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How to Make a Living by Teaching Online Courses

written by: Laurie Patsalides•edited by: Laurie Patsalides•updated: 5/29/2011

If you are considering venturing into the world of online teaching, you need some information on how to make the best decisions in this regard.

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    A Feasible Way to Earn an Income

    In the last few years more and more colleges are adding additional online classes. They make sense economically for the college and the students are demanding them. This means that either the current professors have to teach these online classes or new staff must be hired. Many full time professors have been teaching the same way for years. They may not be eager to change everything up and to learn to teach online. This provides an opportunity for a computer literate instructor with a master’s degree to pick up a few more classes to teach as an adjunct professor. Since it is all done online, you can work at any college no matter where it is located.

    In the past, adjunct college professors would get a job teaching their subject at the local community college. Most colleges limit adjuncts to 8 credit hours a semester. Although the pay is pretty good for each class taught, it is not enough to survive on. Adjuncts would have to find another way to supplement this income. Many of these instructors tutor privately or work in the college’s learning lab. Regardless of what these instructors do to supplement their income, in most cases these jobs don’t pay as well as a permanent teacher.

    Most towns don’t have numerous colleges around. An adjunct is really lucky if he happens to find another college near his home that is looking for an adjunct instructor in his field. With the growing popularity of online classes this professor can now apply and teach at any other college, regardless of location, that offers distance learning in his subject area. This makes teaching as an adjunct a feasible way to make a living.

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    Balance the Workload as an Adjunct

    The pay for teaching an online class is usually the same as teaching a traditional class. An instructor could teach two traditional classes at his local community college and teach two or three classes online for other colleges. This would provide more than enough income to support a family and it is a lot better than working two or three part time jobs outside of teaching. The flexibility that teaching online provides is also a big plus.

    So, to teach college full time a person has a few options. He or she can apply to teach full time at a college, but these positions are extremely competitive and there are not a lot of openings; apply to teach as an adjunct at a local college while teaching online; or apply to teach online exclusively.

    There are no concrete numbers about how much you can earn as an adjunct instructor because this will vary depending upon your degree level, academic rank, what the college pays and how many courses you teach per year (and remember a maximum is set by each college).

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    Where to Search

    There are many places to search online for an online adjunct position.

    HigherEdJobs is a good place to start. You can search by online/remote if you exclusively want to teach online, or you can search by type of degree or college as well.

    Search at Adjunct Nation under the topic distance learning to find adjunct positions specifically online.

    A couple great places to search for online positions are The Chronicle of Higher Education and Top Higher Education Jobs; however, your search will take longer as teaching online is not separated. Use terms such as, remote, online, distance learning, telecommute to narrow the search.

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    Getting More Work

    Online semesters can be fast at only 8 weeks long. This means that you will need to plan ahead for the next term while you are teaching. You should devote at least 5-10 hours a week searching for more teaching opportunities. Keep your CV current so it will be easy to apply to another position very quickly. Also, stay on top of professional development courses in your field so you are not left under qualified.

    Also, do a great job in your current placement to get other positions or be invited back. Be prompt when correcting papers, answering email, providing feedback and nurturing the online learners in your classes. Many colleges require teachers to meet time commitments, so be sure to abide by them. Some examples are (and these will vary by college), you cannot miss two days of teaching in a row, you must respond within X amount of days to students, and you are required to take workshops or training courses by a specified date to maintain proficiency and meet the online teaching requirements at that college.

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    The jobs are out there, but you have to do some work in finding them. In other articles in the series you can learn the process of actually landing one of these positions, where to find the positions as well as the benefits.

    This article was modified as it was adopted by the author. A teacher and online editor, Laurie Patsalides, M.S.Ed, shares relevant information about the online learning environment to help others advance in their online careers.