Most of us remember March, 2020 as being the month where—as far as education goes—pretty much most brick-and-mortar classrooms were empty. Classes, as we knew them, transitioned nearly entirely online. How did history classes fare? Here’s what the American Historical Association said in their news magazine: “History classes, in particular, are generally more adaptable to an online format than many other courses, precisely because the skills we value involve words and critical reflection—the ability to read closely, identify and weigh evidence, engage in informed debate and discussion, and write analytically and persuasively. These are qualities that are readily transferrable to the digital realm.”
To put it simply, it’s easy to post readings online and have discussions around those readings, also online. Students write and those writings get uploaded into a learning management system for the teacher’s perusal. It so happens that teaching college history courses as an online adjunct is a job very much in demand. Like any other course, it has its challenges to master, but history is a class that readily adapts to the online environment.
So how can you become an online adjunct history professor? Where are the available jobs? And what can you expect to do as an online history teacher? Read on to learn more.
Can You Teach History Online?
College history is one of the main courses you can teach online. As the American Historical Association suggested, history is suited for online learning.
The AHA points out three areas of learning: reading, discussion, and writing. The online, asynchronous format can allow for all of these—in many ways, at the students’ convenience, and certainly at the instructor’s convenience, as well.
Readings, for example, are easily posted online through a learning management system, an LMS, and students can quickly download them and read them in their given time. Discussions in online classes are easily held on discussion boards, where students can respond to questions and hold debates, while the teachers themselves can respond as needed. Writing, as well, is easily posted to an LMS, making it easy for the instructor to download, evaluate, and upload thoughtful comments.
The nature of the history class, therefore, absent of things like “labs” where a student really would have to be present, makes it easily translatable to the online environment. If you teach history—or want to—then the online forum will allow you a lot of latitude, notably minus the commuting and the need to be in certain classrooms at certain hours on certain days. Your schedule (and the students’) is entirely up to you, at least within the parameters of the semester.
One of the benefits that accrued during the mass of online classes due to the pandemic was that new resources and tactics were drawn up by professionals like yourself and shared. The University of Washington, for example, posted a page of resources and best practices that is still available (as of this writing). A professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education likewise posted some thoughts and ideas.
What Do You Need to Be an Online History Professor?
So you’re thinking, this sounds good. What do you need to begin?
- First, you’ll need the right college degree. As far as the degree requirement goes, the baseline will generally be a master’s degree in history. In some cases, that master’s degree—in your discipline, of course—will need to be accompanied by graduate credit hours in the teaching discipline; eighteen hours is a general number. Conversely, you could hold a master’s degree in the teaching of history. You could also have a master’s related to history, so long as you have eighteen graduate hours in the discipline itself.
- Many colleges, particularly large schools, will look for experience in an academic environment—that is, they want to know you’ve actually worked in a college before. However, that does not mean you need to have worked as a “professor” before, or even an instructor. It could mean having been a graduate assistant, or even a tutor at a college. Don’t underestimate such experience! Anywhere you have worked as a student or with a professor is game for your application.
- In the case of online teaching, you will benefit from having online teaching experience. Not every school will require it—and some may even offer training in online teaching, sometimes required or sometimes not—but if they do, again, this need not have been in a college. You could have taught an online course for middle school, or of your own devising. Be creative with your experience; many things count as good work experience, and a college in need may readily accept the experience you have to offer.
I should mention here that, depending on the job the college is offering, you may need a Ph.D. to teach. Graduate schools needing adjuncts will require this. But there are frequently jobs at both the undergraduate and graduate level, so you needn’t be limited.
How Do You Become an Online History Professor?
The question here is, now that I know I want to teach history as an online adjunct, what do I actually need to do? First, you’ll need the right materials. All of these materials, now that we’re firmly in the 21st century, can easily be done online, uploaded to a college’s job site.
- As I said above, you’ll need your graduate degree, but you’ll also need your college transcripts; definitely transcripts of your postgraduate work, although have our undergraduate transcripts handy as well.
- You will likely need a letter of application—a cover letter, basically. In that letter, which should not go over a page, you’ll have to cover some ground: what is your academic experience as a teacher, especially online? Have you used an LMS, and if so, which one? You can offer, too, a brief but concise teaching philosophy (and in some cases, a college may ask for a separate document containing your teaching philosophy).
- You will need your curriculum vita—aka your vita, or just plain CV. Detail your education, where you graduated from and when. List your job experience, including any online teaching experience, or else traditional teaching. Have you had publications, grants, research? They are not required of adjuncts for the most part, but you can add them—showing your enthusiasm in the discipline can only help.
- Some colleges will ask only for references with contact information, and others will ask for three current letters of recommendation. Always have those ready.
Note, too, that some colleges maintain a “pool” of applicants, from which they draw according to need (which is to say, they may not always have enough classes to teach). Others will hire for a specific position altogether. Their websites will make this clear.
A quick look at a college—Kentucky State University, a Historically Black College and University, hiring for adjuncts in history—shows exactly what they are asking for of applicants. The minimum qualification is a master’s degree, with eighteen hours in a history content area, where a specialization in African-American History is preferred. Applicants must submit a letter of application, including graduate transcripts, a CV, and three letters of recommendation.
Adjunct History Professor Jobs are Online
A general search for online history teaching jobs quickly turns up a number of postings. Indian River State College in Florida set up a post that is helpful in that it details expectations, responsibilities, and more.
IRSC’s requirement to teach is a master’s degree, though they prefer a doctorate. They want to know not only that you have teaching skills (and they prefer two to five years, but it is not a requirement per se) but that you appreciate cultural diversity—Florida is very diverse in population, as you might imagine. Experience with computers and technology across the board is needed. They want you to meet the credentialing requirements for the Southern Association for Colleges and Schools.
Aside from general teaching expectations—grading papers, assigning grades, and so on—you must maintain posted office hours and participate in department and adjunct meetings.
Trine University in Indiana has a posting for teaching social sciences, history, political science and government—all online. They have “minimum technology requirements” and expect enthusiasm to be conveyed to students. As if you wouldn’t! But it’s good to know they value that.
Rock Valley College in Illinois has their own LMS, called EAGLE, and expect as a minimum only a master’s degree in history—and because this is the bare minimum, a college like this may be a good place to start. You can begin building teaching experience, if you’ve never taught before, that you can carry on to other schools.
It’s clear that history classes are made for online delivery. The future promises that all online programs will grow, and history is no exception. The move to online college coursework is historic—if you’ll forgive the pun. Well, and if you can forgive another pun, by taking on courses as an online adjunct history instructor, you can essentially be a part of that history. You might even make history—isn’t that what teachers do, daily?
AdjunctWorld adds online teaching jobs to its database every day, and this is an excellent resource for finding the perfect teaching position in history. Now is as good a time as ever to begin a career as an online adjunct in history—the discipline has found itself a comfortable niche online, and it looks as though it’s there to stay.