Be Prepared for Online Teaching: Essentials and Best Practices

Online teaching can be exciting, rewarding, frustrating, demanding, and challenging all at the same time. The opportunities for new online teaching opportunities are becoming limited now because of the number of schools that offer online classes, and the process of landing a quality adjunct position has become very competitive. For example, it is not uncommon for someone who is highly experienced and educated to receive the dreaded no thank you email from a human resources department, without anyone ever having taken the time to contact them to discuss their background. So what do you do while you wait for your first (or next) online teaching opportunity? The answer can be summed up as becoming prepared for the role and continuing your professional self-development. There are essentials or best practices that every online instructor needs, which will allow you to become prepared once you are familiar with and understand how to apply them.

The work of an online instructor is measured through contractual facilitation duties and end-of-course evaluations, along with periodic classroom reviews. However, meeting the minimum instructional expectations does not ensure you are effective with the process of classroom management or creating optimal classroom conditions that promote learning. You must have the right mindset about your role as an educator, feel comfortable working in a virtual environment, have the time available to devote to your class, and be skilled in managing a class while coaching students towards meeting specific learning objectives. Online teaching is not just focused on a process rather its purpose is centered on the developmental needs of every student. You must become a teacher, mentor, instructor, coach, and facilitator.

Online Teaching – The Basics

It should go without saying that as an online instructor you must manage your time efficiently and have a well-developed schedule. The two components of classroom facilitation that require the most time throughout the entire week involves participation in class discussion and providing meaningful feedback. If you wait until the end of a class week to begin to work on your instructional duties you will easily find yourself overwhelmed and likely to experience stress, along with potentially missed deadlines. The unfortunate side effect of reaching this point is that it will show up in your attitude, the tone of your posts, and the quality of your involvement, interactions, participation, and feedback – all in a potentially negative manner. Your students will quickly pick up any hints of stress and frustration and this can cause student disengagement from the class.

There are instructional basics that will be first determined by the faculty contract you sign, along with any other documents such as a faculty handbook. There are specific requirements concerning the number of days you are expected to check into the class and post participation messages, timelines for completing feedback, responding to student inquires and questions, and the list continues. It is extremely important for the development of your position with the school to read and re-read the required policies on a regular basis to remind yourself of the general expectations. Be certain to also know how updates are communicated to faculty, whether by email or through the faculty website, so you remain current and are not taken by surprise. You will receive periodic class reviews and audits that will help to improve your instructional practice, and you need to be open-minded to the feedback provided so you are able to reach your full potential as an educator.

Another basic aspect of your instructional strategy involves the expectations you develop and communicate with your students. What you want to avoid is holding your students accountable for something you believe they should do if it isn’t obvious to them. You should consider providing clarity about the learning activities and assignments, taking into consideration specific elements that you want to emphasize. For example, if you are teaching an undergraduate class and students are just starting to learn a formatting style, clarify what the expectation is for their work. You could provide a sample paper template and other resources to guide them. It is helpful to establish high expectations for your students, provided that it is attainable and you offer constructive feedback, guidance, and support. When you establish standards that prompt their development you are demonstrating your belief in their capacity, as long as you support their progress as they work towards self-mastery.

Online Teaching Challenges

The initial challenge for new online instructors and students is making a transition from interacting with others face-to-face, with the benefit of visual and verbal cues, to digital communication. While some students may equate interactions via social networking with proficiency in communication through a technologically-enabled environment, there are some distinct differences. One of those differences is related to communicating in complete sentences and articulating your thoughts clearly and concisely, versus text speak or short, abbreviated statements. In addition, exchanges and messages through status updates or other online posts does not require the use of proper spelling and grammar. With time and practice any educator or student can become proficient with this form of communication and interactions. The instructor has the greatest responsibility to engage students and help them become acclimated to the virtual classroom.

