You’ve decided to teach online, and now must secure the job that will give you the opportunity. How do you apply and land a job?
Show Off Being Technologically Savvy
Your application must emphasize your ability to use technology. Do you maintain or publish any of the following?
- Personal or professional website
- Regular and relevant blog
- Guest blog posts on related blogs
- Online articles
- Participation in or administration of online communities
Many of us participate regularly on social networking sites like Facebook. You should also look for interactive communities that are focused on your discipline or on teaching, and get involved there as well. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of maintaining a healthy and appropriate online presence. Potential employers will do an online search for you if you are a serious candidate.
It is likely that your cover letter will include a variation of the line, “I am comfortable using technology.” How do you prove this? Discuss the technology that you know how to use, as well as examples of employing technology in classes, and you can demonstrate the catch-all phrase to be true.
Many institutions like the continuity of having the same faculty members both online and in-person. When you apply, be sure to emphasize how you will offer the same academic challenges, support and community online as you would in the physical classroom.
Where to Apply
Search for both actual openings and programs where you’d like to teach. Research the specifics about the programs and institutions and apply the knowledge to your cover letter. While some programs may or may not have openings, you can ask them to keep your information on file in the event that they do need someone.
I encourage you to follow up, perhaps after a few weeks or the following semester. Emphasize your flexibility and interest in the position. Besides Inside Higher Ed’s job listings, there are listings on other websites, and also listservs in your field and the human resources departments of the colleges you want to approach.
Lealan Zaccone, assistant director of online learning of Northampton Community College, posts job announcements on the college’s website, here, and on other national websites; she also sends them to local newspapers. She also independently talks to colleagues and posts openings through alumni organizations and online learning networks.
It might hurt you to wait for an actual opening. Zaccone says that after four years of hiring online instructors, she has only had to advertise for specific positions twice because she regularly receives many unsolicited applications. The college regularly advertises generically for adjuncts. As of a few weeks ago, it had 96 adjunct applications (not necessarily for online positions) who applied through the human resources website to be in the adjunct pool.
Zaccone reminds us that while some schools, like Northampton, hire through an online learning department, others hire through the specific departments. Do your research and write to the correct program director.
During our Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) 2011 conference presentation entitled, "Finding and Creating Online Teaching Opportunities — and Sustaining and Succeeding in Them," Scott Warnock noted the importance of candidates being active in both their field and their teaching. He recommended being proactive about independent training and being involved with relevant networks. For example, English teachers could participate in the National Council of Teachers of English’s ning.
Warnock also recommended that adjuncts ask that administrators evaluate them. This puts the adjuncts on administrators' radar and offers the adjunct evidence of teaching effectiveness.
What to Include in Your Application
Remember, job searching is about showing off in a modest fashion. Employers are looking for colleagues as well as experts in the field and teachers, even online. Use your cover letter as an opportunity to highlight your technology skills and online teaching ideas that you would employ, given the opportunity.
Your application should include:
- Cover letter
- Letters of recommendation
- Course evaluations
- Faculty observations
- Teaching philosophy
- Sample course syllabuses and assignments
- Academic transcript
The questions will generally be similar to interviews for in-person positions. You might be asked some questions that will require different answers for an online position. Some likely topics:
- Online course community.
- Online course management, including student time management
- Grading of formal and informal work
Interview the College
Remember that when you interview, you are also interviewing the college. You might ask about:
- Technology support
- Access to online library resources
- Training programs
- Whether you are paid to develop the course
- Paid, mandatory or optional attendance at faculty or continuing education programs
- Eligibility for travel money
- Likelihood of future classes
- Payment (per student or per course)
- Teaching observations
- Free, for-credit classes
- Possibility of permanent or part-time (usually union) positions or scheduling priority with experience
- Possibility to buy into group health plans
Teaching online takes more upfront work and more time to get accustomed to the ever-changing technology. Can you do it? Of course. It might not be for everyone, but you won’t know until you try.