How to Become an Online Class Instructor for a University
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.
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).
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.
It Important to Keep Students in Online Classes Motivated
© 2008 Chuck Nugent