Another perceived challenge for online instructors is the distance factor as the belief is that they are at an immediate disadvantage. A common misconception is that you cannot help students if you cannot see them. It is actually the opposite that is correct – an online instructor has a potential for more interaction and involvement with all of their students. Most online classes have a built-in discussion activity and most online schools require their instructors to provide substantive, meaningful feedback. This can help to engage students in the learning process and establish productive working relationships. The level of commitment and dedication made by an instructor will ultimately determine how well the class functions and the students perform. It is easy for students to become discouraged and disengage from their class if the instructor is not virtually present and involved with the class on a frequent basis. The more an instructor is engaged in their class, the greater their responsiveness to students will be in the long-term.

There is a challenge that is related to time management and commitment and it is preparation, which occurs if this is the first time a class is being taught or the first time an instructor teaches a class online. It is imperative that the materials are thoroughly reviewed as that information needs to be utilized as a knowledge base during class discussions, along with all learning activities and written assignments. If you haven’t read the materials the class discussions will not be as engaging as they have the potential to be and it will be difficult to provide a thorough assessment of the written work submitted by your students. They look to what you post and what you state in your feedback to guide their comprehension and analysis of the course topics. If you aren’t prepared it could result in a missed learning opportunity. Being informed and prepared means you are knowledgeable and ready to guide the learning process.

The Essentials & Best Practices for Online Teaching

There are four essentials that every instructor must possess or work towards the development of if they are going to be a successful online educator, and these essentials serve as best practices for online teaching.

The first is developing and maintaining a supportive approach to instruction. Any time you shine a spotlight on a student’s involvement and performance in class, especially when you are asking follow up questions or providing personalized feedback, it may create an uncomfortable feeling – especially if they believe they have made enough of an effort and do not understand your perspective. This is where support is needed most as the distance factor can create a separation between you and your students, and frustration can lead to disengagement. Your support is necessary to help promote a growth mindset or one that involves a willingness to participate in the learning process and persist as challenges arise. Students need reassurance as they work towards meeting the required objectives and developing the required skills. They have to learn to be productive and establish both habits and behaviors that allow them to succeed. Your encouragement can make a difference when they either must persist or give up, and your support can bridge the distance gap.

The second essential requirement and best practice for online teaching is the establishment of a positive instructional presence. You must be readily available and accessible for your students based upon whatever conditions you can establish. For those instructors who are working as adjuncts, they will have other responsibilities to balance and the ability to log onto the classroom or check email may be limited during the day. However, you can establish a working schedule and communicate your availability to your students. It is helpful for them to also know the general time frame you have planned to answer emails and their questions, and when you may be available for direct contact through office hours, chat, phone, or other options that you have established for them. Your active presence is also needed to assure students you are in control of the class and aware of the conditions of this virtual environment. Your involvement also has another effect, you are humanizing the learning experience for students and that will help them feel a sense of belonging to a community of real people rather than a collection of student identification numbers.

The third essential requirement and best practice for all online educators is developing mastery of their own advanced academic skills. As a faculty peer reviewer I have observed poorly written and formatted discussion posts and student feedback, which does not necessarily interrupt the flow of the class; however, it creates a possible negative perception among students. This is especially true for those students who are struggling with the development of their own academic skills and they observe numerous errors made by their instructor. If you are not confident with your writing skills or the required formatting style, seek out professional development workshops and classes. You could also find supplemental resources and for the materials you find that are helpful, share them with your students – I’m certain they will appreciate the additional assistance.

The final essential requirement and best practice for this particular list is critical to your work with online teaching, and it cultivating your own love of learning so that you can inspire your students. It would seem that this should be a natural characteristic of an educator; however, it can be easy to make this a low priority when there are many other demands made of your time for facilitation responsibilities and classroom management. One method of cultivating a lifelong learning approach is to have an intellectual curiosity about the subject you teach and conduct ongoing research to find sources that add to your knowledgebase and can be shared with your students. A love of learning may also inspire you to write and perhaps publish blog posts or articles related to your area of specialization and professional interests. Whatever avenue you pursue, continue to be curious and find resources or outlets that cause you to continue to grow professionally. All of these options will allow you to increase and leverage your knowledge and expertise.

