How to Become a Virtual Teacher
Whether you want to teach an art you’ve mastered to passionate students, new sales techniques to a roomful of executives eager to learn new career-building skills, or teach kids that can’t attend school due to disabilities or distance, learning how to become a virtual teacher is fast becoming the new norm for the teaching field.
With school budgets getting slashed, businesses outsourcing nearly everything, and musicians and other artists taking to the airwaves to showcase their talents, it is essential to learn the basics of online teaching so you can keep up with the rapidly changing educational field.
Online teaching jobs are becoming more common as people find it more convenient to learn in the comfort of their own home. Companies, too, are holding virtual continuing education classes for their employees so they will not have to leave the workplace or travel a great distance to take needed coursework. With migration from other countries a constant flow, online language courses are also a promising field for online teachers. Even some universities have opted for at least part-time distance learning opportunities, making this decade a great time to get started on a career as a virtual teacher.
Teaching Children and Young Adults Online
If you hold a teaching qualification in your state, you may be able to find a position as a virtual teacher to children or young adults who cannot attend regular school. Otherwise, you’ll need to beef up your resume with more coursework, testing, and supervised classroom experience to qualify if you want to teach in your state’s school system.
After you obtain the proper education, experience, and accreditation, you should look on job boards for positions in which you can teach online. If you’ve never taught online before, you need to realise that to keep your students interested; your teaching must go beyond stale lectures. Use all the interactive tools at your disposal to keep students participating actively. Just like in a brick-and-mortar classroom, you must use multi-sensory strategies to keep learners of all types engaged in learning in a way that suits their style.
Provide a variety of ways to evaluate your students’ progress. Online testing is only one way to measure their progress. Use competency-based standards as well so your students can put their knowledge to good use at home and in their future work.
Virtual Teaching in the University
If you are already a professor or instructor at a university, you might be tasked with creating an online course. If you’ve never taught at a university but have great knowledge of your field, your local university may need your skills.
Extra preparation for online courses a must
Though the material may be the same as you would teach in the classroom, virtual teaching requires some extra preparation to teach online and to foster a positive active learning experience. Start with the curriculum for the same course in the classroom. If the course is new—as may be the case—you’ll need to work with the committee in your field to develop curriculum for the new course.
Create a step-by-step course that incorporates visual cues, interactive materials, and opportunities for evaluation and feedback. Stress more than just the intellectual end of the material. Make sure that the practical application of each skill taught will be evaluated as well.
Build the material from the basic to the complex so students who start from scratch can progress as well as those with some prior knowledge. Avoid jargon. Businesses want employees who can communicate clearly with their customers.
Encourage active learning
Active learning may be a struggle for some students online. Combine PowerPoint presentations with chat and textbook discussions with lectures. Online chat, too, may prove valuable. Provide a study guide for each course. More in-depth than a simple syllabus, the study guide should summarise all the content you plan to cover as well as practical applications you want the students to master.
Offer study help
Tutorial plans, too, are a must. Well-written subject guides will help students deepen their knowledge of the subject. Choose textbooks that merge theoretical knowledge with practical experience since core competency in each area will be what your students’ future employers will demand.
Sample questions to help students prepare for tests and quizzes can help them grow more confident while building mastery of the material by their answers. Offer pre-test study sessions or organise sessions among the students. Make yourself available to the students to answer any of their questions.
When you meet with students, don’t just provide stock answers. Remember Socrates? Just like that ancient teacher, ask questions that cause the students to grapple with the material. Learning the ‘why’ behind the facts demonstrates way more mastery than rote memorisation.
Know your students’ needs
Since many of the students may be returning to the classroom after being out in the workforce, tailor the coursework to their needs as well. It pays to know the general demographics of the typical students who will take your course.
Maintain student involvement
Involve students in discussions and case studies. Just like younger students, the more interactive the experience, the more likely the students will be active. Learn how to leverage chat and video conferences, so the students feel more cohesiveness as a group. Remember, these students’ next step will be the working world—so group projects, just like they will have to complete on the job, need to be a part of their educational experience.
As they evaluate case studies, ask questions that draw them out. Ask them what they would have done differently—and then ask why. Help them think through whether their way to solve the problem would have worked better. Teaching them to always look towards the next challenge and how to conquer it more efficiently will inspire them on a course of constant self-improvement.
Finally, encourage peer tutoring and study groups. Students who have struggled with the material yet have grasped it make excellent tutors since they can empathise with other struggling students. Study groups, too, help foster camaraderie as well as a better grasp of the material.
