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How to become an Online Class Instructor for a University

Updated on November 9, 2014

Some Strategies for Finding an Online Teaching Job

As an adjunct (part-time) instructor at a community college, I simply migrated from classroom teaching to online teaching.

I took advantage of the free training courses that the college offered and, through them, learned how to both tech online as well as how to use the software the college used for delivering online courses.

My online experience has included the teaching of both full online courses, in which the entire course is taught online and the students can literally be located anywhere in the world, and hybrid courses which traditional classroom instruction is augmented with online instruction.

Online courses are becoming very popular with both students and colleges with the result that colleges are continually adding to their online course offerings. This rising demand is creating opportunities for people wishing to teach online.

However, those wishing to teach online courses at the college level must first meet the basic academic requirements which are usually a Masters or PhD degree in the subject area to be taught.

Many schools are also requiring that applicants have experience teaching online or, at least, training in the course management system (CMS) that the institution is using to deliver its online courses.

Home Page for my Macroeconomics self paced course in which I was available to meet with students in person each Monday evening to review work and answer questions but had course content available online.
Home Page for my Macroeconomics self paced course in which I was available to meet with students in person each Monday evening to review work and answer questions but had course content available online.

Start by Getting Hired as an Adjunct Instructor Teaching a Traditional Classroom Class

Probably the best way to get started is to seek an adjunct teaching position at a local college.

A community college is probably your best bet as, in my experience, they tend to have more adjunct positions than four year colleges or universities. Many adjunct instructors at community colleges are individuals who work full time in other fields and have the credentials and/or experience that qualifies them to teach part-time.

These people enjoy teaching as well as the extra income and generally continue to teach their assigned class or classes for many years.

The other big group of adjunct instructors are university graduate students or graduates with advanced degrees who are seeking a career in academia and are teaching part-time to support themselves while continuing to look for a full time teaching position with a college or university.

There is also a smaller, third group, which consists of freelance corporate trainers and consultants who are either semi-retired or have been downsized out of corporate America and are making a living as consultants and trainers.

While there is little turnover with the first group, the other two groups are more fluid with those seeking an academic career leaving as soon as they find a full time position with a college or university and the consultant/trainer group frequently turning down teaching assignments due to schedule conflicts with more lucrative longer term consulting or training assignments outside the college.

Given the turnover of these last two groups, it is often possible, with patience and persistence, to get a job as an adjunct instructor.

In my experience, the best way to get an adjunct teaching position at a community college is to be known and available when an adjunct instructor in one of these last two groups mentioned above leaves.

In my case, an instructor was offered a career level position in another state the day after teaching his first class of the semester. Desperate to find a replacement, the department head immediately called a contact within the college, who also happened to be a contact of mine and knew that I was both qualified and seeking an adjunct assignment, and was immediately put in contact with me.

I took over the class at the start of the second week of the term.

Later, after I had begun working at the college full time managing contract training programs for local employers, I frequently received calls from academic department heads seeking adjuncts (it went the other way as well, as I often called them for help when I needed some one immediately for a corporate training assignment).

A Continuing Education Unit (CEU) professional development course that I designed and teach.
A Continuing Education Unit (CEU) professional development course that I designed and teach.

Getting Your Start by Teachnig Noncredit Courses

The first step in seeking an adjunct teaching position would be to check with the HR departments of colleges in your area for open adjunct positions and then apply for any for which you are qualified.

If there are none available, make contact with the non-credit community education division (or the continuing education division of a four year college or university) to see about teaching non-credit courses.

While many of these are hobby type courses (cooking, dance, golf, etc.) they also offer more serious courses for people seeking to expand their knowledge and skills. As with academic courses, there is some turnover in instructors with non-credit courses and this is one way to get hired.

In addition, most continuing education programs are also looking for new non-credit courses, so another way to get hired in this area is to develop a course (these courses are usually short, lasting from a few hours to a few days) and submit it as a potential course offering that you would like to teach.

If you dig around college websites you will find that most community colleges and continuing education divisions of four year colleges and universities provide both guidelines and forms for submitting new course proposals.

