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How to Become an Online Post-Secondary Teacher


Teaching presents an excellent opportunity to impact the lives of others while making some good money to boot. In recent times, lockdown measures, economic recession, the great resignation, and the risk of contracting COVID-19 have made remote roles like online post-secondary teachers more attractive. But online learning didn’t just spring up.

One of the earliest forms of online learning dates back to 1960, when students at the University of Illinois used interlinked computer terminals to learn. After that, the University of Toronto developed the first completely online course in 1984.

Since then, online learning has grown by leaps and bounds. Students accept virtual learning more readily at the post-secondary level. Over 3.1 million people enrolled in eLearning programs in 2017 alone.

The global pandemic pushed over 98% of universities to move their classes online. There’s a need for more online post-secondary teachers with more online programs. If you are ready to explore this career path, read on to discover all you need to know about becoming a postsecondary teacher online.

What is a Post-Secondary Institution?

Post-secondary education — as the name implies — is the level of education after secondary education (high school). Upon completing the program, students at the post-secondary level earn a certification, diploma, or academic degree. Post-secondary institutions are diverse and may be suburban, urban, rural, public, private, secular, or religious organizations.

Some examples of post-secondary schools include:

  • Research universities
  • Teaching universities and colleges
  • Community colleges
  • For-profit colleges
  • Regional occupational programs and centers
  • Trade schools

What is an Online Post-Secondary Teacher?

An online post-secondary teacher instructs students using digital resources to share knowledge at the post-secondary level. Online teachers are also known as remote teachers and distance teachers. Some teachers work entirely online, where they only interact with students over the internet. Others work in hybrid or blended classrooms with a mixture of online and in-person teaching. These professionals may choose to work part-time or full-time.

Online post-secondary teachers work in specialized science, music, history, and business departments at colleges and universities.

In many cases, they teach more than one course in the department. For example, a post-secondary teacher may teach mathematics, statistics, and calculus.

Duties of an Online Post-Secondary Teacher

The instruction platform significantly differentiates between traditional post-secondary teachers and their online counterparts. Nonetheless, there are many similarities in their responsibilities. Let’s look at duties unique to online learning:

  • Promoting active classroom participation among students to consolidate what they learn
  • Grading projects, quizzes, and homework that is submitted online
  • Creating relationships with students that will encourage them to speak about psychosocial and cognitive challenges that may affect their learning progress
  • Tracking students’ progress
  • Attending periodic staff meetings
  • Detecting and reporting any technical difficulties and other challenges to the appropriate staff
  • Maintaining all equipment needed to deliver effective online classes
  • Respecting and upholding cultural differences among learners

Steps to Becoming an Online Post-Secondary Teacher

The route to becoming an online post-secondary teacher is no different from the requirements for brick-and-mortar post-secondary teaching positions. Below we detail the steps you need to pass through to become a post-secondary teacher:

1. Pursue a Bachelor’s Degree

After high school, future post-secondary teachers should earn a bachelor's degree before pursuing a doctorate or master’s degree. First, you must specialize in a field relevant to the subject you wish to teach. For example, history teachers can pursue a degree in history. During the undergraduate program, concentrate on creating a solid application for graduate school. You can do this by assisting with research projects and building relationships with professors and instructors.

2. Advance Your Education

After selecting a specific field, look for reputable graduate programs that offer interesting coursework in that field. Those with a bachelor’s degree can pursue a master’s degree or even a Ph.D. The requirement for completing a postgraduate education often includes conducting thesis projects or major research that demonstrates your competence in that field.

3. Make Connections

Networking is essential for success, as with other career paths, such as becoming a librarian. Prospective online post-secondary teachers should build relationships with academic and industry experts, publishers, and professors. These connections can help build your credibility and serve as a resource for career opportunities.

4. Gain Teaching Experience

Many programs for master’s and doctoral degrees offer opportunities for students to teach introductory or lower-level courses. This experience is an excellent way to learn the day-to-day duties of a post-secondary teacher. If your program does not offer such options, you can also apply for teaching assistant roles.

Working with an established online teacher is also a great idea. It allows you hands-on experience. Internships are also a great option to make connections while gaining experience.

