Rhonda is a writer and educator with a BA in Journalism and a MEd in Distance Education. She taught in community colleges for 19 years.
Online Teaching Interviews: What to Expect
I recently had an interview for an online teaching job, and I've decided to share the most important questions the interviewers posed to me. If you can answer these questions confidently and eloquently, you'll greatly increase your chances of landing your online teaching gig.
Increasingly, whether you've been trained in distance education or not, if you're a teacher, you may find yourself having to know more and more about how to facilitate e-learning.
Here are the questions I'll cover in this article:
- Did you have trouble finding us?
- Tell us about yourself.
- What do you know about us?
- What is your teaching philosophy?
- What do you know about technology and learning management systems?
- Have you ever had to troubleshoot any problems?
- Tell us about your teaching experience.
- Tell us about a time when you came up with something creative in your teaching.
- Tell us how you would motivate someone who is slow in your course.
- How much time do you devote to each student?
10 Critical Online Teaching Interview Questions
Below, I list the 10 most key questions your interviewers will ask you and give tips and advice on how to prepare your answers.
1. Did You Have Trouble Finding Us?
This is a standard interview opener to break the ice. Of course, if you were doing the interview online, this question would not be an issue. You would want to reference anyone who might've pointed you toward this specific position. You can also discuss your job search briefly and what resources you used to discover this particular opportunity. Keep it succinct and clear.
2. Tell Us About Yourself
This question, of course, is not about your life history. What you share about yourself should zero in on your suitability for this specific job, and it should be clear and easily understood by interviewers. In my own case, I just said I have a Master of Distance Education, four years of experience teaching online, and some instructional design experience. Practice tailoring your response to this question for this particular opportunity.
3. What Do You Know About Us?
Again, this question is rather generic, but nevertheless, it pays to do your homework. Is the institution public or private? How long has it been around? What are people saying about it online? Nowadays, information reflecting the credibility of anyone or anything is more available than ever before.
Take a look at websites like Glassdoor and Comparably to see what current and former employees are saying about the school/company. Peruse the school/company website and read the About Us section to discover any history and mission/vision statements. Try to find their executive leadership and do quick Google searches on those team members to learn about their background.
4. What Is Your Teaching Philosophy?
Expect an educational institution to ask you this one. If you have studied education at the undergraduate or graduate levels, you will have inevitably had to discern what your philosophy of teaching is. Online teaching most commonly falls into the realm of humanistic (focused on the individual) and behaviorist (focused on outcomes) approaches, so any authentic statement you can make about aligning with these two types of teaching will stand you in good stead.
5. What Do You Know About Technology and Learning Management Systems?
Learning Management Systems (LMSs) are big in online teaching. The big four for academic institutions are BlackBoard, Canvas, and Moodle. I've used all of them and built a Moodle site. It also helps that I have taken 16 online courses. If you have taken an online course, that will at least give you the experience of using an LMS. They are fairly easy to use, and some online jobs I've seen only list knowledge of the LMS as a "nice-to-have" and not as a "must-have" skill.
If you're somewhat technically inclined, and you want to promote yourself, you could also consider building your own Moodle site. If you have a hosting account with scripting services it may have one for Moodle that you can install on your own domain. In any case, take some time to familiarize yourself with these LMSs so that you can speak competently about them.
6. Have You Ever Had to Troubleshoot Any Problems?
If you work with technology, sooner or later you will have to troubleshoot. Often, learning management systems need to be adjusted, or occasionally students require extra instructions to access different parts of the installation.
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Occasionally, you may have to upload something, or perhaps you will need to use some HTML, or understand what the LMS can handle or not handle, or where to place the content, or how to link to other servers.
Use the STAR technique here: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Tell a story that demonstrates how you effectively handled some technical problems in a learning situation. If you have good problem-solving skills then promote those.
7. Tell Us About Your Teaching Experience
I have already taught online so that certainly helps. If you use technology in your teaching, then describe to what extent you have used web-based tools such as blogs and wikis, or web activities involving research and web-quests. Inevitably it is impossible to ignore technology even if you teach in the class as education is increasingly migrating to an online environment.
Your classroom experience is transferable to the online environment, but there are differences. Remember that online teaching is about creating different interactions between yourself and the students, between the students themselves, and between the students and the material.
This can involve using chat technologies, asynchronous conferencing, or online group work. If you can describe how you would create interactions (hint: it's not only about answering e-mail), then you will convey a sense of familiarity with online teaching.
If you have little online teaching experience, you can learn about creating classroom blogs and try to imagine how you might utilize this in a course, and how it might help your students achieve certain goals. Here is a helpful list of 50 blog topics and prompts for teachers to get you started.
8. Tell Us About a Time When You Came Up With Something Creative in Your Teaching
Do you think outside of the box? Online teaching is for creative teachers. Ideally, if you can think of a technology-related idea, so much the better. Do you like to experiment with the internet to try new types of assignments or teaching strategies?
Recently, I created a screencast tutorial (I bought my own copy of Camtasia, a screen capture program) and created a video on how to revise a badly written document. The students liked it because they could scroll through it quickly or slowly, as they wished.
9. Tell Us How You Would Motivate Someone Who Is Slow in Your Course
If the teacher and the students are in separate locations, then this could be difficult. In-person, it is certainly easier to zero in on the problem. Online, you will have to be persistent in your communications. Students may not often want to confront their obstacles in the course. Sometimes, just arranging for a telephone consultation could sort out the problem. Here are 10 tips for supporting students struggling with online learning.
10. How Much Time Do You Devote to Each Student?
It's easy to get carried away. In my early days of online teaching, I answered emails around the clock. Generally, I get back to the students in 24 hours or less, but I don't answer emails in the evening and on weekends.
Some students require less support than others. Sometimes a short email will suffice. Sometimes, assignments require detailed feedback. But, in general, you shouldn't spend any more time doing an online teaching job than you do a regular teaching job, especially if you do not have to do any modifications to the course.
You might find the work spread out. Just as the students must set aside time to do their course to fit their schedule, you too must decide when your "teaching hours" are, when you'll be posting on the forums, marking, or answering emails.
If you have little to no experience in an online setting, don't fret. You can still create a compelling answer to this question by reading online resources and thinking through your strategy ahead of time. Here are 10 key rules for managing time in online teaching to get you started.
How to Find an Online Teaching Job
Knowing what to expect in an interview for an online teaching job can help support your success. Increasingly, there will be more opportunities to teach online as education migrates into cyberspace.