Online College Professor

By Carol Natoli

Will you as a teacher be available “live” for an online college course?  Many teachers think that it is easy to teach online; not every circumstance of every course taught can be done in a chat-room or as a pre-recorded lecture.  Some courses are treated as teleconference and live webinars, so before you commit to an “after hours” online job, read all of the fine print and know what you have applied for.

Many universities use Blackboard as way to communicate ideas, lessons, and conversations with students.  If you are new to that interface and are used to teaching only in a classroom, you have to be aware of the learning curve.  As a teacher you have to be more than comfortable navigating your way around Blackboard before assignments are given. If a chat room is used, you have to know how it works.  For the colleges or universities using pre-recordings or videos, it is for the benefit of the students. They can replay them, add to their notes, and reinforce what has been taught. BlackboardLearn  has changed the way that you can teach a class, keeping things simple, fun, and flexible for both you and the students.

For the professor or teacher, accurate record-keeping is crucial. While holding the data on the computer is new compared to the physical record books, it is important to have a backup and safely store the grades. Do not give a due date at a time when you are at your day job.  Make the due date and time of an assignment at a time when you can immediately start marking the assignments so that the turnaround time is quick for your students.

A good piece of advice is to have the students send you a picture of them so you can put a face with their name and note when each student responds or posts a question or answer in the forum that you have suggested.  Fair assessments are necessary and you do not want to mix up anyone’s responses or treat each student as a statistic.  Having their faces available will gently remind you that they are individuals who want to learn and have paid for the course you are giving. 

You also have to be aware that this type of teaching is different than teaching an online course through your local college.  There may be time differences with students taking your courses.  You might want to post “office hours” where you will be available “live” to answer questions, just as you would “on campus”. 

While you might think that working online will be easy and can be done as second job, do not underestimate the time that goes in to setting up the course, consistently answering student questions, giving the lecture, recordkeeping, and marking papers.  Doing the calculations with weighted grades takes time and should not be looked at as a burden.  If the task is too large, then one should not take the job.

Also be aware of online scams when you apply for long-distance learning, as the facilitator.  Some of these institutions are not legitimate and while their interface seems to appear legitimate for the untrained eye, be aware of what is real and not real.  Just as students pay for the courses and expect something in return, such as your attention and college credit, you deserve to get paid in a rather quick and uncomplicated manner. View a complete list of accredited online colleges.

At one time, online videos did not exist, even when colleges were starting to use online platforms.  Just as with anything, while you as a teacher or professor knows your content and considered an expert in, do not let the avenue of technology slow you down.  If you expect students to keep pace with the societal changes, you too, have to keep abreast of things.  If you go into online education from the students perspective, then you as an educator or facilitator will do a much better job being the instructor.  After all, remember, that all students can learn, even yourself!