The Ins and Outs of Teaching Online

GraduationThere are many differences between traditional and online colleges and universities, and that includes what it takes to effectively teach courses. Not having the opportunity to meet students in person is one very important difference. Teachers can’t use and interpret tone or body language to communicate, so it can be hard to ensure that a lesson is being properly understood. Also, there are no traditional group projects in online education. While students are still able to collaborate over the phone and through using the internet, they miss out on face-to-face interactions that are important for some types of group work. Finally, group discussions work differently. Students have more time to formulate a response on discussion boards, which can be nice, but it can also make the flow of discussion much slower. While an online chat may be effective, these can become difficult to keep in order. With these and so many other differences between online and traditional education, it’s easy to wonder why someone would want to transition to online teaching.

Benefits of Online Teaching

Although the transition to online teaching can be challening, it can also benefit educators in many ways. For example, some teachers can use online teaching to explore their understanding of education in new ways. Some teachers may even bring the tools they learn about while teaching online, like the use of a threaded online message board or using web-based course calendars, into a traditional classroom setting. Other benefits include the personal satisfaction of reaching students who might otherwise not be able to get an education and the convenience granted from teaching online. Oftentimes, teachers with family obligations find that teaching an online course gives more flexible work hours. Although traditional teachers might find online education compelling, they may not know how to start teaching online.

Tools Used With Online Teaching

There can be many hurdles for teachers who want to teach online aside from the differences in teacher-student interaction. Teachers need to become familiar with the technology they are using in their online coursework, as familiarity with the tools of online education is needed to fully engage students. There are several “real-time” or synchronous tools teachers must be familiar with for online education. These include using live chat applications, audio and video conferences, shared whiteboards, data and application sharing, and understanding how to joint view multimedia presentations. In addition to these “real-time” tools, there are also “time-delayed” or asynchronous tools teachers need to be proficient in using. These include email messaging, moderating discussion boards, using bulletin boards, and attaching files. Some of these technologies may seem simple while others may take some time to get familiar with. Luckily there are tons of resources for people interested in learning how to teach online.

Learning How To Teach Online

One of the most popular ways to learn how to teach online is by enrolling in a certification program. While some educators have learned how to teach online independently, certification programs offer many benefits including a more uniform education. These programs, like most education these days, can be traditional or online. Many programs teach courses such as Introduction to Online Teaching and Learning, Teaching Models for Online Instruction, Technology and Tools for Online Instruction, Designing Curriculum for Online Instruction, Assessment in E-Learning, and Creating collaborative Communities in E-Learning.

Both traditional programs and online programs will offer students their established curriculum and high quality instruction. However, learning how to teach online using an online program can give future educators an insider perspective on what it means to learn online. Not only will they be able to teach online, but they will have first-hand experience in learning online, so they will be more in tune with what their students’ needs and hurdles are. No matter what though, there are some clear advantages and challenges when teaching online.


About Sarah Bass

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Sarah manages the editorial operations for Best Online Universities. Her responsibilities include proofing, editing, and developing content for the company’s Web sites. Sarah holds a bachelor’s degree from Drake University and an MA in Writing from DePaul University. When she isn't working on new and entertaining articles for BestOnlineUniversities.com you will most likely find her curled up with a good book, walking her dog, Roger, or breaking the sound barrier on the Nürburgring.