While most noncredit courses are classroom courses, the goal here is to get your foot in the door and begin to network within the institution to get an adjunct position teaching online.

Some institutions also offer training, usually at no cost, for their instructors in how to use their course management system for online teaching.

Taking advantage of this opportunity not only provides additional exposure and networking opportunities for finding an adjunct online teaching position within that college but is also professional training that can be put on your resume when applying at other colleges for an adjunct online teaching position.

K-12 Is Another Option for Experience

In addition to colleges, the K-12 system is also expanding into online education and opportunities for gaining experience may be available in this area.

In most states, rigid teacher certification rules limit teaching employment in public schools to those holding that state's certification for the area to be taught. However, you might be able to get a job in a support area helping to design or manage online courses and then use that experience to qualify for an online teaching position at a college.

Charter schools and home schooling may offer better opportunities. Charter schools are tax supported schools (which means the parents pay no tuition) that operate like private schools in that they are not bound by many of the stifling regulations that shackle regular public schools.

Being market driven, charter schools only receive tax dollars when parents elect to enroll their children in such schools, so quality and customer service are important. Also, unlike public schools, charter schools are rewarded for efficiency in that they get to keep all revenue generated in excess of expenses and online courses can be a cost efficient delivery alternative for some courses.

Since most charter schools are small, you probably won't find work directly with such a school, but should rather seek employment with a company or organization that provides online classes to charter schools.

The same with home schooling. Thousands of children are now being educated at home by their parents. However, most parents are not experts in all subjects and this has given rise to a new industry that provides both traditional materials and curriculum as well as online classes to parents who are home schooling their children.

Some colleges are even getting into this act with divisions that provide traditional correspondence courses as well as online course offerings for home school education. Some even provide an entire curriculum and a high school diploma to students who successfully graduate from their program.

In addition to colleges, private companies and even specialized charter schools are providing online instruction services for home school children. These are the places you should be looking at for employment when seeking online teaching experience in the K-12 area.

Now is the Time to Get Started in This Field

Online education is a new area that is growing rapidly. Demand for quality education at all levels is growing in the United States and other developed nations. In addition, economic development and rising incomes in other parts of the world is adding to the demand for quality education.

Since online education is cost effective, meets individual educational needs and is convenient for both teacher and student, it is an ideal solution to meet the increasing demand for education.

Further, the fact that online education is both relatively new and growing rapidly makes it easier to get into the field both because of the rising demand for teachers as well as the fact that, being new, there has not been sufficient time for vested interests to establish themselves in the field and erect rigid barriers to entry for people wanting to enter the online teaching field.

To help you get started, here are some suggestions and links (in Link Capsule to the right) for additional information:

The first link at the right is the instructor qualifications page listing requirements and openings for online teaching Park University.

The Southern New Hapmpshire University website also contains a page describing its online teaching requirements and a search of that site would probably also have a listing of current openings in online and other teaching areas.

Universal Class Inc., is a a company that provides online education services worldwide. A link to their online teacher application page can be found on the Links Capsule to the right.

Articulate.com is another private company that provides online learning services, products and support to schools and teachers as well as corporate trainers. In the Links Capsule on the right I have provided both a link to their Community Pagewhich has free resources and information for teachers. I have found their Rapid eLearning Blog (one of many they offer) to be especially useful with good information on both online teaching techniques and course design techniques. So I have also included a link to this blog.

K12.com is a company that provides eLearning services and products aimed primarily at parents who are homeschooling their children. A link to the sample courses page on their site is provided in the Link Capsule to the right. This page will give you an idea of what a lower grade level online course looks like.

Finally, while things are changing in education, the profession is still relatively closed and generally only welcomes those who have been formally trained to be professional teachers.

However, as I described in a previous Hub on How to Become a History Teacher, if you have the knowledge and skills to be a good teacher but can't get in the front door of the profession because you haven't bothered to obtain all of the formal credentials, the main purpose of which is mainly to limit entry into the profession, there usually ways to get in via the back door.

My How To Become a History Teacher Hub describes these back door options for teaching history.

© 2008 Chuck Nugent

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    • Chuck profile image
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      Chuck Nugent 4 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      Frenglish - Thanks for visiting my Hub.

