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How do I show off my online teaching prowess?

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computerHow do candidates prepare to share their online teaching experience in an interview or presentation? I recently saw this question come through a listserv. I was so glad to see someone asked, but I was disappointed that it received few responses (at least to the group). Because online instruction is a growing part of every teaching post, this is an important question for anyone who will be job searching any time soon.

So, I did some digging and found some intel that I thought important to share with all of you. And, of course, if you’ve been on the job market and have better insights, please share them with us.

Two years ago, I interviewed for the position I have now. Half of the classes I teach each term (two) are online sections. The job ad clearly stated that online teaching experience was significant. So, how did I show my experience? Here are some areas to consider as you prep for a teaching gig that requires some online work…

Your materials. Preparing your materials from online instruction is just as important as doing so for traditional teaching. And, going about it is the same, too.

I’d taught online and hybrid courses before my current position, so I went through my courses and made sure my materials were up-to-date, reflected my pedagogy, and provided a good sample of what happens in my courses. You have to be able to give your interviewers a good sense of your classroom (even if it’s a virtual one). If they’re interested in you, they’ll want to know how you manage your online courses and engage with your students. Simply being able to share stories isn’t enough. When it was time to apply and interview, I made sure everyone had access to my online course site and portfolio. I also offered to share materials I had developed for my students (videos, assignments, syllabi).

Your online presence. If you’re going to teach online, it’s a safe bet that your institution is going to want someone who’s sharp with all things online. Do you have an online portfolio/vita? Do you have a full profile on social networking sites? Are you active in online groups and forums? Do you have a blog? Is it current?

All of these areas are important to making the case that you’re active online and that you’re comfortable and engaged in an online environment. As a professional and technical writer, I’d already built my own online portfolio site that included samples of my work and my past experience. When I was ready to start teaching, I simply adapted it to also include teaching materials. I made sure I’d added my teaching philosophy, a sample syllabus, links to courses, and sample assignments. I’ve since added this blog to my online presence, so I make sure everything is in sync with each other, too. And, of course, know your presence online and what image that presence portrays.

Your technological strengths. A great article from InsideHigherEd from 2011, “Landing Online Teaching Jobs” references making sure you show off your familiarity and comfort level with technology.

It’s one thing to be online, but it’s another thing to be able to guide others through online terrain. Here are some questions to think about as you prepare to discuss your strength in online teaching technologies:

  • How strong are you with different technologies and teaching platforms?
  • Have you taken an online-course design class?
  • Have you tried to experiment with different technologies?
  • What tools do you use in your online courses?
  • Do you simply post Word documents or do you engage with multimedia?
  • Have you conducted or mediated a synchronous discussion?

All of these questions are potential areas of discussion in your interview, so prepare yourself with some prior reflection.

Your answers to questions about online teaching. While we’re on lists of questions to think about, here are a few more that are specific to interviews for online teachers.

Christy Tucker, an instructional designer and former teacher, shared some interview questions in her blog post “Teacher to Instructional Designer: Interview Questions” that teachers turned instructional designers should be prepared to answer. I think they’re also great tips for face-to-face teachers turned online instructors. Here are a few:

  • “Have you developed any curriculum or lesson plans collaboratively, or have you always developed by yourself?” (Or, have you ever developed one at all?)
  • “How would you deal with not being in front of the classroom and interacting directly with students?”
  • “How do you assess learning?”

I’d also add these:

  • How do you assist online students who are struggling with technology or content?
  • How do you communicate with your online students?
  • Have you had to troubleshoot?
  • Have you built an online course from scratch before?

What’s important here is to be prepared to talk about your online teaching beyond, “Yes. I’ve taught online before. I use Blackboard.” Just as you would be prepared to answer questions about your pedagogy in a face-to-face classroom, you should also be prepared to do the same for your online teaching.

I’ll just include one last pointer. While you’re preparing for the job market, if you haven’t looked much into online teaching design or pedagogy, you might think about some professional development opportunities to help build your online teaching pedagogical foundation. Your institution probably already offers these, so take advantage of them.

I thought I’d offer my experience because I know that some of us may have been thrown an online teaching bone in graduate school just to get some experience, some preparation for the job market. And, some of us have inherited online courses, but we’ve never really built one ourselves. But, now that you’re interviewing, you need to sound like authorities. At the least, have your materials ready and be prepared to handle those online teaching interview questions, so that, regardless of the extent of your teaching experience, you can show off your online teaching prowess.

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