Online Teaching As a Career: Advice From a Modern Educator

There is a gold rush going on now in the field of online learning and it is the pursuit of teaching online. There are new master’s degree programs that are focused on teaching with technology, along with degree programs related to instructional design. There are authors that tout the seemingly endless opportunities available for teaching online courses, and one set of authors that want you to believe you can earn a six figure income as an adjunct online instructor.

There was a time not too long ago when online learning was gaining popularity, that there were plenty of opportunities available to teach online. But that time has changed, especially due to the increased number of schools that offer online classes. Potential students have a wealth of schools to choose from now when they want to earn a degree online. In addition, there has been a decline in enrollment for some of the for-profit schools because of intense scrutiny by regulators and the student loan crisis. What is needed now more than ever is a realistic overview of online teaching, from someone who is been highly involved in the field as a Modern Educator.

A Perspective about Students

I have been involved in the field of online learning now as a Modern Educator for over nine years. I have taught online courses for traditional colleges as well as for-profit universities. My perspective is not limited to just one school and I have also worked with online faculty development and online curriculum development. There are a few generalities I can make based upon this experience and the first is about the online student base. With the for-profits there generally is not an entrance exam or evaluation made of the skill sets that potential students may have (or not have) and that means the doors are wide open. With for-profits they have to compete for new enrollments and as a result they will accept those who are not well-suited for this environment and those who are grossly academically underprepared. To get students enrolled the value of a degree as to be sold and it is often over-sold with highly creative ads. And the real indicator of the underlying problem for online learning is the retention rate, which is 30% on an average for undergraduate students.

A Perspective about Faculty

Several years ago, when there were numerous adjunct opportunities, a master’s degree was accepted as a minimum qualification for teaching undergraduate students. Now there is a large pool of adjunct instructors, a significant number of people who want to teach online, and many who are seeking a degree so they could teach online – with fewer job opportunities available. Now it is not uncommon to see a job listing with a doctorate degree stated as the preferred minimum credential, even for undergraduate courses. In addition, when a job opening is listed there will likely be hundreds of resumes sent.

Once you are lucky enough to get on board as an adjunct there are never any guarantees made about your continued employment. You could be a long-term employee and without notice find yourself let go as departmental priorities change. There’ve been some full-time positions teaching online, but those jobs are even fewer and very difficult to obtain. Preference may be given to internal employees and current adjuncts may have to compete with external candidates. And then there is the issue of salary. Some full-time positions may require advanced degrees and pay a marginally acceptable rate. Some for-profits also prefer to hire instructors with minimal experience, simply to keep the cost of salaries down.

Managing Your Expectations

It may seem that I have painted a very bleak picture of the industry I am in – and that is not my point. What I want to do is to help manage the expectations about teaching online. If you are student now and have little to no teaching experience, and believe you will gain a full-time job earning a six figure income right out of school, you have very unrealistic expectations. If you want to teach online because it sounds easy or likely fun, you believe it will provide steady income, or you teach well now in a traditional classroom setting, you will still need to manage and possibly adjust your expectations.

Online teaching requires a significant investment of time if you want to be good at it, and it requires a specialized skill set to teach in a technologically enable environment. If you want to teach online because you are interested in helping others learn, and you are willing to learn and adapt, you will be more successful if you accept to working without future guarantees. The key to successfully teaching online is to make a commitment to your ongoing professional development and building a resume that demonstrates your interest in and capacity for online teaching.

Strategies to Build a Career

– Continue Your Professional Development: Earning a graduate degree is an important step taken for your career. However, as an educator you know the value of ongoing development and the need to keep your knowledge base current. Your commitment to the field of education means that you need to continually update your skills and strategies. While some schools have mandatory professional development requirements, you can make it a regular practice. For example, many online associations offer webinars at little or no cost. The point is to stay current in the field of online learning.

– Develop an Engaging Online Presence: If you are an online educator you can transform into a Modern Educator. This means you teach online and you can engage with a much broader academic community online. There are several options available for establishing an online presence. LinkedIn allows you to join professional groups. Twitter is a helpful networking resource that allows you to connect with the global academic group and share resources. Whatever options you choose, be certain to carefully manage your image and be aware of the digital footprint left behind with everything you post.

– Become Published with Articles, a Blog, or E-Books: The traditional route for a college professor is to conduct research and publish articles in scholarly journals. As a Modern Educator my primary focus is publishing work that can immediately reach other educators and students – and I have done this through a blog, online articles, and e-books. I recommend you take the same approach and find a platform to share your knowledge and expertise, whether you offer it for free or you monetize it.

– Develop a Professional CV with Impact: If you are going to apply for online teaching jobs then you should know there will be strong competition. This means your CV will not only represent you, it needs to provide a clear indication that you are highly qualified. Make certain that it is well-edited, well-formatted, well-written, and demonstrates your commitment to the field of online learning through associations, professional development, and sources of your work as a published author.

– Acquire Teaching or Training Experience: There was a time when a master’s degree and a little experience was all someone needed to secure an online teaching job. Now that the number of jobs available is in short supply, and the number of applicants as increased, every aspect of your background will count. You will need some experience either in teaching or training so look for opportunities to do this. For example, look for opportunities to teach a class at your local community college. Or perhaps there is a local association that would allow you to conduct training classes. The purpose is to demonstrate that you are capable of teaching adults how to learn.

