Professional Development for Online Instructors

Professional Development for Online Instructors
Have you considered becoming an online instructor? Reasons many educators choose to teach online include:

• 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 continue working part-time to share the knowledge they have gained throughout their career

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

Whatever your reasons may be, once you become an online adjunct instructor specific requirements 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 setting. You are required 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 have been retired for some time, how will the students 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. 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 or reimbursements are available.

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

  • Area of Employment: If you are currently working in the field you teach, consider that 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 an excellent way to receive newsletters on the latest trends and the latest 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.


These are just some of the professional development activities you can plan on to fulfill your professional growth requirements when you begin teaching as an online adjunct instructor. Universities may request you select a different activity per calendar year. Formulate a goal of identifying four or five development opportunities each year, and 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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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.