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What It Means to Be a Modern Online Educator




Traditional college instruction is part of a well-established tradition that has remained fairly unchanged over time. Becoming an instructor in this environment has meant conformity to teaching standards that have also remained fairly 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, and it is an online college and university.

For a modern form of online education, you will not likely find any labeled professor positions. Instead, most online universities hire adjuncts, and many refer to their instructors as facilitators. In addition, some universities expect their instructors to complete annual professional development requirements but rarely publish peer-reviewed journal articles. More than ever, what is needed is a new category of educator, one who 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 instructors, those who 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 the particular subject area for their class. This method of instruction is the same style used in primary education. However, it is teacher-centered as technology has brought new possibilities for education, a new format developed – online courses and online degrees. At first traditional educators taught these courses, but over time, that has changed, especially as adjuncts filled a majority 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.

Evolution to Modern Teaching

With the growth of online learning came the need for hiring a large volume of instructors. Some online universities have classes that begin weekly, and others offer courses starting monthly. Hiring adjuncts was the answer and the majority of 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. 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 at present, nearly two million adjunct online instructors are 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 as a means of fulfilling 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 because 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 a professor to establish their position 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.

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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 there are those with doctorate degrees who can teach both undergraduate and graduate students. For those schools that offer doctoral degree programs, an expectation for instructors to be published like that of 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 traditional instructor qualifications should also not apply to online educators. Therefore, now is the time for a new instructional category, referred to as a Modern Educator.

My work as an educator has evolved from traditional college teaching to that of 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 scholarly 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, online articles, blog posts, and other intellectual contributions. This also applies to the transformation of the publishing process. Instead of waiting to find a publisher and go through the traditional publishing route, I have self-published e-books. This has allowed me to become highly engaged in education andhas redefined what it means to be a college instructor. Becoming a Modern Educator indicates what online instructors should be involved with and online schools developing as a requirement for their professional development.

Steps to Becoming a Modern Educator

Whether you have a master’s or doctorate, you need professional development if you teach online courses. But this should be more than taking a workshop – it needs to involve making an intellectual contribution. In addition, the work of a Modern Educator also needs to be involved in some form of social or professional networking. Here are some steps you can take and strategies you can use to become a Modern Educator.




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