Recent circumstances have forced many teachers into conducting online courses, which they may never have tried before. While face-to-face time with students is incredibly valuable, and facilitates certain learning styles very well, there are many aspects to teaching online that can be just as valuable when it comes to reaching students with different learning styles. It’s been a particularly tough time for those just starting their teaching careers, as key components of the education and licensing process are not a good fit for how most online classes are run. Let’s look at some of the requirements that have to be met to be a teacher before fully diving into teaching online.
How to Start Teaching Online
Becoming a teacher is a complex process with several steps. The first, of course, is to begin getting an education in teaching at a university. Teaching programs at the bachelor’s level usually involve a choice of age group you plan to work with, such as early childhood, elementary, or secondary schooling. From there, this demographic shapes how your program unfolds, as you learn specific techniques for teaching in general and working with children of that age group. Teachers teaching young students often need a wide education in a variety of subjects, while those teaching older students in secondary schools typically have a single subject which they are responsible for. Bachelor’s degrees in education are usually four-year programs, although some may last five. The final year generally involves a student teaching experience, giving these soon-to-be teachers their first time in front of a class in a classroom under the experienced eye of an established teacher. This is one of the key requirements to be a teacher, and is necessary to become licensed and certified in most states.
As you might expect, undergoing a student teaching experience online and coordinating with your mentor teacher can be rather difficult. Some states, such as California, have waived these requirements in favor of allowing university faculty to decide when their students are prepared, but there’s a chance that even if they’re allowed to graduate, they may find their first jobs will be teaching online in the fall. So what are some ways to take full advantage of this fact?
The Benefits of the Online Modality
The first aspect in which online teaching really shines is organization. Using online teaching platforms, students will never have misunderstandings about what their assignments were, nor can they lose vital information like worksheets and handouts. Students will also be able to type most or even all assignments, reducing errors in grading from poor handwriting. Students with vision problems and learning disabilities may also fare better in online environments, as they won’t have to strain their eyes trying to read a whiteboard from the back of the class, and can use assistive technologies and special fonts built into their home computers to compensate for disabilities. Shy students can ask questions privately or via email, which may help them to reach out for guidance when needed rather than avoiding it to minimize anxiety. Students also have less opportunity to distract each other, even if they may have more distractions in the home.
Catering to different learning styles is also a bit easier online. Auditory learners can take notes as they listen and ask questions as needed, in an orderly manner, through video conferencing software. For visual learners, teachers can share their screens to convey images, charts, or even short videos that can help get complex concepts across by demonstrating them. Those who learn best by reading can still benefit from handouts and their textbooks, and can be provided reliable online resources directly from their teachers.
Those attempting to obtain a teaching certification are certainly among the most heavily affected by the shift, and may need to prepare for this new reality by working on their online teaching skills. And while teaching online is definitely a change from teaching in person, the loss of face-to-face contact with students doesn’t automatically make it a worse approach. Organization for students is likely to improve, as their work is easily accessible and can’t be lost. Students with learning disabilities will be able to better utilize assistive technologies for their work, and other problems that may affect performance in class can also be mitigated. Online teaching also gives teachers some flexibility when it comes to catering to the various learning styles of their students, enabling visual learners to benefit from videos and demonstrations, the auditory learners to listen and take notes, and those who learn best by reading to continue working with textbooks. While online teaching may not be what you’ve expected, teachers can at least be glad that the technology exists to continue their instruction during difficult times, and that students can get the education they’ll need in life rather than just wait at home.
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