A lot of prospective online instructors write to me with frustration at how long it is taking to land that first job. There are many reasons – not having to do with the one’s ability, motivation, or qualifications – why it is so difficult to “break in”. I review these reasons in our newest 4-week, instructor-led course OnRamp: A Practical to Landing an Online Teaching Job and offer some helpful tips on how to spend that “wait time” productively. I often tell folks to hang in there (for as long as one can, is able, or is willing) because online education is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is only going to continue to grow and instructors, especially well-trained instructors who understand how to effectively deliver an online course with the needs of distance learners in mind, will be more and more in demand.
Growth of Online Education
A very interesting article out of Inside Higher Ed provides data to support the notion that online education is a rapidly growing field – even pre-pandemic. In his 2018 article titled New Data: Online Education Ascends, Doug Lederman provides a number of statistics demonstrating the growth of online learning in higher education over the past few years. I’ll bullet-point a few of those stats here:
- In 2017, overall postsecondary enrollments fell, yet online enrollments substantially grew.
- In 2017, about a third of college students were taking at least 1 online course.
- Many institutions view the creation of online programs as a way to address declining enrollment.
- The growth in online education is largely attributed to traditionally on-ground schools looking to play “catch up” to the growing demand for distance education.
- In public institutions, the growth is due to traditional on-ground learners taking more online classes (they are not exclusively online learners, but supplementing their traditional education with online courses)
- In private institutions, the growth is due to more students enrolling in 100% online courses. Although this data might be skewed by a a high number of nearly online-only private, non-profit institutions like Western Governors University and Southern New Hampshire University.
And Lederman’s article was written pre-pandemic, and we can safely assume that the current and future need for distance education courses has continued to grow as of 2020 and beyond.
Implications for Professional Development
Indeed, one could confidently conclude that “online education is here to stay” at least for the foreseeable future. And this leads institutions, instructors, academics, and researchers to an obvious follow-up thought: If online education is here to stay, then it needs to be darn good. It needs to be done thoughtfully, mindfully, creatively, and guided by research and the expressed needs of online learners. And our metric shouldn’t be “to be as much like an on-ground class as possible.” This metric is outdated and condescendingly assumes that online education is somehow trying to measure up to it’s big brother “on-campus education.” In the same way a parent should not force their younger artistically or musically-inclined son to play football to be more like his star-athlete big brother, an online instructor or an academic institution hoping to develop more online courses should not force their online classes to “be like” their traditional courses. We need a new metric, one that makes the most out of what the distance environment offers.
For instance, rather than focus on attendance, performance on tests or assignments, and student evaluations as the primary outcome measures, in the online environment we should also focus on increasing and enhancing engagement, as we have come to know this as a major predictor in online student success. The asynchronous discussion-based environment provides so much opportunity for dynamic and important interactions that increase one’s immersion in the learning experience. Swan (2003) identified these interactions:
- Interactions between the student and the course content
- Interactions between the student and the instructor
- Interactions between the student and his/her classmates
- Vicarious interactions (the student observing all the discussions between both the instructor and other students and between the their peers).
Therefore, an online classroom environment that encourages all four of these interactions, capitalizes on them, and facilitates them mindfully and on purpose is providing just one example of what is included in a darn good online class.
How We Help
Given what will continue to be a rise in the need for knowledgable, trained online instructors coupled with growing interest in finding online teaching work among educators, we at AdjunctWorld have taken a three-pronged approach to serving our community.
- We bring the jobs to you with what is the largest (and free!) database of online-only teaching jobs on the web, including emailed job alerts for our premium members.
- We train you in the best practices in online delivery via our 4-week, instructor-led online teaching certificate course: Fundamentals of Online Teaching (OT 101).
- We guide you through the often frustrating and difficult process of applying to online teaching jobs with our newest 4-week instructor-led course OnRamp: A Practical Guide to Landing an Online Teaching Job. You leave this class with a fully reviewed and professionally edited CV, cover letter, and Statement of Teaching Philosophy.
Feel free to leave a comment below! We love to hear from members of our growing community!
Lederman, D. (2018). New data: Online education ascends. Inside Higher Ed, retrieved from: https://www.insidehighered.com/digital-learning/article/2018/11/07/new-data-online-enrollments-grow-and-share-overall-enrollment
Swan, K. (2003). Learning effectiveness: what the research tells us. In J. Bourne & J. C. Moore (Eds) Elements of Quality Online Education, Practice and Direction. Needham, MA: Sloan Center for Online Education, 13-45.