The International Association for K-12 Online Learning (iNACOL) reported that 316,320 U.S. students were enrolled full-time in virtual schools in the 2013-14 academic year. Thirty states and the District of Columbia offer fully online K-12 schools for youth statewide. According to the eLO Learning Consortium, 71.4 percent of academic leaders report that learning outcomes in online education are at-pace or superior to conventional classroom study. All of this buzz about virtual school choice is resulting in the hiring of more online K-12 teachers. These certified educators conduct synchronous or asynchronous courses for students to learn subjects from English to music and social studies. Online education could be provided by private and charter schools or accessed by students in their public school district. Online K-12 teachers play pivotal 21st century roles in bringing classrooms to learners’ own homes.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that America’s 1.38 million elementary school teachers earn a mean annual wage of $57,730 and 962,820 secondary school teachers make an average yearly salary of $60,440. Glassdoor specifically states that K-12 online teachers take lower salaries between $32,512 and $54,523. Alaska, New York, and Connecticut are the top-paying states for teachers with mean income at $80,550, $79,720, and $75,190 respectively.
Newly hired online K-12 teachers will likely land in the bottom 10th percentile of earnings with annual salaries below the $36,190 mark. Years of online teaching experience will be rewarded with salary increases that could surpass $85,550 eventually. Senior teachers could become online K-12 instructional designers where the median pay is $60,834 according to PayScale. Some move into cyber school administration for wages from $72,380 to $131,310.
Online K-12 teachers are responsible for organizing productive virtual classes for elementary and secondary school students to learn curriculum set to state standards. They’ll conduct research to create engaging online lessons that suit the grade level and individualize material to suit exceptional children’s IEP plans. Like classroom teachers, online K-12 teachers will track student attendance, assign homework and team projects, offer regular feedback on student progress to parents/guardians, proctor site-based tests, and prepare for standardized exams. They’ll also uniquely moderate student interactions via chat rooms, web conferencing, and discussion boards. It’s the online K-12 teacher’s duty to share and implement strategies that boost student performance and content mastery from afar.
Leading online K-12 courses will require in-depth technological skills for creatively integrating videos, discussion boards, educational games, and other software into lessons. Online K-12 teachers need the pedagogical skills to design curriculum that adapts to varying students’ needs. Good verbal and written communication skills are essential for educators to concisely answer student questions via any medium. Being detail-oriented with excellent organizational skills is a must for a cyber school online teacher to keep records of each student’s progress. Online instructors need time management skills to make certain curricula stays on track without overwhelming kids. Other necessary attributes of online K-12 teachers include inquisitive, patient, resourceful, caring, optimistic, and intelligent about their content specialty.
Degree and Education Requirements
The training of a cyber school online teacher could differ from most K-12 teachers since private and charter schools are more flexible. That said, the majority of online instructors hold a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited teacher’s college. Aspiring teachers could major in elementary education, special education, instructional technology, or a content area with a secondary education minor. Taking your own courses online may introduce you to virtual learning platforms, such as Blackboard, Moodle, Canvas, and Coursera. Some colleges like the University of Wisconsin-Madison offer a K-12 Certificate in Online Teaching. Heading to graduate school for a Master of Education (M.Ed.) could broaden your skills and ability to teach at online community colleges.
Pros and Cons of the Position
Going virtual instead of the traditional K-12 teaching route can provide educators with both rewards and challenges. On the positive side, online teachers have the ability to telecommute from anywhere with a reliable Internet connection. Use of online teaching has nearly quadrupled since 2002, so job prospects are heating up. Online K-12 teachers can specialize in various subjects like language arts, math, biology, and Spanish for their own interests. Most are better compensated salary-wise, even though benefits won’t be given to independent contractors. Online K-12 teachers can also use diverse multimedia that captures students’ attention and sparks love for learning. However, a lack of face-to-face interaction with pupils can make an online K-12 teacher’s job more difficult and lonely. Spending long hours planning online curriculum and finding interactive digital tools extends beyond the school day. Online K-12 teachers still need to invest heavily in higher education for their state certification too.
Receiving the right degree isn’t the only step to becoming a cyber school online teacher. You’ll need to gather real-world experience in virtual classrooms to develop a resume. Most CAEP-accredited teacher programs integrate field practicum to sharpen your skills. Hunt down internships or online tutoring jobs for experience outside the K-12 school building too. Some legitimate work-at-home websites include Brainfuse, Prep Point, Homework Help, and Tutor.com. After graduation, ensure your Praxis exams and background checks are in order for state teaching credentials. Interviewing for your first position could be easier with industry-related professional development. For example, the Online Learning Consortium (OLC) offers self-paced workshops for the Online Teaching Certificate. Also build your network by becoming a member of the International Association for K-12 Online Learning.
Virtual instruction is a hot education option that’s seen continued growth as instructional technologies have advanced. From 2012 to 2014, iNACOL reported an increase of 13 percent in the number of online K-12 students. Negative perception is changing as schools see online teaching approaches as quite effective. Increasing enrollments will continue for the coming decade across the board, both in-class and online. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment of kindergarten, elementary school, and high school teachers will rise by 6 percent through 2024 for over 143,000 new jobs total. Online K-12 instructors are typically hired with a bachelor’s degree at public, private, and virtual charter schools as well as for-profit corporations.
Overall, online K-12 teachers make the Internet their classroom for actively drawing the attention of and instructing diverse students. Teachers comfortable with technology can deliver inviting courses that suit each pupil’s unique needs via a computer screen. Becoming an online K-12 teacher is a gratifying career path for skilled communicators to shape young brains while working from the comfort of home.
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