The popularity of online programs is increasing at both online schools and traditional universities with new online offerings. As the number of courses continues to rise, so will the need for qualified online faculty members. Instructors are also pursing online opportunities for some of the same reasons that draw students – convenient scheduling and flexible locations.
Universities are also turning to part-time adjuncts, often in lieu of filling full-time faculty positions. This trend is not without controversy. While a part-time adjunct position may be a good-fit for some, for others these positions present considerable challenges. Many adjunct instructors do not receive benefits and have little say in the administrative and curriculum decisions in the programs where they teach. The tenure system is also drawing criticism as a potentially outdated concept that encourages research over teaching.
The debate about faculty employment continues. In the meantime, the total number of faculty teaching positions is predicted to increase in the United States. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, positions for "postsecondary teachers are expected to grow by 15% between 2008 and 2018, which is faster than the average of all occupations."
Find Opportunity and Support
There are numerous ways to find online instructor positions. Whether you are employed in industry looking for a part-time teaching opportunity, seeking multiple adjunct positions, or a full-time faculty member interested in online teaching, you'll find you are not alone. There are large communities of online and adjunct faculty who are sharing information about jobs in online forums and groups.
Online Job Boards
Web-based job search sites focused on higher education are a great place to start. Look for specialized search features that allow you to locate lists of jobs that meet your needs: location, part-time/full-time, online or face-to-face, and your academic area of expertise. Explore Chronicle Careers, HigherEdJobs.com, and Inside Higher Ed Career Seekers. Many of these sites also allow you to set up an automated search agent – enter your information and receive email announcements with positions that match your criteria.
School Human Resources
Both online schools and traditional institutions post information about application procedures and current openings on their websites. Webster University, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Lorain County Community College, and the University of Baltimore provide examples of what you will find. Are there specific programs or schools at which you would like to teach? Take a look at their websites for more information. You might also want to contact them directly to express your interest and inquire about future staffing needs.
New to the academic hiring scene, these companies recruit and place adjunct faculty and assistants. Spectrum Higher Education and Instructional Connections are just two examples. Research these, and similar agencies, to find out more about what is involved – the contract terms, and the logistics of how placements are made – before signing up.
Sometimes it's who you know that makes the difference in a successful job search. Let the members of your existing network know that you are interested in online teaching opportunities. And extend your existing network by joining new communities focused on online teaching and adjunct positions. You never know who might have the connection that will lead to an offer.
- LinkedIn Groups: If you do not already have a LinkedIn account, consider setting one up. There is an active community of online instructors within, and they are exchanging resources, lessons learned and information about positions in groups such as: Adjunctpreneur, Online Faculty, and Adjunct Faculty Directory. Use the LinkedIn Groups Directory feature to find more.
- AdjunctWorld: You can join this group in LinkedIn or follow their blog. They're also on Facebook. AdjunctWorld focuses on job listings and publishes a weekly list of the latest opportunities.
- AdjunctNation: This site offers a fee-based subscription, but you'll also find some content available without a login, including forums, featured articles, and a searchable jobs database.
Remember, it's your active participation in these new groups that is important. Get your profile set up, find the groups that are discussing the topics most relevant to you, and join in!
Document Your Experience
Applications for online teaching positions usually involve submitting some kind of resume or curriculum vitae (CV). Your document could potentially be one of several hundred submitted for a position. How can you make it stand out?
- Pay attention to each announcement: Customize your resume or CV using similar language, and make sure each of the advertised requirements is addressed.
- Be obvious: If you already have teaching experience, online teaching experience especially, state it clearly so the reviewer can quickly find the information.
- Address key competencies: Anticipate questions the institution may have about your qualifications and provide the answers in your application materials. Penn State provides a list of online instructor competencies that might be a helpful starting point if the institutions you are applying to don't have similar information posted.
- Describe your experience with technology: Do you have a blog or personal/professional website? Are you active on social media and networking sites? Are you involved in decisions about technology within communities, schools, or committees? Again, anticipate the requirements and show off your skills.
Consider building an electronic portfolio of items related to your online teaching experience. In addition to your CV, this portfolio might include:
- List of schools, courses, and terms – where and when you've taught.
- Evaluations from faculty supervisors and students.
- Ongoing professional development and continuing education efforts – formal and informal – that keep you current with online education technologies and within your field of expertise.
A web-based portfolio may also be a useful demonstration of your skills with online technologies.
Online delivery presents a number of challenges and can be quite different from a face-to-face course. If you haven't taught online but are interested in doing so, consider some of the options available to help you prepare for the experience.
- Certificates, Workshops, Seminars: The possibilities are seemingly endless. Attend a one-time free event or enroll in a program with academic credit. The Sloan Consortium, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and MarylandOnline are a few of the organizations offering these programs focused on learning more about online teaching.
- Be an Online Student: If you are not sure if online teaching is right for you, consider trying an online course – as a student. This experience will help you understand the student's perspective and give you the opportunity to work with the technologies and online course interface.
Take the initiative to not only prepare yourself for the experience of online teaching but also to explore the opportunities available and make direct contact with schools and programs. Have you taught online? Consider sharing your advice with future online instructors in the comments area!