Traditional college instruction is part of a well-established tradition that has remained unchanged. Becoming an instructor in this environment has meant conformity to teaching standards that have remained unchanged. A college professor is associated with a subject matter expert, likely to achieve a position with tenure and have dual roles as an instructor and researcher. It is expected that they will be published authors of scholarly journal articles that have been peer-reviewed and contributed knowledge to their field. While this form of education and instructor still exists, another academic institution has also been established: an online college and university.
For a modern form of online education, you will not likely find any positions labeled professor. Most online universities hire adjuncts; many refer to their instructors as facilitators. Some universities expect their instructors to complete annual professional development requirements but rarely publish peer-reviewed journal articles. What is needed now more than ever is a new educator category that meets the needs of students who participate in this modern form of education. Now is also the time for online universities to embrace this new form of instructor, which can be called modern educators.
From Traditional to Online Teaching
The traditional format for educating students is the lecture-driven class. The instructor delivers information to students, and they must demonstrate what they have learned through various assessments. They know that their instructor or professor is an expert in their class’s subject area. This method of instruction is the same style used in primary education, and it is teacher-centered. As technology has brought new possibilities to the field of education, a new format has developed – online courses and online degrees. At first, traditional educators taught these courses, but over time, that has changed, especially as adjuncts filled most of the instructional roles. With online degree programs and online schools fully established in the education field, a new type of educator was also emerging.
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Evolution to Modern Teaching
With the growth of online learning came the need to hire many instructors. Hiring adjuncts was the answer, and most jobs teaching undergraduate students have been filled by instructors holding a master’s degree in the subject field they were teaching. Over time, the number of instructors qualified to teach online has grown substantially, and now, many adjunct positions require a doctorate. The increased pool of available online instructors has contributed to the fluctuation in enrollment numbers, the limited number of full-time online instructor positions, and the increase in degree specializations – especially those related to online teaching. Some online universities have classes that begin weekly, and others offer courses starting monthly. Many online schools offer online teaching specializations, and those students who complete their master’s degrees are added to the pool. It is estimated that nearly two million adjunct online instructors are currently teaching online courses.
The requirements for teaching online also may include continuing education. Most online universities require some form of annual professional development. Those universities generally offer workshops and training courses to fulfill this requirement. Publishing scholarly journals can help meet the professional development requirements, but most schools do not require it. These modern teachers are also different from college professors in how they can present themselves in the classroom. An online instructor is often called a facilitator and rarely is this position referred to as a professor – although some instructors will refer to themselves as professors to establish their role in the learning process. Many online universities tell their instructors to use their first names to create a casual and approachable image – even if the instructor has a doctorate.
An Example of a Modern Educator
Within the field of online education, there is a significant difference among educator types. There are those with a master’s degree who can teach undergraduate courses, and those with doctorate degrees can teach both undergraduate and graduate students. For those schools that offer doctoral degree programs, an expectation for instructors to be published like a college professor may still be in place. But there is a need for a new standard. If traditional learning methods do not apply to online education, then formal instructor qualifications should also not apply to online educators. Now is the time for a new instructional category, a Modern Educator.
My work as an educator has evolved from traditional college teaching to online teaching, and now I have become a Modern Educator. Instead of spending months (or possibly longer) trying to become published in a scholarly journal, I publish online articles. Instead of my work being available only to those who have access to and read academic journals, I now have an opportunity to reach a broader audience. My work is available as soon as I write and publish it, and more importantly – I understand how to use social media. I am connected to an international basis of educators, universities, and students through social media.
Through social media, it is possible to share ideas and resources and online articles, blog posts, and other intellectual contributions. This also applies to the transformation of the publishing process. Instead of waiting for a publisher and going through the traditional publishing route, I have self-published e-books. This has allowed me to become highly engaged in education and redefine what it means to be a college instructor. Becoming a Modern Educator indicates what online instructors should be involved with and what online schools develop as a requirement for their professional development.
Steps to Becoming a Modern Educator
Whether you have a master’s degree or doctorate, you need professional development to teach online courses. But this should be more than taking a workshop – it must involve making an intellectual contribution. In addition, the work of a Modern Educator also needs to apply some form of social or professional networking. Here are some steps and strategies to become a Modern Educator.
#1. Write a Blog – This provides a platform to share your expertise and summarize your knowledge. As you continue to research your areas of professional interest, you can include what you have learned in your blog posts. Numerous free resources, such as Word Press, will allow you to create and share your blog.
#2. Write Online Articles – Instead of taking the time required to write and submit articles to scholarly journals, which can always be an option, find a resource that allows you to publish online articles. Based on your knowledge and experience, the articles you write will allow you to reach a broader audience, refine your writing skills, and establish yourself as a subject matter expert. I utilize Ezine Articles, which is an article marketing database.
#3. Use Social Networking – Every online educator needs to learn how to establish their presence via technology. It only makes sense that if you work in a technology-enabled environment, you should also know how to engage online communities. LinkedIn provides a means of professional networking, finding groups that match your interests, and even finding online jobs. Twitter can connect you to an international base of educators, students, and universities, providing a place to share resources.
#4. Develop a Website -If you are highly ambitious and want to develop more than a blog, you could also build your website. This would be a place for you to house resources you have created, which could be shared with educators and students. Some web hosting services are free, and others charge a small fee.
#5. Write E-Books – The publishing field has changed, and now authors are taking back control by making their books available in an e-book format. Kindle and Nook devices are the most popular devices. Kobo is another device gaining popularity because it can be used on mobile devices such as Blackberry. You will likely need to hire someone to format the book and sign up for an account to distribute your e-book, and once it is ready, you can have it available relatively quickly.
Maintaining a Modern Educator Status
A Modern Educator is someone who does more than teaching online classes. They are active in the field of education and their chosen subject matter. They know how to teach using technological tools and engage in a virtual community of other educators through social media. The Modern Educator is also conducting research and making intellectual contributions through technical means. The work they publish is done through technologically enabled resources and made immediately available for their intended audience. They know how to use social media to promote their work and share resources with other educators and students.
It is time for the Modern Educator mentality to become the standard for online learning. Instruction has been adopted in format from traditional to online, and so too must the instructor. It is also important that online schools and hiring specialists recognize the new Modern Educator. This person has likely taught for several institutions because of fluctuating enrollments and staff changes; however, what matters most is their ongoing professional development and intellectual contributions. The most desirable candidate for an online teaching position is more than extensive work as an online educator. It is someone who can also utilize technological tools to publish their work and connect with other educators. A Modern Educator is the new college professor and the one most prepared for teaching through technology.