Be an Example for Your Students

The most important aspect of becoming prepared to teach online and excel as an online educator is to establish a high standard of excellence for your work and hold yourself accountable for the responsibilities that come with this position. Above all you must establish yourself as an example for your students, as someone who is fully engaged in the learning process, actively participating, concerned with academic integrity, always posting well-crafted messages and documents, and skillfully managing your classes. You want to teach them the value of education and the powerful potential of distance learning through your interactions with them, the value you add to the class, and the manner in which you guide their development. The level of your involvement will influence how your students respond to this virtual class environment. Make preparations an important aspect of every class you teach and you will establish a rewarding and meaningful career.

Dr. Bruce A. Johnson has developed expertise with adult education and distance learning and his background includes work as an innovative online educator, college professor, writer and author, corporate trainer, and instructional designer. Dr. J’s areas of expertise include online teaching, online learning, distance learning, e-learning, adult education, curriculum development, and online faculty development.

What Parents Can Do to Fill in the Education Gaps

If you have kids who haven’t started school yet, this information will help you plan ahead and be prepared. If your kids are already in school, it’s still not too late.

Think back to elementary school. Did your children learn phonics and how to sound out words using syllables? Probably not. For some reason, the education system decided that learning new words by sight only was the better way. Students were given a page full of age-appropriate “sight” words. They were never taught how to sound them out or how to break them into syllables. As long as they recognized the entire word, they were fine. The result of the “sight words” method produced high-school students who can’t sound out unfamiliar words or figure out how to pronounce them.

At any grade level, were your children required to learn the U.S. presidents and be able to list them in order? Did they ever learn all 50 states and capitals and could they label them on a map? Did they recite and can they still recite the Pledge of Allegiance by heart? Can they identify other countries, continents, or oceans on a map?

You might be asking yourself, “What American wouldn’t be able to answer yes to these questions?” The answer is: Most people in their twenties or younger can’t because our education system took a detour from some of the most basic lessons. Of course, there are those exceptions – the rare school who realized the importance, the students who learned things out of pure desire and interest, or the parents who recognized it was important even though the schools skimmed right by them.

For the most part, our education system is so broken that they are neglecting the basics that any American should be taught. We’ve become a nation where schools focus on the numbers, the test grades, and how they can spoon-feed information so every student passes. So many high schools still promote college as the be-all, end-all solution at the same time many college graduates are in debt and unemployed.

Aside from a student’s academic requirements, they must also be involved in extracurricular activities, sports, volunteerism, clubs and organizations while still trying to be a normal teen with free time. The pressure is enormous to perform and many do. However, some of these same high-achieving students still can’t sound out an unfamiliar word, name even a fraction of our presidents, identify our 50 states and capitals, recite the Pledge of Allegiance, or have a clue what countries are on other continents.

So where do these education detours leave us as parents? It means we have to pick up the slack and fill in the gaps where education fails. It means starting early with your kids to teach them how to sound out new words. It means playing geography games with young kids and using maps to teach them about our country and the world. It means reinforcing the importance of knowing our presidents, or at a very minimum, being able to name and number the ones who made the biggest impact on our country. It means taking the pressure off them from getting straight A’s but instead actually learning the information so they can use it in life. It means not overloading them and letting them enjoy their childhood. It means being a parent and doing what’s right for your child even if that means going against the education system today.

Nancy O’Neill is the Common Sense Consultant. Combining her education and experience, she offers a common sense approach on a variety of topics for entrepreneurs of all ages, authors, speakers, parents, and kids. Life or business does not have to be complicated but many times, people make it that way. Nancy believes the most effective way to help people is by giving them the tools to think for themselves. Through practical, common sense education and coaching, a person can gain the knowledge to become confident in their own abilities and not rely on someone else to spoon-feed them information.

Nancy also uses her creative talent for web and graphic design, concept direction, writing, publishing, and marketing.

