An exciting adventure awaits, do you have what it takes? Self-assessing your current skills in three crucial areas will reveal if online teaching is a good fit for you! Lucky for me, I left the ground to teach online over ten years ago, and I have never looked back. When the pandemic hit, I suddenly was fielding lots of questions from my brick and mortar colleagues about how I made the leap from traditional classroom to online, and I wanted to share the same information that I shared with my friends with all of you.
Now, I know teaching at a distance is not for everyone. However, if you have these three skills, online teaching might be a perfect fit for you! The first step is to understand and self-assess your knowledge in three areas: technological, content, and andragogical. “With the growth of online programs, a teacher’s ability to self assess will be important for improvements in online teaching practices” (Kennedy, 2015, p. 148). Your ability to successfully engage adult students online will be determined by the intersection of these three core skill sets. Mishra and Koehler (2006) described this using the TPCK framework that “emphasizes the connections, interactions, affordances, and constraints between and among content, pedagogy/andragogy, and technology” (p. 1025). As an instructor, the intersections are crucial and connective.
Each of us who has navigated a professional career has crucial knowledge to share with others, and you can determine for yourself if online teaching would be a good fit for you. First, ask yourself what you would qualify for when it comes to subject matter expertise. If you have worked in nursing, K-12 classroom teaching, car mechanics, computer programming, or any number of professional settings, you have gained content knowledge. For me, my subject matter expertise is in composition. I have a master’s of fine arts degree in writing, and I have taught college-level composition courses since 2000. Loving to read and write helped me to enjoy teaching online immediately. Regardless of where you have spent your professional time, you likely have valuable information that would benefit others. Once you have figured out the content, you can create a syllabus, course schedule, learning objectives, and consider the types of student demonstrations that would reveal that they have a working understanding of the key concepts. Assessments and artifacts will be crucial to determine as a subject matter expert.
The next knowledge set is around teaching as an act of knowledge transfer. In Mishra and Koehler’s framework this is expressed as pedagogy, yet because I have predominantly taught adults, I have swapped in andragogy to describe the second set of skills required for online instruction. Each online teacher has to be aware of the way learners best interact with new knowledge in order for a learner to fully integrate information and apply it. Once you determine what you are a content expert in, you then can consider how best to instruct new learners on the content that you have mastered.
The final knowledge set may seem the least essential, yet it is going to make or break you in the online classroom. Technology knowledge is crucial because without the ability to employ technology to represent content and enable learning strategies, the framework is not fully effective. Unless you are part of a team where the technology and design aspects of your course can be completed by another member, becoming more comfortable and adept at technology is an essential step to teaching in online settings. Your students will depend on your understanding of the learning management platform, so enhancing your technology skills will benefit all involved.
Once you have determined your subject matter expertise, comfort with technology, and understanding of instruction as a process, you can build an online course that will inform and delight your students. In a world hungry for new knowledge, teaching through technology provides a global classroom space where you can share your hard fought wisdom with the world from the comfort of your own home. You got this, and your pals at the online teacher’s lounge are here to help!