5. Get Certified

Location and specialization are two factors that affect the need for certification for post-secondary teachers. It is a good idea to check out the credentials in your field and aim for them. Some states and some employers may require certifications that others do not. Getting certified helps make candidates more competitive, even when the employer does not require one.

Many post-secondary teachers pursue interdisciplinary certificate programs. Some of the most common options are:

  • Instructional Design
  • American Studies
  • Digital Humanities
  • Online Teaching and Learning
  • Non-profit Management
  • Writing and Rhetoric
  • Gender Studies

6. Publish in Your Field

In most universities, landing tenure-track positions requires the publication of at least one academic article. The requirement is higher for scientific disciplines because each scientific paper has multiple authors.

Skills for Online Post-Secondary Teachers

Online post-secondary teachers need to develop vital skills for effective digital classroom learning. They must have all the skills required for traditional classrooms, plus the capacity to transmit those skills into a digital learning setting. Some of the most important qualities an online post-secondary teacher must possess include:

Communication Skills

Every teacher must possess the ability to communicate clearly and concisely; however, it is much more important for online instructors. Online educators need to develop strong writing skills, as most communication is via email and messaging. Depending on the program set-up, in-person meetings may be rare, so teachers must learn to use videos, graphics, and audio files to communicate effectively with learners.

Technological Literacy

Since most online learning occurs over web-based educational systems, teachers must develop the necessary knowledge and skills to thrive here. Below we present a breakdown of the basic technological skills for online post-secondary teachers:

  • Ability to assess the resources on the internet
  • A solid grasp of copyright violations and privileges
  • Understanding of accessibility provisions for online classroom technology
  • Knowledge of proper and acceptable online behavior
  • Knowledge of common technical issues that can hamper online learning
  • Creation and implementation of applicable lesson plans for eLearning

Assessment Skills

An online teacher should accurately evaluate students’ performances. They should be able to monitor the performance of individual students by grading assignments and reviewing discussion threads. Online teachers must also learn to identify challenges with digital learning and reduce them to the barest minimum.

What You Should Know About Online Post-Secondary Teaching

Teaching online provides flexibility that is not achievable as a regular post-secondary teacher. The nature of online teaching means you can teach from anywhere.

As enticing as it sounds, there are also some drawbacks. One of them is that the job follows you around. The flexibility of online teaching also means that students can log in to complete coursework at any time of the day. This means an online post-secondary teacher may have to offer feedback or grade students’ work at odd hours.

Mastering new technology is also a factor, but once learned, online tutors have the freedom to travel, study, or work another job. Here are some things that online post-secondary teachers should know.

Online Educational Technology

Online education requires technology to function on the learner’s and teacher’s side. Generally, Learning Management Systems (LMSs) for online courses require headsets or earbuds, a laptop with a webcam, a strong wi-fi connection, and a phone for some programs. Educational technology has seen rapid innovations. More than ever before, online learning is seamless. Students and teachers can interact more efficiently. Quizzes and exams are possible in real-time.

Virtual Live Classes

The first online learning classes offered little variety, and content consisted of written documents. These days, online programs provide real-time learning with easy-to-use tech. Some of the advantages of live classes include:

  • Pupils listen to lectures in real-time and interact with other students during the class
  • Students pay more attention and participate in the courses since they are visible via a webcam
  • The class can break into small groups for instant projects and discussions

Learning Management Systems (LMS)

Learning management systems (LMS) are an essential part of online learning. An LMS is a software application platform used to transmit educational content online. Online post-secondary teachers must learn how to use this software to manage assignments, discussion threads, charts, videos, slides, live session notes, reading materials, and other files. With the proper use of an LMS, teachers can improve online teaching methods and make their classes more lively and interactive.

Tech Support

One of the biggest fears about online learning is the perceived difficulty of navigating digital platforms. Computer-related challenges are a genuine concern and can hinder the teaching and learning process.

Apart from the LMS, the personal computer of a teacher or student might act up, disrupting live sessions, proper display, and submission of assignments. Online post-secondary teachers need to have reliable tech support staff. This makes it easy to fix malfunctions and takes the burden off the teacher, allowing them to concentrate on the lesson.

