This content was originally published at APUEdge.com
Five Tips to Help You Prepare for an Online Teaching Position Interview
If you have traditional, face to face teaching experience and want to teach online, you’ll need to know how to prepare for an online teaching position interview. Online education is a growing field, and getting hired to teach online is increasingly more competitive. It can also be difficult to focus your interview comments toward online education specifically, when you have focused on live classes throughout your career. I’ve interviewed hundreds of prospective faculty in recent years and share these tips from my experience, to help you stand out in your next online teaching interview and hopefully land the job you’re looking for.
Do Your Homework
Before you interview for an online teaching position, do your homework to learn about the institution. Each school, college, and university is unique in its mission and philosophy. Many cater to specific populations or have focused programs that distinguish them. Knowing about the specifics of the job for which you’re being interviewed gives you an advantage during the conversation. And, your insight about the programs or populations for which the interviewer is responsible can be included in your interview responses thoughtfully.
Interviewers will want to know how your skills and expertise will be a good fit for their reality. Most educational institutions have informative websites, where the mission and vision of the institution is provided. Take the time to read and understand these areas. Also explore the specifics in the program for which you have applied. You might be able to find details about the student population most likely to enroll in the program, such as whether they are mostly adult learners, military and veteran students, or within other demographic groups. Use the information you find to help tailor your approach when answering interview questions to help you stand out among others interviewed.
Learn What Matters About Online Education
If you are not familiar with online education practices, learn about the Community of Inquiry model, andragogy, and strategies specific for your subject area. There are many well-known “best practices” in online education, and applicants for online teaching positions are expected to know about these practices. As you learn about what matters in online education, find practices you already use that align to these practices. Then, practice explaining how your present strengths and abilities work well online.
Even if you have little experience, knowing how to move your teaching online will prepare you for an interview much better than guessing. As you learn about what matters in online teaching, you can think about the potential job expectations for the role you’re considering in light of what you already know about the academic institution, its priorities, and its student population. Mentally connecting these areas can help you generate a list of questions you might ask during the interview, if you need more information about the job expectations to decide whether it’s a good fit for you.
Get Clear About Your Strengths and Weaknesses Teaching Online
Regardless of your online teaching experience, interviewers want to know about your strengths and weaknesses while teaching online. The first way to explore your focus is by taking the “Teaching Perspectives Inventory.” The TPI identifies teaching priorities and can help you get clear on your goals for teaching generally. Once you’ve identified your focus, you can describe your teaching strengths and focus together—something few teachers are able to do concisely.
After you’ve thought about your teaching priorities, connect these to what matters in online education, as well as what works well for you and what doesn’t. Decide how you stand out uniquely through your strengths and teaching approaches, personality, teaching philosophy, and the ways in which you help students learn. Likewise, identify your weaknesses. No one can be good at everything, and being clear about where you’re still growing ads validity to what you say in your interview. It’s a bonus if you also have a plan about how you address your weaker areas or a plan to regularly improve these areas.
Share Your Key Ideas Clearly and Concisely
Find ways to express the unique and authentic details about yourself concisely, without jargon. I’ve been in many interviews where time was limited, and interviewees were asked to share their most important thoughts in just a few minutes, yet many were not able to do it. As you prepare for an interview, aim for a response that shares the best details up front, so that you get out what is most important to you and those interviewing you without running out of time.
It’s obvious when an interviewee has previously written responses prepared for an interview that they are trying to fit into the questions they have been asked, only to fail to answer the actual question that has been posed. Think about potential interview questions and practice your responses, and also be flexible enough to answer clearly and concisely during the interview. Your ability to adjust in this area helps a potential employer see how you might also be able to say a lot in a short space, to show that you can adapt when needed.
Listen and Respond Well
After you’ve taken the time to do your homework about the institution you’re interviewing at, learn what matters about teaching online, increased your self-awareness of your strengths and weaknesses, and prepared yourself to respond clearly and concisely, give yourself the time and energy to listen and respond well. When listening to those who are interviewing you, take the time to consider what they are asking. If you’re unsure what is meant, ask for a bit of detail or clarification.
Once you’ve fully grasped what you’re asked during the interview, take a breath, and respond confidently. If you’re anxious, close your eyes a moment, and bring your awareness to the present moment before answering. You’ve done your homework and are prepared. You have much to share. And you will be able to do it clearly and concisely.
Hearing your interviewers and connecting with them during the interview allows you to build a rich conversation that sets you apart as a potential faculty member. You’ll notice things you might have otherwise missed if you are anxious, jump in too quickly, or don’t catch the meaning of your interviewers’ questions. By slowing down and being intentional during the interview, you will be able to leave the experience feeling great about the way you presented yourself and your unique expertise, and you’ll have the best chance of being considered for the role you are seeking.
Here are some tips for alternative assignments sure to add variety and relevance to your online teaching.
Students today tire easily of the typical discussion board and essay-style course design. And as an educator, these can tax your time and patience as well. Alternative assignments use creative topics, formats, and approaches to avoid this cookie-cutter approach.
Because alternative assignments use non-standard methods, they might at first catch your students by surprise. For this reason, it’s helpful to introduce the tools and ideas you will require in alternative assessments early, so that students can tackle the job one piece at a time.
