It’s the start of a new term at Anthem College Online (ACO). Students log in to a new course and an instructor appears onscreen, ready to teach and help students prepare to enter a new career or advance in their current ones.
As you have probably noticed, learning online is different from learning in a classroom. And teaching online is quite different from teaching an in-person class.
But who are these instructors? What qualifies them to deliver insights into key subject matters of the day?
ACO instructors are experts in the subjects they teach. They also know how to teach online and how to relate to students learning online.
Before they deliver any online course, ACO gives its instructors training and support to prepare them to succeed in delivering online education. After all, what good is a knowledgeable instructor if he or she can’t relate in an online environment?
Each of the more than 140 ACO faculty members have been selected based on their credentials and experience, as well as qualities and abilities to teach in the online environment and relate to students located across the nation.
Program chairs and faculty coordinators are responsible for directing online instructor training. Jonas Cavileer, ACO’s Program Chair for Criminal Justice and Paralegal programs, and Jerry Porter, Program Chair for the Business Management and Accounting Technology programs, emphasize that faculty candidates are required to hold degrees in the fields they apply to teach. “In fact, 98% have earned degrees higher than a bachelor’s degree,” they say. “Debra DeSimone, our Dean of Academic Affairs, is quite strict about academic credentials.” Instructors must also have at least three years’ field experience as well, and most have much more than this.
Resumes and academic transcripts that meet Dr. DeSimone’s standards and verified by Michael Valdez, ACO’s Education Faculty Coordinator are passed to Cavileer, Porter, and ACO’s other program chairs, Jeneane Moore (General Education) or Julia Huston (Healthcare Management). They select candidates to give a short teaching presentation on a classroom topic related to their areas of expertise. Candidates upload prepared slides and content to accompany the presentations as they deliver live, online classroom simulations.
Program chairs contact candidates who demonstrate superior abilities teaching in the online environment for a more formal interview, followed by a background check before an offer is made to join the ACO faculty.
All new instructors must attend a New Faculty Orientation that includes an extensive review of ACO’s policies and expectations for faculty members. New instructors receive technical training on Moodle, the learning management system ACO uses, and the Adobe Connect software that delivers online classes. After they complete the orientation, instructors are scheduled to deliver their first class as soon as the start of the next four-week term.
Instructor training does not end after orientation week. ACO instructors are required to attend two professional development trainings each year in addition to mandatory in-house trainings. They must complete two academic development courses each year as well. The additional training is also required by ACO’s accreditor, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools.
Instructors continue to receive feedback throughout the year from ACO’s Quality Assurance (QA) team and program chairs, who monitor classes throughout each term. Retention specialists review student grades for each course to identify any areas where they might be struggling. They can dig to see where in the course problems crop up and identify specific topics an instructor may need to revisit. Instructors also work with the retention team to identify and work with students who are having problems keeping up with the coursework or not attending courses.
Students are invited to complete surveys mid-course and at the end of the course. These surveys provide more information on instructors’ performance and effectiveness.
How does ACO compare to other online colleges? The program chairs say that they believe the school aims higher than most of the competition. “While we have three standards―subject knowledge, technical competency, and an engaging personality―most schools have two,” Cavileer says. He points out that while personality is difficult to measure, the QA team looks at factors that can indicate a problem with student engagement, such as little activity in discussion forums and the quality of exchanges.
“Instructors get to know their students in those forums,” Moore comments. “They can read students’ bios on Moodle, to get an idea of their backgrounds and interests. These are great tools to help them relate to their students.”
Want to see how it all works? Take a look at an online demonstration now!