Online Teaching Interview - What to Expect
Recently I had an interview for an online teaching job, and here are some of the questions I was asked. Increasingly, whether you've been training in distance ed or not, if you're a teacher, you may find yourself having to know more and more about how to facilitate e-learning.
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.
Tell us about yourself - This question, of course, is not about your life history, but to help you zero right in on your suitability for the job. In my own case, I just said I have a Master of DE, four years experience teaching online, and some instructional design experience.
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 on credibility of anyone or anything is more available than ever before.
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, inevitably, you will have had to discern what your philosophy of teaching is. Online teaching most commonly falls into the realm of humanistic (focused on the individual) teaching and behaviorism (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.
What do you know about technology and learning management systems?
- Learning Management Systems (LMS) are big in online teaching. The big three for academic institutions are BlackBoard Enterprise, BlackBoard/WebCT, 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.
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. 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.
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Expect to be asked 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 increasingly, education is 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 or between the students themselves and between the students and the material. This can involve using chat technologies or 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.
Tell us about a time where 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 screen cast 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.
Tell us how you would motivate someone who was slow in the 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.
How much time would you give to a 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.
How to get your first online teaching job
Knowing what to expect in an interview for an online teaching can help support your success. Increasingly, there will be more opportunities to teach online as education migrates into cyberspace.