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Online Teaching Degrees: FAQs

There are roughly 86,000 new teachers entering the workforce each year, according to a 2006 National Education Association (NEA) report, and most of them don't have online teaching degrees, or any training whatsoever in the field of online teaching. Yet the number of students enrolled in online education is expected to nearly double in the next five years.

If the idea of an online teaching career interests you, keep reading for some answers to commonly asked questions about online teaching degrees.

FAQs About Online Teaching Degrees

1. Do I need an online teaching degree to teach online?

Technically, no. Although the NEA and many education authorities strongly advocate for formalized training and certification for online teachers, there is currently no standardized requirement at the national level for these teachers to possess degrees in online teaching. In general, the standard requirements apply online as well; that is, in K-12 public schools, a bachelor's degree and state teaching license are sufficient, and at the post-secondary level, graduate degrees and professional experience are the norm. However, formal training and certification are strongly advised and could possibly become the requirement in the near future.

2. Why should I earn an online teaching degree?

Because teaching online is much more than just translating traditional classroom methods to the online environment. Consider the importance of online communication alone. According to a Drexel University survey, 12 percent of the online students who withdrew early from their programs cited poor communication with instructors as the primary reason for their decision. From the ever-changing nature of the technology tools to the techniques for communicating effectively, this specialized training is essential in fostering a positive online learning experience.

3. Is there an online teaching degree that specializes, specifically, in preparing people to teach online?

Yes, there are degrees and certification programs that prepare teachers to teach in this delivery format. They are often called "online instructor" programs. Other terms to look for will be "instructional technology" or "technology in education." The best degrees for teaching online are those that provide instruction in effective online communication, how to develop effective learning opportunities, how to use all the available technological tools, and how to design activities that appeal to all types of learning styles in both synchronous and asynchronous formats.

4. Where can I find schools offering online teaching degrees?

One great place to start looking is right here on GetDegrees.com. Both traditional and online teaching degrees are listed here. Also, several certification programs for online teaching are offered through many states, and by vendors providing online classroom environments, such as Blackboard or Moodle. Finally, online colleges usually offer formalized training to incoming online teachers.

5. What are the top degrees that one can earn online that prepare people to get jobs in traditional classrooms?

The standard teaching degree is the bachelor's degree in elementary/middle/secondary education. The bachelor's degree in higher education is increasing in popularity. Upon earning your degree, you need to complete licensure requirements set forth by your state of residence, which generally involves student teaching. Many teacher education programs grant licensure upon graduation. A master's degree in a specialization is often the best route to advancement or higher pay.

6. Should teachers future-proof their resumes by learning to teach online now?

According to independent research firm Ambient Insight, almost 12 million college students took some or all of their classes online in 2009, and that number is expected to nearly double by 2014. The number of K-12 students taking at least one class online is expected to grow by 18 percent by 2014. At this rate, schools should experience a tremendous surge in hiring of online teachers. Numbers like this are forcing many in education to rethink policies on licensure for online teaching. So online teaching degrees give you an edge for a few reasons.

7. How does teaching online differ from teaching in front of a traditional classroom?

Common myths about online teaching include that it involves simply translating traditional classroom activities for online usage, or that online classes are just "dumbed down" classes. Neither is true. First, because online teaching usually means that your students won't hear your voice or see your face when you give instruction or make assignments, tone of voice and facial expressions are lost; this means that a lot can be lost in translation. Online teachers have to work hard to perfect their electronic communication. Not only that, but they must create effective, interactive assignments for individuals and teams to encourage a well-rounded learning experience. Teachers' online presence should be very frequent to keep students engaged, to mentor students as they teach themselves various concepts, and to encourage those who might be frustrated. Plus, they need to be familiar with and employ many types of online learning tools. For these reasons and many others, online teaching degrees are increasingly essential in preparing for this career.

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