When you’re applying for a job, cover letters just go with the territory—teaching positions, in particular. You may have written cover letters for college teaching positions, but have you written one for an online teaching job? There’s a difference.
Your task is to write a cover letter for an online teaching job that paints you as the ideal candidate. Because the letter will accompany your CV, you’ll have the chance to go deeper with the points of your resume, and most importantly, you can explain why you will be the best choice to teach online courses. To do so, you’ll have to be specific about your abilities to teach adults online.
You can begin with a cover letter template of your own creation, shaping it accordingly to different colleges. That is, you don’t have to write cover letters over and over! In this post, we’ll cover some basic information that will make this cover letter different from one that applies to a classroom teaching job, and instead showcases your skills in virtual teaching.
Cover Letters: The Purpose
No surprise that pretty much every college will ask you for a cover letter. After all, this is a job with some weighty responsibilities! In the course of one page, single-spaced, you’ll introduce yourself, taking the opportunity to go into more depth with what is on your curriculum vitae. So where to start?
Start with the job posting. What is it the college is asking for in terms of job description, experience, education, everything? The cover letter is your opportunity to address those points one by one. Consider this as you write: the cover letter is not about what you think are your shining capabilities, but rather what the college needs. Think how many cover letters and CV’s may cross the desk on the far side of this job posting—make yours rise to the top by offering what they want.
For example, here’s a posting from Rock Valley College in Illinois, an online adjunct position in History. Note what they want: for “the student to appreciate the traditions of various cultures, understand the role of change and continuity, and have interests encompassing humanities, social sciences, fine arts, and natural sciences.” This is a good place to begin to color your cover letter, showing how you actually do this as a teacher.
There are other finer points in Rock Valley’s general duties: “creating the class syllabus and planning class content,” along with assessing students. That’s more general, but still, they’ve made clear that, unlike other colleges, the instructor will be designing the syllabus and coursework—in other colleges, that material is provided by the department. Another point to touch on, even if briefly: yes, I have done this, and I am comfortable doing it—in fact, I’m good at it.
Write yourself a draft cover letter and polish it. You could—and probably should—look at many job postings—you’ll begin to notice some patterns in what the colleges are asking for. Shape your letter to that. When you’re satisfied with what you’ve written, keep in mind that you don’t need to completely write a brand new letter for each college you apply for. Instead, go over their job posting carefully, and incorporate specific points the particular college asks for. Oh, and don’t forget to change the name of the college at the header!
Key Points in Your Cover Letter
Considering the fact that you are applying for online teaching jobs, you’re going to absolutely need to specify some important details.
Let’s look at a basic job posting, this one for online adjunct faculty in business. Sierra Nevada College bullet points some responsibilities that we can expect. “Understanding of and ability to apply principles for effective online teaching and learning.” “Experience teaching online, preferably to adult learners.” “Online course development experience with QM is a plus.” Note the emphasis on online teaching and learning, adult students, and the Quality Matters platform for online learning—here is where you’ll address your audience.
Additionally, there are some qualifications the college expects strictly in terms of business experience. “Relevant industry experience” is listed here, as is “experience with internship placement and/or professional development centers,” and even “international business experience”! Answering to these points will demonstrate your prowess in the marketplace, which is exactly what the college wants and students need.
Now let’s put all this information together into coherence: This job posting means you would be teaching adults the concepts of business, and those adults are (most likely) either furthering their careers or starting a new one—and you are the professional who can teach them online, help them secure an internship, and offer professional life experience. In here lie the “key words” that an application for this position must specify.
Let’s look at the key words.
Start with “online distance education.” Do you have experience teaching online? If so, get that in your letter, and include an anecdote if it’s appropriate. Naturally, you can talk about other teaching experience, as well—but what if you don’t have online teaching experience? Then explain why you want to teach online, and how you’re prepared to do so. Do you have any professional development in online teaching? In the letter it goes!
Include your experience with adult learners. Most students in online programs are adults, and they have unique needs that you will be expected to appreciate. Describing how you will meet those needs is paramount. Whatever knowledge and training you have in adult learning theory—in andragogy, that is—you should let the college know that.
Bring in any occupational experience you have within the field you are applying to teach in. This is your professional, “real world” experience. In terms of teaching psychology, nursing, or social work, the experience of clinical work, running shifts in a hospital, or helping the public navigate paperwork to get benefits is invaluable. How will you use your experience to teach adult learners? You’ve learned a lot on the job no doubt; recall your own training, whether in college classes or on-the-job: what worked? What was relevant?
What experience do you have with learning management systems, or the “LMS” for short? All online programs are going to make use of some kind of LMS software, like Blackboard or Moodle or Google Classroom. If you’ve used one of these programs, make that evident—even if it’s not the specific one they’re using. Some colleges offer training in their particular LMS, and that’s great—but showing that you’re ready to go and will not need to start from scratch is a big leg-up. Figure out which LMS the school uses and, if you are unfamiliar with it, see if you can get some training. Rock Valley College specifies that the teacher will need to utilize EAGLE, their LMS. In another posting, the University of North Carolina at Pembroke specifies that they use Canvas.
In fact, any training you’ve had as an online educator—classes you’ve taken, conferences you’ve attended—should fit into your letter. This shows that you yourself are an “adult learner,” willing to commit yourself to doing an excellent job and keeping yourself abreast of the latest developments and research in online education and andragogy. Lifelong learning matters!
Finally, as I mentioned before, be sure to address the specific requirements a college asks for. Some, for example, ask for certain certifications—if you have them, or are in the process of getting them, be sure to include that information.
Make It Personal
This could be said for any cover letter, but I’ll say it anyway: it doesn’t hurt to show your enthusiasm. If applying for an online teaching job is exciting, say so. If teaching adults and helping them network professionally is fulfilling, let them know.
Bluegrass Community and Technical College, in their posting for online psychology adjuncts, makes a point that “BCTC provides excellence in learning and service with caring, experienced professors…and a focus on student success.” Further down, there’s another value that comes up in their description, and that is the point that their customized workforce training serves more than 500 businesses annually, and that the college maintains partnerships with the community it serves to “improve economic vitality and quality of life in the region.” If that’s a value you uphold, say so in your letter.
It goes without saying that one can search online for any number of cover letter templates. You are cautioned against this! There are some basic structures you can follow—and we offer them through our OnRamp course—but aside from that, the heart of your letter should really be, well, your heart! Passion is a defining characteristic of a teacher, and that passion should come through in your words. Don’t overdo it, of course, but make the case that your excitement will be passed along to students.
We offer more insights into the online teaching job cover letter in two other blog articles:
- How Do I Write a Cover Letter for an Online Teaching Job with No Experience?
- How Do I Write a Cover Letter for an Online Teaching Job?
- Breaking Down the Online Teaching Job Application Process
Need Help with your Online Teaching Job Cover Letter?
Do you need individualized feedback on your cover letter? In our OnRamp course, we will do that—along with answering your questions about the job market, reviewing and editing your Statement of Teaching Philosophy and your CV, and even offering suggestions on interview questions. Look over the full course description and register easily online. You can also check out some of the kind things our graduates have said over on our OnRamp: Reviews and Testimonials page.