Online Teaching Jobs: An Overview

Learn about the training you need for online teaching jobs, including the challenges and advantages.

apple on open laptop representing online teaching jobs

Online teaching jobs are increasingly available throughout the public and private school systems:  K-12, community colleges, universities, trade schools and professional education schools. .

Online teaching jobs offer some unique advantages and challenges. If you’re wondering whether online teaching is right for you, here are some questions to consider:

  • Are you interested in having more flexibility to balance time and energy between your work and personal life?
  • Are you open to learning new approaches to teaching?
  • Are you comfortable with technology or willing to learn?
  • Are you willing to invest more time in planning and preparation to help your students succeed?

If you answered "yes" to most of those questions, keep reading to learn more about online teaching jobs!

Overview of Online Teaching Jobs

Most online teaching jobs require you to have the same teacher-education degrees and certification that you need to teach in a brick-and-mortar school or university. Your basic responsibilities are the same: prepare courses and lesson plans, teach your students, provide office hours, and grade student work. The difference is in the way you teach.

There are a wide variety of technologies and formats for online teaching, but here are some basics that are fairly consistent:

  • Lessons are presented either through pre-recorded video or live webinars.
  • Additional reading materials, videos, games, assignments and other content are specified in a detailed online syllabus.
  • Online teachers often establish, monitor and facilitate discussion between students through online forums or email groups. This discussion may be scheduled in real-time or occur “asynchronously” over a period of days, with students adding their thoughts when they can.
  • Online teachers are available for students via email or other web-based communication tools.

Advantages of Online Teaching Jobs

There are a number of perks with online teaching jobs:

  • Flexibility. To a significant degree, online teaching jobs allow you to set your own schedule. You can complete most of your work whenever and wherever is most convenient for you – as long as it gets done within a reasonable time frame. Details vary depending on the type of class and your employer’s expectations, but most online teachers enjoy the freedom to decide when they read and grade assignments, how they pace their lesson plans, when they respond to students, and how they monitor online discussions.
  • Transcending barriers. Ideally, online education creates rich learning interactions that defy boundaries of race, class, geography, physical challenges or other differences. With some online teaching jobs, you have the opportunity to connect to students from all over the country – or even the world. Many online teachers thrive by facilitating lively discussions and debates that might not have been possible without technology.
  • Helping students who need it most. Online teaching is a great alternative for students who don’t thrive in a traditional education atmosphere, who want to accelerate their learning, or who need to take classes that are not offered locally. Many online teaching jobs serve students who can’t access traditional education; they may be geographically isolated or unable to attend school due to illness, pregnancy or other challenges. There are even online teaching programs, such as Westwood Cyber High in Detroit, that focus on re-engaging dropouts and at-risk students.
  • Growing web-based teacher network. Some teachers fear being isolated by online teaching. But there's no need to worry: there are many growing communities of teachers supporting one another online. Popular websites like TeachAde facilitate social networking and resource sharing between teachers all over the country and worldwide.

Challenges of Online Teaching

Online teaching does require some special effort and preparation. Here are two key areas in which you may need to improve your skills if you choose this career path:

  • Planning and preparation. To overcome the challenge of connecting to your students without looking them in the eye, many experts agree that online teaching jobs require at least ten hours of preparation for every hour of online instruction. Online teachers must be prepared to teach effectively to a wide range of student needs. Careful forethought also helps set the right tone for interactions between students.
  • Teaching students to learn differently. In addition to teaching course subject matter, online teachers have to teach their students how to learn online. Most students aren’t experienced in the online teaching environment. Frustration and poor outcomes may result if online teachers don’t set clear expectations and provide the guidance students need to succeed.