Richard Rose has 6 Tips for the Successful Online Teacher based on his intake interviews with new students of education at West Texas A&M University. Here are what I consider his most important points.
1. Forget Constant Validation
Online teaching actually requires a much higher level of emotional security and confidence in one’s own professional competence. Online teachers must work hard to humanize their approach and not be turned into a robotic extension of such an appliance by their students.
2. Know Thy Students
It takes a great deal of time and effort on the part of online teachers to make sure they are really clear in their own communications, as well as to understand who they are teaching, what students are trying to tell them, and how well their students are succeeding in each course.
3. Lose Complete Control
Many classroom teachers thrive in the emotional sphere I call “command mentality.” Like an orchestra conductor, they love the sense of control that comes with being in charge. They take this responsibility very seriously, and work like demons to get it right. They make sure all students are crystal clear on what is expected of them and the consequences of failing to meet those expectations. These are the instructors who adore the grading rubrics that have become so much a part of classroom teaching in the age of accountability.
4. Collaboration Resistance
The dominant educational approach of the last several decades has been constructivism, which puts a high value on collaboration. Many teachers new to online see its vast potential as a vehicle for group work, but my graduate students loathe it. The challenges of collaboration are multiplied in the less controllable environment of online.
5. Get to Work…Really
Quality classroom teachers succeed by absorbing oral and visual feedback from each class session as it unfolds, and making moment-to-moment adjustments in response. Their teaching must be accurate, complete, and spot-on right out of the chute.
Most of my graduate courses require that I make about 16 hours of technology-demonstration movies. I tailor my movies to the specific interests of my students and to my ever-emerging understanding of where they are likely to stumble and fall. To do so involves a lot of work: It takes me at least 20 to 30 hours of effort to create one hour of video.
And most of this work has to be done before the course even gets under way.
6. It’s Not Just a Day Job
Teaching online is less a job than a lifestyle. Committed online instructors find it hard to set reasonable boundaries on the workday. When students run into trouble, the instinct is to help them as soon as you can. This tends to happen between 10 p.m. and midnight.