Teaching Private Courses Online
It may be the case that you simply want to offer online classes yourself. Whether one-on-one or group classes in music, language or other subjects, it’s essential for you to hone your teaching skills if you’ve never taught before. Read up on teaching techniques or take some coursework. Teaching is much more than simply demonstrating a couple of guitar chords and telling the students to follow suit.
Create the same kind of rigorous, step-by-step curriculum you would if the course were offered by a local university or public school. Assume nothing but rather explain each concept thoroughly.
Teach practical skills slowly, carefully
When you teach a skill, such as cooking or music online, you must become an even better communicator than you are in person. If you are using videos, do close-ups when you demonstrate how to perform a given skill.
As you perform it, explain each step. Go slowly so they can grasp each step.
Have students demonstrate the skill soon after you have taught it
If your class is on Skype or another live video platform, have the students demonstrate the skill themselves as soon as possible after you teach it. That way, they won’t be as likely to forget. If the class is not live video-based, consider having the students send you video clips of themselves performing the skill.
Use your words; ask questions
Since you cannot place the student’s hands on the piano keyboard at the proper place, nor can your students smell the rich scents that emanate from your pot of caramelised syrup in cooking classes, you must build images with your words. Encourage questions.
Encourage experience through interaction
If you’re holding group classes, encourage communication among the students. If it’s a music class, encourage them to jam together. If it’s a cooking class, suggest that those who live nearby meet for a practice session and meal. With a language class, chat, video or real-life meetups give your students a chance to build their language skills away from the pressure of the classroom. The more practical experience you can weave into the course, the better.
Teaching Virtual Continuing Education Courses
To stay competitive in today’s highly technical workforce, a professional should enrol in continuing education courses from time to time. Many employers and professional organisations, such as law, teaching, and medicine, even require continuing education for professionals to maintain their licensure.
In years past, companies would send their employees off for a week-long course at a corporate retreat. With online technology now able to bring the classroom right into the workplace, such costly meetings are no longer necessary.
Create an interactive environment
To adjust your corporate training program to an online format, you must transform your course material into a more interactive format. Since eye contact or other social cues aren’t as visible—even if it’s a video course—you need to create ways for you to interact with your students and the students to interact with each other.
Provide opportunities for practice
Since you’re gearing the course to teach workplace skills, not only head knowledge, a firm grasp of how to perform the skills in real-life situations is crucial. Provide plenty of opportunities for students to practice the practical aspects of their training.
Find innovative ways to evaluate student work
For hands-on activities, live video is probably the best way to evaluate whether the student performed the skill correctly. With live video, you can provide instant feedback so the students can improve their skills as they perform them.
In some situations, you may need an on-site facilitator to check the students’ performance in person—particularly in hands-on skills such as sewing, medical procedures, or taste-testing chefs’ creations. If that’s not possible, you may need to travel to the students’ workplaces to evaluate their performance occasionally during the course of study.
Create a workplace-like atmosphere
Allow students to interact with each other—respectfully—to critique each other’s work. Remember, you are trying to create a workplace-like atmosphere. Teach your students to present their work with confidence and welcome feedback—it’s the only way to build competent students who can perform flawlessly on the workplace, even if the boss is breathing down their neck.
Role-playing exercises can be invaluable for continuing education courses. For sales presentations or legal arguments, they’re a must-have.
Virtual chat rooms, audio and video chats via Skype and other platforms can often create a cohesive group atmosphere. Just like in the workplace, camaraderie is an asset. Combine these with your group projects, and you may create the possibility for later networking opportunities among the students, an essential skill to advance in today’s job market.
Provide practical takeaways
Use multimedia material whenever possible, as well as downloadable reference materials that will help the students succeed, this will prove valuable in the workplace and the classroom. Offer additional resources for students who progress faster so they won’t be bored.
Employ multi-sensory learning strategies
Just like any students, adult learners need you to teach using a variety of cues—visual, auditory, and kinaesthetic. They, too, have a variety of preferred ways to receive information and will learn more quickly the more senses they engage in the process.
In Every Case, Inspire, Equip, and Send
Whether you’re teaching one-on-one lessons in crafting or conducting a high-powered sales course for C-suite executives, virtual teachers have one thing in common: you must inspire your students to achieve more than even their highest expectations. You must equip them for the task at hand, and then you must send them out, confident that they have mastered the material in every way.