      As to your question, here are a couple of suggestions for you. There are two groups on Linkedin.com that I am aware of, and a member of, that focus on online teaching. The first is "Online Professionals: Teaching College Online and Hybrid" and the second is "How to Teach Online". There are probably others as well. Both have a number of people who either teach online or are looking to teach online so you should be able to get some ideas here and possibly make some connections that would lead to a position. I believe that both require participants to be Linkedin members but you can join Linkedin for free. I haven't paid too much attention to these groups recently as between my regular job and my growing writing business I haven't had time to take on more than the one class per term that I have been teaching for a number of years.

      My other suggestion would be to check out private training companies that offer courses online. The only one I am familiar with at the moment is one called ed2go.com. I took a 6 week, non-credit writing class online from them a year ago and was very satisfied with the course. I don't know what their teaching requirements are or if they offer courses in your area(s) of expertise but you can see both a list of their offerings as well as their teaching requirements by going to their home page.

      Good luck.

    • Frenglish profile image

      Frenglish 4 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Thanks for the informative article. Do you know of any online colleges that will hire if you just have at least 18 credits towards a Masers, but have a teaching certification and experience?

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      Ryan 5 years ago

      Moodle courses at The Canadian College of Online Training are very popular, check out the link below for more info:

      https://www.ccollegeot.com/en/online-courses/learn...

    • profile image

      schilds 5 years ago

      I work for the Division of Continuing Education at Georgia Southern University in Statesboro, GA. We are always looking for new instructors who are interested in online instruction. Please feel free to contact me if you would like to discuss possible opportunities - Stephanie Childs, schilds@georgiasouthern.edu or 912.478.5360.

    • profile image

      Roy Dyer 5 years ago

      It is getting easier and easier to not only become educated online, but be able to teach online. Students can now get their entire education online at an institution such as http://www.parkcityindependent.com or www.k12.com. We will see more and more of these as times goes on and higher learning becomes available to more people and more teachers.

    • profile image

      Andrea 5 years ago

      Great information! I would like to have you on my google + circle of teachers. Any other information that you would like to share about online teaching would be much obliged. I put you on my Facebook link as well.

      Thanks again!

    • profile image

      Brook 6 years ago

      Nice hub! I also found instructorpath.com helpful in my search.

      Thanks for sharing!

    • onlinetask profile image

      onlinetask 6 years ago from New Zealand

      i like the way of expression, Nice hub man...

    • Neil Ashworth profile image

      George Poe 7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Nice work. Thanks for sharing..

    • LRobbins profile image

      LRobbins 7 years ago from Germany

      Great resources, thanks. I'm interested in online teaching and will definitely check out some of the links you've recommended.

    • Laura in Denver profile image

      Laura Deibel 7 years ago from Aurora

      Cool, I like your page!

    • Bmystic57 profile image

      Bmystic57 7 years ago from Sheldon,Tx

      Very informative and a great hubpage. I like your style...

      Thanks Chuck!

    • Chuck profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nugent 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      KellyEngaldo - I'm glad this Hub was of help to you. Have you considered writing the postings you want for students and publishing them on HubPages along with your graphics and then linking from your Moodle module? Another way would be to sign up for a free blog account with Google's Blogger, WordPress or other blogging site and post there then link to it from Moodle.

      Good luck and thanks again for your comments.

    • profile image

      KellyEngaldo 7 years ago

      Wonderful hub! - I have consider the on-line instruction - didn't know where to start.

      I just started instructing where I AM allowed complete on-line resources. Moodle does allow some paper uploading of text via PDF. I wish Hub Pages would offer a mimic site just for educators. My postings for my students are simply in list form - whereas Hub Pages allows both graphics and text before and after the links.

    • profile image

      googlebizkit 7 years ago

      hey nice hub i like the way of expersion

    • profile image

      diet 7 years ago

      nice and great information about the online instruction this are great thing for us to know all this things before joining the online exams

    • Chuck profile image
      Author

      Chuck Nugent 7 years ago from Tucson, Arizona

      creativeMind - thanks for the comment. I have never used Moodle but I have heard of it.

