago from Tyler, TX

Cool. My pastor is supposed to start teaching online. I'll get this article to him.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

bohemiotx, how wonderful! I hope this article helps him.


bohemiotx 5 years ago

Thanks, I just emailed Pastor Thomas the link. Have you heard of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church in America (CPCA)? We're only in four states and a few other cities, such as Chicago. The HQ is in Huntsville, a

Alabama.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello again. Thanks for passing my hub along. No, I have not heard of the CPCA.


cmellon86 profile image

cmellon86 5 years ago

Thanks for the hub! You make a lot of great points.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

Thanks, cmellon86. Sometimes teachers jump into online teacher just as fast and clueless as students sign up for online classes with no previous experience.


Pollyannalana profile image

Pollyannalana 5 years ago from US

I had some college classes online and I loved them. Great hub.

Polly


mbaker2012 profile image

mbaker2012 5 years ago

Great to hear a point of view from the other side of the screen, it makes me respect professors even more!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

I'm glad you were able to gain a new perspective from my hub. I think some educators fail to realize that in order to be a good teacher/instructor, you have to be a good student/learner too. Some instructors get into teaching, especially online teaching without ever taking an online class. Could you imagine teaching a face-to-face class without ever attending a day of school in your life?


Millionaire Tips profile image

Millionaire Tips 5 years ago from USA

These are great points. I have considered teaching online although I haven't done so.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

Millionaire Tips, with your background, online teaching may be right up your alley. For me, I just jumped into it and learned a lot from not having a lot of formal training. But now I have different professional developments and years of experience to help me along. I hope you try out online learning soon!


starstream profile image

starstream 5 years ago from Northern California

Very informative and it does sound like one would need a lot of patience and be willing to be available at all hours.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 5 years ago from New Jersey Author

Thanks starstream. sometimes trial by fire is the best way to find out if online teaching is for you. But you do learn to not drive yourself crazy by checking e-mail and the course management system several times a day.


vocalcoach profile image

vocalcoach 4 years ago from Nashville Tn.

Very helpful information about online teaching. I do some on line teaching and 'tho I enjoy it, a lot of hard work and time go into it. Voting up on this good hub!

vocalcoach~


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi vocalcoach. I totally agree with you: I like teaching online, but a lot of hard work and time goes into it. Thanks for reading and glad you enjoyed it!


Kristine Manley profile image

Kristine Manley 4 years ago from Atlanta, GA

A lot of food for thought. I don't envy professors' jobs. Great Hub! Voted up.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

There is certainly a lot to think about whether teaching online or in person. And, you are right, it is not an easy job. Unfortunately the profession has become tainted in the U.S. and people have lost a lot of respect for teachers because standards for teachers have dropped for many reasons. Thanks for reading.


dwachira profile image

dwachira 4 years ago from Nairobi, Kenya

Of late, i have found online teaching and tutorials demand increase especially for those who are already working. Nice hub, i have shared and voted up.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

There is no doubt there has been an increase in the need and use of online courses and tutorials. Unfortunately, many people are still slow to catch on that this mode of learning is not for everyone. Companies and other entities are trying to make distance learning the new "one-size fits all" model.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 4 years ago from london

You are a teacher, all right, and an excellent one. Shows in your smile and in your writings. Keep it up.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi manatita44, I can't say my students all appreciate me at the beginning. But once they know I have their best interest in mind they come around. But I love running into my students in future courses when they sign up to take another class with me or if I had them in-person see them in a store or at some function. It is really rewarding in that sense. Thanks for the praise :)


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 4 years ago from london

Good. I, too, have a relationship with my clients outside of work. Not everyone like this. About the praise. My pleasure.


Victoria Lynn profile image

Victoria Lynn 4 years ago from Arkansas, USA

Hi! I've been teaching online English Composition for the community college for the past few years. It is a challenge for sure! All the grading, the need for frequent communication, the computer issues. I can relate to all that you say.

I do teach a couple of in-person classes right now, as well. I enjoy the online, though, because I enjoy being home more than anything! People have to figure out what fits for them.

Great hub! You are right on!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi Victoria Lynn. I am always asked which one I prefer more: online or in-person. But they are such different beasts that it is hard to choose. I do like the option of being home and teaching, but of course the kids are with me so things can become even more stressful. But then there is in-person where the convenience is replaced with all the English paper being printed out and the ability to write right on them and physically see and communicate with the students.


RobinGrosswirth23 profile image

RobinGrosswirth23 4 years ago from New York

Excellent resource for anyone considering the virtual classroom. Thanks.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 4 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hello RobinGrosswirth23.Thanks for the kudos. And thanks for reading and commenting.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 2 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi BharatTutors,

It all comes down to what is best for a particular individual's learning style and circumstances. I know I would have loved to complete an in-person doctoral program and love the interaction face-to-face learning provides. But things just did not work out that way. I am just lucky the I have the type of personality and learning style that also coincides with online learning and teaching.


elsie 2 years ago

Thanks a lot. I'm about to start online teaching that's why I'm gathering some facts about it. God Bless!


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 2 years ago from New Jersey Author

Hi elsie,

I am glad you read my article. Hopefully it was helpful to you. Of course there are many complex factors to teaching online. But then are are complex factors to teaching in-person. The best thing to do is try it for yourself and know that the way each institution and platform works can be quite different. Good luck :)


DebraHargrove profile image

DebraHargrove 9 months ago from North Carolina

Thanks for your article. Online teaching is starting to become more popular. It is a HUGE difference from the classroom setting. I like learning online. You have fewer distractions online. I think I would like to teach in person because you would be able to tell based on the facial expression how the students are responding to the teaching techniques.


StephanieBCrosby profile image

StephanieBCrosby 9 months ago from New Jersey Author

Hi DebraHargrove,

You are welcome. I totally agree that the decision of being in-person or not comes down to an individual's personality. I like learning in both environments or hybrid. But love teaching in-person for the reasons you listed. But with children I find teaching online more convenient.

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