Interview preparation for online teaching jobs

interviewThinking about applying for an online teaching position, either full or part-time? Below are few strategies to make sure you’re prepared for the interview when it comes.

Learn the Lingo

Like any profession, online teaching has its own lingo. You’ll impress employers if you know the terminology, include references to it in your letter of introduction, resume, and conversations. This is especially true if your potential employer does not teach online (a chair of a philosophy department who just offers a few online courses in her department, for example). Buy reference books on online teaching strategies, check out state-of-the industry reports and online teaching standards  on iNACOL.

Basic terms to know:

  • LMS (learning management system):  the online platform the institution uses to organize, offer, and track online learning. Popular platforms include Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, and Desire to Learn, for example, “The LMS at my university is Blackboard.”
  • Blended or hybrid learning:  A “blend” of learning environments that include both virtual and face-to-face (f2f) components. The percentage of time in each environment can run across a spectrum of choices. “Our program requires all courses to be blended, at least 50% online and 50% on campus.”
  • Flipped classroom: A movement in blended learning where lectures and readings are provided online and intended to be viewed prior to attending a live class where learning activity around the materials can take place. “I started using the Flipped Classroom model last year.”
  • Asynchronous:  Readings or assignments done on the learner’s own time and pace. “Students will be assigned asynchronous readings and simulations.”
  • Synchronous:  Learning activities that occur in real time, whether online or in-person. “We will have five optional synchronous meetings using Skype to support completion of projects.”
  • Video conferencing:  A synchronous and interactive online learning experience where students and teachers log into a platform such as GoToMeeting, Skype, or JoinMe, and can share slideshows, documents, screens and/or videos.  “I host synchronous meetings using video conferencing in Skype.”
  • HTML:  Hypertext markup language. Tagging language used to create many online instructional materials.  “Yes, I can make minor edits to instructional materials using html.”
  • WYSIWYG: Pronounced wĭs-ē-wĭg, what you see is what you get. This describes a technical interface where whatever is typed is how the final display will look. Imagine a word document…you put a bold title, body text, and italicize something for emphasis. That is wysiwyg. Behind the wysiwyg is html code that the browser users to interpret the display of information, but the average user never sees the code. Wysiwyg interfaces make it easy for the average user to create online materials without having to know html. “Yes, I can use the wysiwyg window in Canvas to create online lessons.”
  • MOOC:  Massive open online course.  An online course open to thousands of students, typically self-paced with little to no instructor feedback unless you have paid a fee for registration. “I’m taking a MOOC on climate change in Udacity.”

Understand Online Teaching Strategies

Learning to teach online can be a lifetime experience. There are many strategies and tools, and the options continue to evolve over time as new technologies emerge on the market. If you haven’t taken a course on online teaching, there are definite strategies that you might be asked about during an interview for an online teaching position, and it’s helpful to get on top of those.  Some of the strategies might include teaching approaches (project-based learning (PBL), using online course modules, the “flipped classroom,” quest-based learning, etc.).  Other strategies include the use of specific tools to support the online teaching experience such as LMSs, Google Apps, wikis, blogs, portfolios, videos, glogs, vokis, and more!

Your best means to be prepared to teach online without formal training is to take multiple online courses or workshops so you can gain experience from the student perspective. With the availability of MOOCs (massive open online courses), and platforms like P2PU and Udemy, these are really easy to find and join. Browse a few, push yourself to get exposed to a variety of strategies for how online courses are organized and taught. Pay attention to the communication tools (email, video, web conferencing, etc.) and teaching strategies that make YOU feel engaged or not engaged.  Your goal as an online teacher is to keep the learning personalized and relevant for your learners.  You want them connected to you and each other, engaged in the learning process, and not dropping out of the course or giving you a low rating as a “boring” instructor.  This will be critical to getting rehired in the long run.

Where to participate in free to low-cost online learning opportunities:

Get Familiar with LMSs & Web Conferencing

How does the institution offer its online courses to students? What tools are they logging into? Get familiar with some of the most commonly used learning management systems (LMS). Some people refer to them as course management systems or CMS. I use the terms interchangeably. Before interviewing, find out which platform that institution uses and learn it, at least at a basic level! Here are several popular LMSs:

If you’re able to snag an interview with an institution, I would find out what LMS they’re using, and before I was interviewed, get thoroughly familiar with it just to be articulate and say during the interview process,  “Yes, I’m familiar with Canvas, I understand how to manage a course.” Be prepared to discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of their platform (and your possible suggestions to enhance those weaknesses with other options).

The same is true for web conferencing. You’ll want to meet online with your students in real-time. They’ll need to be able to share their work, you’ll want to be able to demonstrate you’re comfortable with web conferencing technology. After all, your interview will probably be hosted in Skype or web conferencing tool. Some LMSs have integrated video conferencing tools, other universities use separate tools.

Practice using a few of these tools. The neat thing about web conferencing is that you can create content this way, as well. Video record yourself talking about something, then share a website or document on the screen while recording (simple as pushing a “record” button). Use these types of recordings in your online portfolio to demonstrate your skills!

Web conferencing tools:

Set Up a Showcase Portfolio or Website

You will dramatically increase your chances of employment by setting up an online portfolio that showcases you and your relevant work. A Google search for “teaching portfolio” will show you a hundred different examples, or use features of LinkedIn to create a professional profile.  When you make initial contact with the employer, you can provide them a link that shares examples of anything you’ve done related to your area of expertise or to online teaching or both. For example, you might include your resume on your website, you might include examples of lesson plans that you’ve designed, awards that you’ve won in your industry, videos you’ve created, recommendations from people. Basically, you’re just creating a site that employers can visit in one click, and once they see it, you immediately come to mind as a viable candidate. The visual is much more powerful than just a written resume and an email.

On your showcase profile, be sure to share:

  • A recent photo and short biography
  • A copy of your resume
  • Degrees and certificates
  • Highlight relevant teaching and/or online learning experience and expertise
  • Examples of your work:  multimedia, lesson plans, online courses, videos, etc. (embedded is better than linked, but whatever works for you)
  • Any awards or recognitions you’ve received
  • Letters and/or brief statements of recommendation

For comparison, you can view my personal website or. my LinkedIn profile.  I use them both.

Setting Up Star References

It’s easy to get some quick references. On your LinkedIn profile, use the recommendation request and ask people who know your work for a couple of sentences. People will usually write more, and concise references are all you really need on your website. If you aren’t well connected through LinkedIn yet, email several recent people who can speak to the quality of your teaching experience, especially if you’ve done any work virtually, and post those references on your website. For example, see my brief reference list.

Want to learn more?

book cover

This blog is third in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

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