Currency Trading Education – Essential Information on How to Make Money in Currencies

The currency trading education enclosed, is essential information to help you join the elite minority of winners who make big profits and enjoy currency trading success…

In currency trading 95% of traders lose money and that’s a fact but they don’t lose because they can’t learn to win, they simply get the wrong education, have the wrong mindset or both. It’s a fact that currency trading can be learned by anyone and anyone can win.

There are a group of traders who buy junk robots or Forex Expert Advisors and think they can make money with no effort and spend a hundred dollars or so and earn a regular income but making money with no effort, doesn’t work in Forex trading and all these junk systems lose.

If you want to win you need to learn skills and this won’t take you long, a couple of weeks or so and then you can trade in 30 minutes a day or less and make big profits; let’s look at how to do this.

The best way to trade is to use Forex charts and simply follow price action. Your aim is to spot and lock into trends and hold them. If you’re wrong, you liquidate and keep your losses small.

The big trends in Forex last for many weeks or months and locking into and holding these trends is the way to make big long term profits. Don’t be tempted to trade often and think the more effort you make the more you will win; this is simply not true.

All you do, is end up taking low odds trades and lose. Be patient and only trade high odds set ups, you don’t get rewarded for how often you trade, you get rewarded for being right with your trading signal and that’s it.

You should use a simple trading system, make it to complicated and your system will have to many elements to break. Keep your system simple, with strong money management and you have the basics in place for big long term profits.

To win a good trading strategy is not enough, you need the discipline to follow your system through periods of losses, until you hit profits again. This sounds simple but most traders can’t do it – Why?

Because most traders take losses personally and try and hold them and hope they turn around but this leads to disaster. These traders need to learn that to win long term you need to take losses in the short term and keep them small.

If you want good solid trading education then you need to get a simple system, trade the long term trends and be disciplined at all times. This is the way to make money in trading and always has been.

If you learn the basics of Forex trading and get confidence in what you’re doing, you can become a disciplined trader and enjoy currency trading success.

Reasons and Resources for Teaching Environmental Education

Environmental awareness is becoming more and more important in these times of obvious climate change and expanded global economic growth. In this day and age, being environmentally aware means, having sufficient knowledge about how the small seemingly insignificant actions on the part of one or many, can lead to major environmental issues, such as: climate change, habitat destruction, species extinction, soil erosion, resource depletion, overgrazing, desertification, pollution, and contamination.

It seems that with all the potential that a single person or company has to impact or affect the environment these days, that environmental awareness would be a higher priority in the eye of the public than we now experience it to be. Regardless of how society has perceived the environment in the past, it is important now, to ensure that every single individual has the chance to be educated on the various ways in which their daily choices and actions can influence the environment, and thus the world.

So what is environmental education? Well, to begin, it is ultimately a learning process that heightens a person’s knowledge and awareness about the environment, including all the challenges that exist in relation to it. Environmental education essentially helps to develop the essential awareness, skills, and capabilities of the individual, so that they are better prepared for addressing and dealing with the environmental challenges that currently exist in our world.

This environmental education can be taught to a person or student at any age in their life. Unfortunately, environmental education seems to get most attention from an age group that has already experienced 18 to 21 years of education bereft of learning about the environment, before they learn of their power to affect environmental change. The 18 to 21 yr-olds that I speak of are essentially university level students. I mention this unfortunate likelihood from my personal experiences, as I was midway through my higher education studies before I was exposed to the grand idea, that my every day actions actually have the ability to influence the environment and in essence the world.

The good news is that there are now resources being made available, which allows individuals to get exposed to the ideas at an age that is far younger than the much more mature age of which they were exposed in the past. This is definitely a beneficial opportunity, as students of a much younger age, can now engage in the conversation, of what is important or not important in tackling the challenges that come with being environmentally aware. This is an opportunity that can ultimately lead to more individuals being available to come up with the good ideas, and the much action needed, to positively impact the environment in this day and age.