      Moodle is an open source LMS (Learning Management System) which performs the same functions as the Blackboard system I described in the article. One difference is that it is my understanding that the basic system is available as a free download. This makes it good for instructors who wish to teach hybrid courses (taught with some of the material online and some in a traditional classroom format) or even fully online if the school they are working at allow. It is also good for K-12 and other schools that wish to offer online courses but lack funding for a commercial system.

      You can download Moodle and learn more about it from: http://moodle.org/

      In addition to moodle.org there is a second site which appears to be the commercial arm of the Moodle organization which offers commercial additions and support for the Moodle LMS. This site is located at: http://moodle.com

      Those interested can check these sites for themselves as I have never used this program and no real knowledge about it other than from a couple of short articles that I have read. Those interested in using it should check with their school's administration and IT Department to make sure that offering online classes and using this or other software is allowed by the school.

      Thanks again for the comment.

    • creativeMind profile image

      creativeMind 7 years ago from Cochin

      Moodle is also used besides blackboard

    • profile image

      Twin XL 7 years ago

      This is some fantastic information. Glad I stopped by!

    • cashmere profile image

      cashmere 7 years ago from India

      Wish the education system in India was so well designed. It is near impossible to get a job as an online teacher for a college here.

    • adjunct profile image

      adjunct 7 years ago from The Big Easy

      I think this is an excellent analysis of what is required to teach online for a college or university. I've been teaching online since hurricane Katrina drove me out of my city for three months. One of the truly great aspects of online teaching for online degree programs is that it is portable. I can literally walk out of my house right now, fly to almost any place in the world and resume teaching my online college courses.

      I spent two weeks in London several years ago and never missed a class meeting because I carried my laptop with me. Also, on payday, all I had to do was hit an ATM and collect my money. As I stood in England with a wad of cash I had earned from teaching students earning online degrees, I remember thinking that online teaching was truly some sort of magic (I guess i'm showing my age with this story!)

      Anyone who possesses the academic merit badges required to teach for an accredited college or university should definitely find out more about the many online teaching opportunities today.

      I can say from direct personal experience that it is quite possible to earn a handsome living teaching online college courses as an adjunct, and the real ability to do so from, say, a cafe in southern France is icing on the cake.

      adjunct

    • Mardi profile image

      Mardi 8 years ago from Western Canada and Texas

      Thanks, hard to find good information about how to do online training from the instructor's perspective.

    • kashifmahmood profile image

      kashifmahmood 8 years ago from Web

      That is a nice job done. Keep them coming !

    • cmduignan profile image

      cmduignan 8 years ago from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

      Thanks for the great info. I'm working as a consultant and trainer out in Vietnam and have started looking into offering online courses as well as working with local universities.

    • profile image

      Phillip Dentse 8 years ago

      Here is an additional resource for those who are looking for a low cost solution but with more features - www.supercandidate.com . The latest version 2008 includes adding video questions, soundbites, and unlimited tests and reports. It is all rolled into one. The cost about 90% less then any competitor mentioned above. Great product I can tell you as a I.T Trainer for a Fortune 500 firm.

    • solarcaptain profile image

      mike king 8 years ago from california

      Well done. Thanks for the information. I became disabled from classroom a few years ago and miss it thoroughly. You have put together some timeloy inforation. Thanks

    • bluewings profile image

      bluewings 8 years ago from Milkyway

      I am pretty sure that the times aren't too far when many parents will opt for distant learning for their children over sending them to institutions to study and then, we might have as many students on distant learning in a class as sitting within the class.Of course the practicals will still have to be carried out live.A hub for the future!

    • ngureco profile image

      ngureco 8 years ago

      A lot of good information. Online teaching and learning will in the long run be beneficial to the developing countries where funds are scarce. I would tend to believe one can make good earnings in this career.

    • Karen Ellis profile image

      Karen Ellis 8 years ago from Central Oregon

      Very well done. Thank you.

    • Woody Marx profile image

      Woody Marx 8 years ago from Ontario, Canada

      Another great hub worth BOOKMARKING! Thanks!

    • rodney southern profile image

      rodney southern 8 years ago from Greensboro, NC

      Fascinating... Great hub

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