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Professional Development for Online Instructors


Some of the reasons many teachers choose to teach as online adjunct instructors include the following:

• Teaching is something they have always wanted to do

• They are stay-at-home parents who would like to work from home in addition to raising their children

• They have careers in a particular field in which they would like to teach

• They are retired and would like to work part-time

• They are pursuing higher education and would like to gain experience in the field of teaching prior to becoming a professor

Whatever your reasons may be, once you become an online adjunct instructor, there are certain requirements that will be expected of you in addition to your teaching responsibilities.

Your obligations teaching in an online environment are similar to teaching in an on-campus environment. You will need to attend regularly scheduled faculty meetings, participate in “in-service training” activities, assist other faculty members who are learning the ropes, and complete a required number of professional development activities, which will vary depending on the educational institution you support. In most cases, all of these requirements can be accomplished via a virtual environment designed for online instructors.

Professional development activities are necessary to ensure teachers continued growth in their area of instruction. For example, if an online instructor is teaching information technology, but he or she is currently retired, how will the educational institution and students taking the course benefit from the experience of the instructor? Technology changes rapidly; to ensure that instructors remain current with the latest changes and trends, they must be involved in learning activities on a quarterly basis or within a time frame mandated by the university.

Types of learning activities that are typically accepted by universities as professional development are as follows:

  • Curriculum Development: As an online instructor and subject matter expert, you will have the opportunity to collaborate with other faculty members who are developing curricula for new courses that may arise. Try to take advantage of these opportunities and consider them a learning experience to add to your curriculum vitae as well as satisfying a professional growth activity.

  • Online Self-Guided Courses: These courses are usually available at the university where you teach and may require a registration fee. Check with your university to see if faculty discounts are available.

  • Continuing Education: If you have obtained your master’s degree and are pursing your PhD, you can use one of the PhD courses to comply with one of the professional development goals, as long as the PhD discipline parallels with the area you instruct.

  • Area of Employment: If you are currently employed in the field you are teaching, consider that as a professional development activity.

  • Membership in a Professional Organization: There are many professional associations available for a variety of disciplines. If your area of discipline is Information Technology, then joining an association of information technology professionals is a great way to receive newsletters on the latest trends and journal publications.

  • Conferences and Symposiums: Attending a conference is a great way to network with others who are in the same field or who share similar interests. The investment you make to attend can provide you with a wealth of knowledge and possible opportunities.

  • Certifications: Certifications qualify as a professional development activity and provide the instructor with credibility. If you teach in the area of web design, acquiring an Adobe Dreamweaver Certification would greatly enhance your knowledge, particularly if it is software used in connection with class assignments.


These are just some of the professional development activities you can plan on participating in to fulfill your professional growth requirements when you begin teaching as an online adjunct instructor. Universities may require that you select a different activity per calendar year. Formulate a goal of selecting four or five activities each year, and if they work for you, continue with that goal each year to ensure you are current with changes in the industry in which you specialize and instruct.

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Content copyright © 2014 by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger. All rights reserved.
This content was written by Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger. If you wish to use this content in any manner, you need written permission. Contact Patricia Pedraza-Nafziger for details.

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