If you’re in the business of teaching, an online course could very well be in your future. With the rapid rise of online school enrollment — at both K-12 and college levels, institutions are preparing for an increasing demand for teachers who can make the transition to an online education format.
In 2014, 5.8 million students in higher education had enrolled in at least one distance education course – up from 4.6 million in 2008, according to a report in WCET Distance Education Enrollment 2016. For grades K-12, more than 316,000 students were attending online schools during the 2013-14 school year, with 30 states offering fully online statewide schools, according to an article in Ed Tech Magazine.
As students seek out the benefits of an online education – including flexibility and easy access to more educational options, enrollment is showing no signs of slowing down.
Here are 6 things you should know about making the adjustment to teaching in an online environment.
1. Set up your “virtual office.” As with any other job, if you’re working remotely, you’ll need a good working environment that allows you to focus without distractions. Ideally, this workspace should be included in a separate room of your home or at least a designated section of a larger room. Equip it with everything you would need if you were working in a traditional school setting, including a desk, a comfortable chair, an up-to-date computer and strong internet connection. The setting should be used exclusively for your work.
2. Get comfortable with the technology. Switching from a regular classroom to an online classroom will take a bit of an adjustment if you’re not used to talking to students outside of four enclosed walls. Don’t wait until a week or two before the start of class to familiarize yourself with the digital experience. Test everything out to ensure you’re familiar with your designated school’s online platform.
3. Take an online course yourself. If online education is truly unchartered territory for you, enroll in an online course to pick up a few pointers from teachers who are experienced in online education. Whether you’re interested in photography or jewelry-making as a hobby or financing for your personal household, you can find numerous online short courses for adults. Take one to get a better grasp on what an online education looks and feels like.
4. Plan your curriculum with the online experience in mind. If you have been teaching for any amount of time, it’s probably second nature to pull together a lesson plan. But planning for an online classroom environment will present its own set of unique challenges. Think of ways to over communicate to your students since you won’t have the benefit of observing them in person to make sure they “get it.” Provide materials to students well in advance of the start of class so they can anticipate what will happen as part of the online curriculum.
5. Find ways to promote engagement. One of the most enriching parts of a classroom environment is the stimulating discussion among students. Think of creative ways to encourage that type of engagement in your online classroom, including posing open-ended questions related to the class material.
6. Encourage students to contact you. If you were in a traditional school environment, students might feel more inclined to approach you about any questions or concerns. Make sure you frequently encourage students to contact you. Also, invite feedback on how the course is working for them.
Online school is providing both students and teachers alike increased flexibility to participate in a classroom environment. By exploring online education as another option for teaching, you can expand your options for your teaching career. With the right approach, the transition can be completed with ease.