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Supporting Online Teachers

By Manny Duarte
Florida Virtual School
Business Education Instructor
From the perspective of an online teacher with experience, at several institutions, in the high school and college virtual learning environments, I cannot overemphasize the critical need to properly support online faculty. I would venture to say that the most important factor in a successful online program is the level and quality of support provided to its teachers. How should online teachers be supported? The answer is simple: get them started properly in terms of understanding what it takes to be successful in this learning environment (as opposed to a traditional learning setting), give them the proper tools to perform their job, provide mentoring opportunities, and offer ongoing professional development. I have found the following to be common among successful online programs: 1. There is an orientation to the philosophy, methods and systems in place at that institution. 2. There is formal training provided in order to learn the processes and new learning environment. 3. An experienced mentor who provides timely feedback to the new teacher/facilitator oversees the first teaching assignment. 4. There are ongoing professional development opportunities to further develop the necessary skills for successful online teaching and provide a venue for discussion among peers. 5. There is continuous communication from the institution with respect to effective teaching/facilitation and course management skills. 6. There is extensive collaboration among staff and faculty to ensure improvements and enhancements to the programs are being made.