What It Means to Be a Modern Online Educator
Traditional college instruction is part of a well-established tradition that has remained fairly unchanged over time. Becoming an instructor in this environment has meant conformity to teaching standards that have also remained fairly unchanged. A college professor is associated with someone who is a subject matter expert, likely to achieve a position with tenure, and have dual roles as an instructor and researcher. It is expected that they will be published authors of scholarly journal articles that have been peer-reviewed and contributed knowledge to their field. While this form of education and instructor still exists, there is another academic institution that has also been established and it is an online college and university.
For a modern form of online education you will not likely find any positions that are labeled professor. Most online universities hire adjuncts and many refer to their instructors as facilitators. Some universities expect their instructors to complete annual professional development requirements but rarely does that include publishing peer-reviewed journal articles. What is needed now more than ever is a new category of educator, one who meets the needs of students who participate in this modern form of education. Now is also the time for online universities to embrace this new form of instructors, those who can be called a Modern Educator.
From Traditional to Online Teaching
The traditional format for educating students is the lecture-driven class. The instructor delivers information to students and they must demonstrate what they have learned through various assessments. They know that their instructor or professor is an expert in the particular subject area for their class. This method of instruction is the same style that is used in primary education and it is teacher-centered. As technology has brought new possibilities for the field of education a new format developed – online courses and online degrees. At first traditional educators taught these courses but over time that has changed, especially as adjuncts filled a majority of the instructional roles. Now with online degree programs and online schools having been fully established in the education field, a new type of educator was also emerging.
Evolution to Modern Teaching
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With the growth of online learning came the need for hiring a large volume of instructors. Some online universities have classes that begin weekly and others offer courses starting monthly. Hiring adjuncts was the answer and the majority of jobs teaching undergraduate students have been filled by instructors holding a master’s degree in the subject field they were teaching. Over time the number of instructors qualified to teach online has grown substantially and now many adjunct positions require a doctorate degree. What has contributed to the increased pool of available online instructors is the fluctuation in enrollment numbers, the limited number of full-time online instructor positions, and the increase in degree specializations – especially those related to online teaching. There are also many online schools that offer online teaching specializations and those students who complete their master’s degree are added to the pool. It is estimated that at present there are nearly two million adjunct online instructors teaching online courses.
The requirements for teaching online also may include continuing education. Most online universities require some form of annual professional development. Those universities generally offer workshops and training courses as a means of fulfilling this requirement. Publishing scholarly journals can be used to help meet the professional development requirements but most schools do not require it. These modern teachers are also different from a college professor by the manner in which they are allowed to present themselves in the classroom. An online instructor is often called a facilitator and rarely is this position referred to as a professor – although some instructors will refer to themselves as a professor to establish their position in the learning process. Many online universities tell their instructors to use their first name as a means of creating a casual and approachable image – even if the instructor has a doctorate degree.
An Example of a Modern Educator
Within the field of online education there is a significant difference among educator types. There are those with a master’s degree who can teach undergraduate courses and there are those with doctorate degrees who can teach both undergraduate and graduate students. For those schools that offer doctoral degree programs, an expectation for instructors to be published in a manner similar to that of a college professor may still be in place. But there is a need for a new standard. If traditional methods of learning do not apply to online education, then traditional instructor qualifications should also not apply to online educators. Now is the time for a new instructional category, one that is referred to as a Modern Educator.
My work as an educator has evolved from traditional college teaching to that of online teaching and now I have become a Modern Educator. Instead of spending months (or possibly longer) trying to become published in a scholarly journal, I publish online articles. Instead of my work being available only to those who have access to and read scholarly journals, I now have an opportunity to reach a broader audience. My work is available as soon as I write and publish it, and more importantly – I understand how to use social media. I am connected to an international basis of educators, universities, and students through the use of social media.
Through social media it is possible to share ideas and resources, along with online articles, blog posts, and other intellectual contributions. This also applies to transformation of the publishing process. Instead of waiting to find a publisher and go through the traditional publishing route, I have self-published e-books. This has allowed me to become highly engaged in the field of education and it has redefined what it means to be a college instructor. Becoming a Modern Educator indicates what online instructors should be involved with and online schools developing as a requirement for their professional development.
Steps to Becoming a Modern Educator
Whether you have a master’s degree or doctorate degree, if you teach online courses you need professional development. But this should be more than taking a workshop – it needs to involve making an intellectual contribution. In addition, the work of a Modern Educator also needs to be involved in some form of social or professional networking. Here are some steps you can take and strategies you can use to become a Modern Educator.
#1. Write a Blog – This provides a platform to share your expertise and summarize your knowledge. As you continue to conduct research for your areas of professional interest and you can include what you have learned through your blog posts. There are numerous free resources that will allow you to create and share your blog, such as Word Press.
#2. Write Online Articles – Instead of taking the time required to write and submit articles to scholarly journals, which can always be an option for you, find a resource that allows you to publish online articles. The articles you write, which are based upon your knowledge and experience, will allow you to reach a broader audience, refine your writing skills, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. I utilize Ezine Articles, which is an article marketing database.
#3. Use Social Networking – Every online educator needs to learn how to establish their presence via technology. It only makes sense that if you work in a technology-enabled environment you should also know how to be engaged in online communities. LinkedIn provides a means of professional networking, finding groups that match your interest, and even finding online jobs. Twitter can connect you to an international base of educators, students, and universities – providing a place to share resources.