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THE MEDIA CENTER: What’s It Like to Teach an Online Class?

By Mary Alice Anderson - Posted Nov 1, 2010
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Online education has become mainstream in higher education, with 25% of college students taking online courses. Adult learners typically prefer online to face-to-face courses because of the convenience and opportunity to take classes that are not available close to home. Educators take graduate classes to acquire an advanced degree, for professional growth, or to acquire additional certification that enhances their professional future. The exponential growth in elearning offers rewarding career opportunities for school media and technology specialists wishing to expand their own professional careers as online instructors.

Online teachers represent all fields of education and even noneducation careers. In 2009, nontenured faculty members were more likely to be online instructors than tenured faculty. Many are adjunct faculty, teaching online courses in addition to another career; others teach only online. Most have a master’s degree while others have an M.Ed., a Ph.D., or training in online teaching and learning. Their perspectives represent experiences teaching for multiple brick-and-mortar universities and for-profit online schools.

My online teaching colleagues have diverse educational backgrounds ranging from elementary classrooms to high school English or social studies classes, as well as special education. Commonalities also include backgrounds in technology, curriculum and instruction, and instructional design. Many describe themselves as experienced in working with adult learners as staff developers and workshop presenters. Several were school media specialists and early adopters of technology. Jo Dervan said her experience as a library media specialist made her more familiar with computers and computer applications. “I had to learn much about technology to maintain a current media center,” she noted. “When I started teaching online, I was able to transfer those skills to the new job.” Good organization, time management, and communications skills, flexibility, experience in working with diverse learners (and compassion for what they are experiencing), and a passion for lifelong learning are other traits that are beneficial for media specialists and other educators considering online teaching. “What’s it like to teach online?” What’s it like to teach adult learners?


Instructors who shared their ideas for this article believe online teaching is very rewarding. But like 64% of those surveyed in a Sloan report, they say it takes “somewhat more” or “a lot more” effort to teach online compared to a face-to-face course. In a face-to-face class, the instructor and students are in contact a few hours each week or less. In a highly interactive, engaged online environment, there may be interaction several hours a day, depending on the level of discussion and interaction expected by the instructor and the students.


This article is available in its entirety in a variety of formats — Preview (free), Full Text, Text+Graphics, and Page Image PDF — on a pay-to-view basis, courtesy of ITI's InfoCentral. CLICK HERE.

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