One use of alternative assessment is for formative assessments. Dr. Major shares these helpful ideas in her article about Keeping Students Engaged:
- Use a technology for students’ introductions, like Flipgrid or VoiceThread.
- Use polls through LMS tools, Poll Everywhere, or a synchronous, live video meeting, to ask students to contribute their learning goals for the course or unit.
- Use a quiz to check students’ understanding of course policies and syllabus items.
- Use a scavenger hunt activity to guide students through the online classroom and give them a content preview.
Additional creative methods can take students’ creativity even further, as shared by Dr. Melanie Shemberger, of Murray State University, at the OLC Accelerate conference November 9, 2020:
- Use infographics, created in Pictochart or Canva, so students can collect and present details from their learning.
- Allow students to present their ideas through creating a podcast, by making a “how-to” video in which they propose what their final assignment will include, or by representing the details on a mind map.
- Give students directions to present their assignment as a Pecha Kucha PowerPoint show. This makes the presentation concise, to the point, and an opportunity for prioritizing ideas.
Whatever creative approach you use, be sure to give clear instructions, tie the assessment directly to the learning objectives, and provide grading details to help students know exactly what to expect. These creative approaches open the door to creativity. And, your students will even have fun learning!
You can meet with online students through Zoom video. Some institutions provide Zoom accounts to their faculty as part of their IT infrastructure. If an account is not provided by your school, you can create a free Zoom account.
Zoom meetings are a great way to build teaching presence and social presence. Through live video, students can see you, trust you, and become secure. Positive student-teacher relationships are particularly valuable online, where it is difficult to connect. Similarly, video meetings let you get to know your students. This connection will help you stay motivated throughout your teaching.
Although live video calls might not be standard in your online course, live meetings can be offered as an option to support students. And Zoom calls can be recorded, with captions added for diverse learners.
For a helpful array of tools that will support your online Zoom meetings, visit https://us02web.zoom.us/docs/en-us/covid19.html.
Zoom provides features to help you connect with students in a secure and effective way. Visit this link to learn about recent updates.
As an educator, you might be concerned about security, privacy, and managing the Zoom room. Each of these areas is covered in an educator guide. This guide explains how to use the “waiting room.” How to lock access. How to mute and remove participants, and more! Click this link to access the educator guide.
Have you ever thought to write a letter to your future self? In this video, a man shares his experience with doing this.
He was unhappy with his life and wondered where he would be in the future. Then, he wrote his future self a letter and continued with his current life.
But he also changed something.
He stopped listening to talk radio (other people’s ideas).
And, he started listening to inspiring podcasts (making room to generate his own ideas).
This one small change gave him the space to stop feeling stuck, and he began to feel hopeful. He had new ideas. He felt inspired. And, everything changed.
The keys to this change were listening and learning.
To view this on YouTube, visit https://youtu.be/8jryr1Zi57M. Or, click “play” on the video included here.
Have you ever wondered why things never change?
When I have been stuck in situations I did not like, I wondered why. What did I do to deserve it? Why didn’t things change?
Have you ever wondered why things never changed?
At times like these, I have found that just like the man in the video, I needed to make room for something new. Also, I needed to put myself in a position to receive inspiration. Then, I needed to listen.
And, I needed to learn.
Learning is the best way to change.
If you want to make a life change, to change your circumstances, or to feel differently, learning is the best way to make it happen.
When we are learning, we have to be humble and available.
We must listen.
And take action when opportunities come to us.
When you’re the teacher, learning is still important.
Whatever position you hold and no matter where you are, learning is still important.
For example, after I completed a doctoral degree and felt solid career direction, I kept learning more. And that learning has made me a better teacher. It continues to be critical to my success and personal growth.
Learning more has given me the power to grow. And, because I keep learning, I will always understand my students.
Ultimately, you can feel lighter and have influence when you keep learning, too.
I hope you will enjoy today’s video share and find ways to keep yourself open. Be available. Then, listen and learn.
Because if you can do these things, you will always have direction. Even though you’ll get stuck, as we all do, you will eventually get through it.
And the future you will thank you for your commitment, perseverance, and tenacity.
Today, I saw the Wiley Educational Research posted on Linkedin. You can view it here: https://edservices.wiley.com/ .
What does it mean for online education?
First, the researchers have been conducting this study repeatedly for several years. They report having surveyed over 15,000 fully online learners during the bast many years. I’ve used some of their reported statistics and trends in my own work, and particularly in my recent book Teaching Music Appreciation Online. I believe the data is useful and adds insight to online higher education.
Second, it’s unclear whether any survey respondents were impacted by COVID-19 yet, because the authors noted that data were collected in January and February 2020. Broad effects of the pandemic did not impact higher education until late March 2020 and onward. Regardless, the needs and preferences of online learners are well represented under normal circumstances. Next year’s report will definitely be worth a look!
Here are some of the key insights that returned this year:
- Online learners prefer to take classes from institutions located close to home
- Online learners typically prefer affordability and reputation when choosing where to enroll
And, new findings about what online learners really want include the following:
- Pride in the institution and are willing to pay more tuition for an institution’s reputation
- The fastest route to completing the program and speed throughout the process (including applying, accepting transfer credits, and goal achievement)
- Specific programs (and they will go elsewhere to find it rather than opting for an on-campus option)
- Career services
- Options to learn via mobile devices
As we look to the future of online education, considering the preferences and needs of online students will help us continue to provide what they most want.