As the realities of this global pandemic started to set in back in February and March, the country’s schools began shutting down or moving all classes online. Many experts believe that this may permanently push the needle toward distance learning. But even before the days of quarantining and social distancing, the world of education was embracing the virtual classroom. In fact, a recent study from Babson Survey Research Group found that nearly 32% of the country’s students are taking at least one online class and that number is growing every year. This move into cyberspace shifts the paradigm for many, especially those who envisioned chalkboards, handouts and in-person interaction when they chose to become a teacher.
Here’s how to get used to the new normal.
Online Teaching Options
If you’re already an employed teacher with an advanced degree, this crisis has likely given your school an opportunity to test online learning strategies. If you’re not (or you find yourself looking for other ways to make money), there are plenty of options for online teaching jobs. Here are a few:
- Adjunct Professor. This is a common role for teachers looking for online jobs. Adjunct professors teach courses at community colleges, technical schools and even 4-year universities, and are often paid per course. Many community colleges, technical schools or religious institutions hire teachers with a bachelor’s degree but most will need a master’s degree. This degree doesn’t necessarily need to be in a teaching field but many colleges may prefer candidates with teaching certification.
- ELL Teacher. English Language Learner teachers typically instruct immigrants who are assimilating into the United States or foreign students who want to learn English for business, fun or utilitarian purposes. The beauty of these teaching jobs is you don’t need to have an advanced degree. A TEFL or TESOL certification, good intercultural communication and fundamental instructional skills are often enough to land a fulfilling job.
- Online Tutor. It may pay a relatively low hourly rate, but online tutoring is a great way to get your foot in the door — it’s flexible, there’s plenty of work and it lets you develop your teaching skills in a range of areas by helping students with homework, test prep and reading.
- Corporate Trainer. Many high-profile companies look for experts to bring their people up to speed through seminars or one-on-one training. Businesses looking to save money typically conduct these courses virtually. If you have lots of knowledge and working experience in a field, you might qualify to teach online as a corporate trainer.
- Online K-12 Teacher. Colleges are the only learning institutions turning to online learning. Many K-12 programs are starting to incorporate hybrid or blended coursework into their curricula, giving state-licensed teachers a chance to move into the virtual learning realm.
How to Prepare for an Online Teaching Job
For many conventional teachers (and those just entering the field), the idea of teaching over an internet connection is, well, weird at first. Thankfully, technology has come a long way and many barriers to online learning have been taken away. In fact, many teachers and students report a better comfort level than even traditional classrooms. That said, there are a couple things you can do to increase that comfort level.
- Tech. You’ll need a decent computer. Most students in college prefer using an Apple computer, so having the same equipment can be critical in making a smooth transition. You’ll also want high-quality headphones and microphone so communication doesn’t suffer. A high-speed, reliable internet connection is a must, too.
- Practice. Ever been to a seminar where the speaker is struggling with equipment? It’s not conducive to learning. Before you conduct a class, get familiar with your tech, test your connection, figure out how to use the online learning software and try to account for any hiccups that might pop up.
- Find Space. You’ll want a space that’s quiet and free from distractions – a buzzing dryer, a panting dog, a crying child or even distracting artwork on your walls can interrupt the flow and hinder the learning process.
Online teaching may look different than a conventional classroom, but many factors remain the same – strong communication skills, a grasp of the materials and a passion for helping others learn. Equipped with these, you’ll be just fine, no matter what the future holds.