Tips To Succeed as an Online Post-Secondary Teacher

Online teaching constantly evolves and demands special considerations. The technology can be overwhelming for newcomers who may need answers to specific questions. Here are some ways to be successful in the online post-secondary teaching space:

Learn The Approach for Course Material Creation in Your School

Every institution and program has different processes to create course material. For example, in some schools, professors may be asked to split materials into one and a half-hour live classes plus 20 minutes for asynchronous material such as homework and projects.

Prepare Reading Materials and Homework

Teachers do not pass out papers in online classes compared to physical locations. In light of this, teachers have to research digital sources of information. These include sources relevant to the subject that will be helpful to the students, such as:

  • Online journals
  • Blogs
  • TED talks
  • YouTube tutorials

Seek Help from Experienced Online Post-Secondary Teachers

In most cases, another online teacher has already handled a topic. It is possible to use their asynchronous material. Before curating new materials, make sure to find out what is already available. This will save time and effort.

Also, the best place to find answers to any burning questions is from an experienced online teacher. Since they’ve been there before, they have insights into tips and tricks that will make teaching online easier for you. Don’t be limited to your program or school, as you might find answers from other teachers who have used similar LMS technology.

Create Assignments for Multiple Learning Styles

It might not be easy to know the learning style of every individual in an online learning system. You can ask the students themselves. Another method is to include a wide range of course materials and assignments to ensure that each student learns in their preferred manner. Online teachers who know their way around an LMS can easily track individual performance on various projects to better understand students’ learning.

Understand the Size of Your Class

Class size matters in online learning as it can be a factor when creating lessons and assignments. For example, an online teacher may have difficulty grading an essay test with hundreds of students for a class. On the other hand, some educational software makes it easy to grade multiple-choice tests.

Class size also affects homework assignments. A smaller class means that every student can present their work individually. This would not be practical for large classes.

Work Environment for Online Post-Secondary Teachers

Online post-secondary teachers have a more flexible schedule than their counterparts in physical locations. However, this doesn’t make the job any easier. They have to prepare course content and set up technology for learning. Those getting into the field might find it difficult to adapt at first but will settle in with the proper guidance.

Many online post-secondary teachers are employed full-time, while some work part-time. Also, online post-secondary teachers may handle more than one course in their department or even work at more than one college or university. Others may have a full-time job in addition to their teaching role. For instance, a working lawyer might teach an online law school course.

Since most online students have other obligations, online teachers are more likely to schedule classes for weekends and evenings. On the whole, the job is flexible, and the teacher can teach from anywhere.

Salary for Online Post-Secondary Teachers

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), postsecondary teachers earned an average of $80,560 in 2020. The national average for all occupations falls at $49,150. Some courses pay higher than others. Law teachers topped the list with an average of $116,430 annually. Economics teachers came next with wages estimated to be around $107,260. Education and law enforcement earned the least, with an estimated $63,560 annual salary.

Post-secondary teachers working in universities, professional schools, and colleges earned more than their colleagues in community colleges. They are among some of the best paid professionals in the education field. The annual wages for each institution is as follows:

Institution Type

Private universities, professional schools, and colleges$83,460
Public universities, professional schools, and colleges$81,110
Local junior colleges$80,020
State junior colleges$62,680

Job Outlook for Online Post-Secondary Teachers

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that post-secondary teachers will see a 12% growth in employment rate from 2020 to 2030. This is higher than the average occupation in the US.

There should be around 139,600 job openings for postsecondary teachers yearly from 2020 to 2030.

The BLS projects that the number of students in post-secondary institutions will shoot up over the next decade. More students will pursue higher education to gain the required skills and knowledge in different career paths. As a result of the increase in student population, there would be an increased demand for post-secondary teachers to meet the student needs.

The current aging population will also have a domino effect on different sectors, resulting in more postsecondary teachers. For example, increasing demand for healthcare services requires more healthcare workers. More post-secondary teachers will be needed to train these healthcare workers.

Despite all these, the employment rate for postsecondary teachers will still rely heavily on local and state government budgets. Suppose the local or state government reduces the funding for higher education. In that case, it will disrupt the employment of post-secondary teachers.

Next Step

Teaching is a rewarding career, and online teaching adds a certain level of flexibility to all the other benefits. There’s no better time than now to hop into this career path as demand for online post-secondary teachers continues to increase. You get the chance to be a lecturer, mentor, and facilitator. You can head to our resource center to learn more about teaching online and other careers in education today.

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