Demand for Modern Educators

I have worked for a variety of institutions that offer online classes. Some treat their employees well and offer regular classes to teach and others treat their adjuncts as disposable instructors and keep them sidelined until they need them. It is understandable that enrollment numbers are going to fluctuate and so too will be your teaching assignments. However, the lack of consistency and appreciation for good instructors is an ongoing problem for some institutions. I have been fortunate to work for online schools that value their faculty, including their adjunct instructors. And I worked hard to establish myself as a highly engaged instructor. The point of this is that when you are able to gain an adjunct position you want to make certain that you have the time necessary to meet and exceed the facilitation requirements. If you are provided with an opportunity to take on leadership roles or faculty development, do so as it can help bolster your CV.

Is online teaching a lucrative career? As an adjunct it is possible that over time you will develop more options for your career, especially with ongoing professional development, but you won’t always have complete job security or regular benefits. If you are able to secure a full-time teaching position you will likely gain a better degree of job certainty. The best advice I can offer is to develop your interest in online teaching as a career strategy and carefully manage the development of your role as a Modern Educator. With time and professional development you will likely be able to get your break. Just be sure you manage expectations and establish a realistic purpose for this type of work as a career choice.

Getting Important Methodologies Like ABA in Your Child’s Special Education Program

Are you the parent of a young child with autism that thinks that your child needs an applied behavioral analysis (ABA)program? Are you the parent of a child with dyslexia or other learning disabilities who thinks that your child needs an Orton-Gillingham Based multisensory reading program? Would you like to learn how to advocate for these particular methodologies for your child? This article will discuss what methodology means, and information that you can use to advocate for the appropriate methodology for your child.

Methodology means the specific curriculum or program that special education personnel are going to use, to teach your child. Some of the most popular methodologies for teaching children are ABA (for children with autism) or an Orton-Gillingham based multisensory reading program for children with dyslexia or other reading disabilities.

Many special education personnel continue to tell parents that they have no right to tell them what methodology to use. Below are 4 points that you can make with school personnel to get the methodology that your child needs in order to benefit from their education.

1. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) 2004 states under 300.26 that: special education means specially designed instruction means adapting as appropriate to the needs of the eligible child . . .the content, methodology, or delivery of instruction.

This section is one of the most important clarifications in the IDEA law. It
gives parents the right to discuss the content, methodology and delivery of education to their child. The discussion of methodology is important for all children but especially those children with autism or language based learning disabilities.

2. In a recent court case entitled KL vs. Mercer Island School District found that: The particular teaching methodology that will be used. . .will need to be discussed at the IEP meeting and incorporated into the student’s IEP.

3. Another court case the US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois discussed methodology in the case of TH vs. Palatine School District. The court held that the school’s argument that it had the right to choose methodology was not valid since the school district had no methodology. The US Supreme Court decision in Rowley could only apply if the school had chosen and implemented a methodology calculated to allow the child to make meaningful progress.

4. There is no legal basis for school districts decision to not discuss or specify the methodology in a child’s IEP! School districts position on this contradicts common sense. IDEA regulations require that the IEP should include related services and supplementary aids and supports to be provided to the child, and a statement of the program, modifications or supports. It is mind blowing that school districts take the position that it should specify the supports and modifications which may be dependent on the methodology, but not specify the methodology.

If you feel that your child needs a particular methodology in order to benefit from their education, bring it up at an IEP meeting. If the IEP team feels that they do not have to put the methodology in your child’s IEP, bring up all of the 4 points above! Put special emphasis on the wording of IDEA which does include the word methodologies. You may have to fight for a particular methodology that your child needs, but it will be well worth it!

Special Education Acronyms – What Do All Those Letters Mean?

Do you sometimes wonder what some of the Acronyms in special education mean? Do the acronyms make your head spin? This article will discuss common special education acronyms and what they mean. This will make it easier for you to actively participate in your child with disabilities education.

1. FAPE: stands for Free Appropriate Public Education. Each child has the right under IDEA to receive a free appropriate public education.

2. IDEA: stands for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act; which is the federal law that applies to special education.

3. IDEA 2004: This is the federal law that was reauthorized in 2004. If you see this in an article, it usually means that something was changed in IDEA, by the reauthorization in 2004.

4. LEA: stands for the local educational agency, which is your local school district.

5. SEA: stands for the state educational agency, which is your states board of education.

6. IEP: stands for the Individual Educational Plan, which must be developed for every child that receives special education services.

7. LRE: stands for Least Restrictive Environment. LRE means that children with disabilities need to be educated in the least restrictive environment, in which they can learn. LRE starts at the regular classroom, and becomes more restrictive.

8. NCLB: stands for the No Child Left Behind Act.

9. IEE’s: stands for an Independent Educational Evaluation. These are initiated and paid for by parents, to help determine their child’s disability or educational needs.

10. IEE’s at Public Expense: stands for an IEE where the school district pays for it. There are rules that apply to this, that you must learn before requesting an IEE at public expense. Many special education personnel try and do things that are not allowed under IDEA, so you need to educate yourself.

11. ASD: stands for Autism Spectrum Disorder, which some school districts use in their paperwork.

12. ADD: stands for Attention Deficit Disorder.

13. ADHD: stands for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.

14. PWN: stands for Prior Written Notice. Parents must be given PWN when the school district wants to change things in the child’s IEP. (such as eligibility, change services, refuse to change services etc.).

15. ABA: stands for Applied Behavioral Analysis that is an educational treatment for Autism.

16. SID: stands for Sensory Integration Disorder. A lot of children with Autism have difficulty with sensory integration.

17. SPD: stands for Sensory Processing Disorder which is the same as above, but some people in the special education field, call it different names.

By understanding the acronyms used by special education personnel, you can be a better advocate for an appropriate education for your child.