Online education, or distance education, is booming and nearly every major university now offers online courses. Several top tier institutions are even considering expanding their online offerings in order to pay for increasingly crucial administrative support staff. I’ve been teaching online for 5 years now and have enjoyed meeting new students as well as the benefits of the additional income. In the coming years I suspect I will be asked to teach online, full time.
Online education provides an excellent source of additional income per semester. Non-tenured instructors can earn and extra at least an extra $2,500 per course, enough to cover a coffee habit for the entirety of graduate school, a new Mac or PC, or a trip out of the country. Once a course is designed and set up, the same material can be used semester after semester, minimizing prep time and maximizing the return on time spent on initial course development.
Students and faculty regularly ask me “how do I teach online?? The process is not simple, but it does take some time to learn how to teach online. Interested graduate students and junior faculty can take a couple of simple steps to make the transition to online education:
- Hold a Masters Degree. A masters degree, either in hand or to be completed by the time instruction starts, is usually required before instruction can begin. This means that if you are working on a masters degree you can apply to teach and start putting your class together. Just be sure the dean of the college you plan to teach at knows you will have your MA by the time instruction begins.
- Earn a Blackboard Certification. Blackboard, now in its ninth version, is the standard teaching platform for online courses. Learning how to teach with Blackboard, even if you have taken online courses as a student, requires some time. Fortunately, most 4-year colleges and universities and almost all two year colleges, allow interested faculty to take a Blackboard Certification course for free. If you tale this course you not only learn the minimum skills, but have an additional line on your resume that makes you stand out.
- Redesign your courses for online education. Before you apply for online education, take your favorite syllabus and redesign it for an online course. Make new quizzes and exams, consider how you will present your lectures, and redesign discussion questions to have greater focus for a text driven discussion. In doing so, you will start to understand some of the challenges you might face designed online courses. This not only helps you with course design, but also gives you material to discuss during the job interview.
- Learn by doing and do something new each semester. Online education can be fun and rewarding. One of the best ways to learn how to teach is to teach. Jump in and apply a new technique every semester.
Online education provides an excellent opportunity for graduate students and Jr. faculty to gain additional teaching income while expanding their income stream. Have you taught online before? What did you think about it and what are your suggestions for a new instructor?