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How To Become an Online Teacher in 7 Steps.
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Some teachers work in traditional settings, like public or private schools, while others educate students at their homes or in tutoring centers. Teaching online is another option for educators of all types. Understanding how to become an online teacher can help you decide if this is the career path for you.
In this article, we discuss what an online teacher is and what they do, compare online and in-person teaching, explain how to become an online teacher and answer frequently asked questions.
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What is an online teacher?
An online teacher is an educator who provides lessons and feedback to students through a digital or online platform rather than in a classroom or other face-to-face method. Online teachers often use a combination of traditional teaching tools, like lectures and homework, to educate their students, along with purely digital methods like videos or interactive slideshows. Depending on the organization for which the teacher works, they may or may not need a state-issued teaching license.
What do online teachers do?
Online teachers perform many of the same duties as their in-person counterparts, with a few varied responsibilities. Common online teaching job tasks include:
▶️ Writing lesson plans: Online teachers write lesson plans that meet the standards set by their school or district.
▶️ Leading instruction: Like in-person teachers, online educators provide instruction, either in real-time or through recorded video lessons, to their students.
▶️ Communicating with guardians: Many online teachers use tools like email and text messaging to communicate with their student’s guardians about the student’s educational progress.
▶️ Issuing classwork and homework: Online teachers assign classwork and homework to help students practice specific content-based skills.
▶️ Evaluating student work: Grading student work to determine if the students understand the content and meet the standards is a common online teacher responsibility, though the grading style may differ from traditional teachers.
▶️ Collaborating with peers: Many online teachers collaborate to create cross-curricular lesson plans.
▶️ Reporting results to stakeholders: The online teacher’s administration often asks for student test results and grades to ensure the teachers are providing effective instruction.
Related: 11 Online Jobs for Work Flexibility
Online versus in-person teaching
Online teaching and in-person teaching have the same objective; to provide students with a comprehensive education. The methods used to achieve this goal in online teaching and traditional teaching differ in some important ways:
Some of the prominent features of online teaching that don’t exist in the traditional classroom include:
▶️ Time flexibility: In some cases, you can choose the hours you work. Not every online teaching job requires you to provide synchronous instruction, meaning you can pre-record lessons and post them for students to watch at their leisure.
▶️ Multiple formats: Online teachers can provide traditional-style lessons through video chat, use pre-recorded video technology or share a variety of other digital resources with students.
▶️ Student location: Students aren’t in the same city, state or even country as you when you teach them. For example, many English language immersion courses feature teachers in North America giving instructions to students in Asia.
▶️ Digital work: Online students turn all their assignments in online, freeing online teachers from managing piles of paperwork.
▶️ The number of students: Some online teachers work with a traditional classroom’s worth of students, usually between 20 and 30 pupils, while others work with students in small groups or one-on-one.
In-person teaching generally includes these key features:
▶️ Set hours: In-person teaching requires that educators work specific, set hours and provide both supervision and in-person lessons.
▶️ Tactile tools: In-person teachers can use digital tools like video and mobile devices, but they can also use traditional books and supplies.
▶️ Local students: Most, if not all, of a traditional teacher’s students are local. Some college students may come from different areas of the country or world, but they live in the school’s local area during the school year.
▶️ Physical work: In a traditional classroom, students, in most cases, turn in physical work like worksheets and papers for assessment rather than digital work.
▶️ The number of students: While some teachers work one-on-one with students, most teach classrooms full of students.
How to become an online teacher
If you’re interested in becoming an online teacher, follow these steps to get started:
1. Think about your options
Before you begin your education and training to become an online teacher, there are a few factors you can consider and determine. First, think about what subject or area you’d like to teach. This affects the type of educational program you go into and your potential job choices. Second, consider whether you want to teach for a public school district or a private school or organization. This affects whether you need a teaching license.
2. Earn a bachelor’s degree
It’s nearly a universal requirement, regardless of employer, for online teachers to have a bachelor’s degree at a minimum. Some people earn degrees in education while others earn degrees in their fields of study, like English, chemistry or history. Other students choose to double major in their chosen field and education.
Related: 17 Top Online Tutoring Jobs
3. Seek certification
Determine whether you need a teaching certificate to work in the online capacity you want. Many colleges and universities help facilitate certification for their students as part of their coursework. If your school provides this option, it’s worthwhile to get a license, even if you’re hoping to work for a private school or for another company that doesn’t require certification.
4. Gain experience
Either while earning your degree or following graduation, find opportunities to gain experience. Many students in education programs perform student teaching to get in-classroom experience. Some students choose to tutor students or work for after-school programs to develop additional experience. For online teachers in particular, some experience with writing and implementing digital lessons helps give you a competitive edge when it comes time to apply for jobs.
5. Consider a master’s or doctorate
Some online teaching positions, particularly for post-secondary positions, require an advanced degree. If you’re interested in teaching college-level courses, you likely need an advanced degree. Most college professors earn their master’s or doctorate in their subject area rather than in education.
6. Develop technology skills
While in-person teachers may have some technology skills, understanding how to use specific types of technology effectively is an essential part of being an online teacher. To prepare for an online teaching job, you can familiarize yourself with technology like:
▶️ Video conferencing software
▶️ Word processing programs
▶️ Online classroom management tools
▶️ Cloud-based software
7. Apply for positions
Once you’ve completed your education, gained some experience and prepared for the technological aspect of the job, you’re ready to apply for positions. If you’re hoping to teach for a public school district online, the best way to apply is often to go directly to the school district’s careers page on their website. For private positions, you can review individual websites, use teacher placement services or research job boards like Indeed.
Related: How Much Do Teachers Make?
Frequently asked questions
What is the work environment like for an online teacher?
Most online teachers can work from anywhere since they conduct their lessons entirely online. Many online teachers work from their homes, in which they set up a teaching area where they can comfortably work on camera with their students. Some educators teach both in person and online. These teachers often work out of their traditional classroom for their in-person classes and their online classes.
What subjects or grades can I teach online?
You can teach just about any subject and grade online, with teachers offering classes for children as young as preschool up through continuing education courses for established adults. Some types of classes, like studio art, chemistry and music, are a bit more challenging to translate to an online setting, but many teachers have found effective methods to teach these subjects online.
Why is online teaching beneficial?
Online teaching can be very beneficial for both teachers and students. A few of the primary benefits for teachers include:
▶️ Teachers can work from anywhere, including their own homes.
▶️ Many programs allow teachers to provide instruction both synchronously and asynchronously, giving teachers more time flexibility.
▶️ There are a multitude of online resources teachers can use to help their students learn.
▶️ Often, the assignments and assessments students complete don’t require manual grading, removing a traditional teaching responsibility from the teacher’s schedule.
▶️ With the digitization of school resources like libraries and counseling services, teachers can help connect their students with important tools without ever leaving the online platform.
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