In a twenty-five–plus-year career in Christian education as a social studies and Bible teacher, both in the classroom and online, I have found both environments enriching and rewarding. However, there are certain beneficial and enjoyable advantages to online teaching which are difficult to duplicate in the classroom. That’s why I encourage any educator to take advantage of the opportunity to teach online when they have the chance.
Here are some reasons why, over the years, I have enjoyed teaching online.
One of the significant advantages of teaching online is that usually the course structure is already in place. You don’t have to grapple with course design. The standards, learning objectives, learning activities, and assessments have been developed by the school or organization for which you work. Course standardization reduces the time and need for lesson planning and allows the instructor to spend more time on the content and student engagement. Also, if you work for a Christian online school, teaching from a Christian worldview will be a vital part of what you do. The good news is that, in many cases, biblical integration is often already embedded in the course content, for you to discuss and highlight with your students.
Some online schools allow or require teachers to design their courses, so if you enjoy course design that option is still available. Overall, however, having the course already standardized is a huge time–saver.
“Course standardization reduces the time and need for lesson planning and allows the instructor to spend more time on the content and student engagement.”
The flexibility of being an online teacher is dynamic. One can work from almost any location in the world. As a missionary schoolteacher overseas for twenty-six years, I could continue teaching online in the countries where I was serving. The flexibility also extended while I was traveling. It was common for me to connect and work from airport hubs, restaurants, and hotel rooms. You have the capability, if you have a sufficient internet connection and a computer, to teach from any remote location. In addition, I could set and work on my schedule despite the time zone differences (and despite having a full-time ministry as a missionary schoolteacher). Another benefit is the ability to work from home. This has all kinds of advantages, including the ability to work at your own pace and control your work environment.
The current online school I work for, Sevenstar, has embedded assignments called discussion-based assessments that help facilitate a high level of teacher–student interaction. During these formative assessments, you can check for understanding and how well the students grasp the material. The potential for this kind of venue in working with the students is tremendous. According to Indeed.com, “These kinds of interactions can lead to deeper responses that use more critical thinking skills. Students may also have the opportunity to participate in extended discussions about class content.”
Maybe even more importantly, the discussion time, often done through video conferencing, allows the teachers to get to know their students and build relationships. By getting to know their students, teachers can gain an understanding of students’ particular situations or environments. For example, are they working entirely from home or during a dedicated class period at school? How involved are they in sports and other extracurricular activities?
Sometimes the teacher will learn of a recent dramatic event in a student‘s life, like a significant injury, illness, or complex family situation. The teacher can use this knowledge to create conditions within the class framework to help students succeed in learning the content. My favorite aspect of the discussion forum, however, is making the learning relevant in the life of the student by using questions and looking at the content from a biblical worldview, not to mention taking opportunity to pray for your student and share your faith as the Lord gives opportunity.
Chances are, if you have been teaching online classes for any length of time, you have had the wonderful experience of teaching and interacting with international students. On a personal note, my experience in working with international students over the years has been nothing but positive. As I put it in a recent blog article, “While having the privilege of teaching abroad for twenty-six years in four different countries—Bolivia, the Philippines, Paraguay, and Haiti—I found that one of the major benefits was the diversity of my students. For both the classroom teacher and the online instructor, the amalgamation of different cultures, languages, and worldviews brings with it a rich and fruitful dynamic that is difficult to top.”
Again, one aspect of this that has been especially enriching is the ability to teach international students from a biblical worldview. Many international students come from mixed religious backgrounds, including Buddhism, Hinduism, or Taoism. Some have not grown up in a Christian home and have little or no knowledge of the Bible. Sharing and integrating biblical truth while teaching the course content has been a blessing that I am continually thankful for.
“For both the classroom teacher and the online instructor, the amalgamation of different cultures, languages, and worldviews brings with it a rich and fruitful dynamic that is difficult to top.”
In addition to the items above, there are other benefits of being an online teacher:
- Improved and evolving technical skills: Being a “digital immigrant,” the ancillary benefits of being able to keep up with some of the latest technology has been tremendous. For example, I have stayed updated with the newest learning management systems, curriculum software, and best practices in education—not to mention that it has the additional benefit of helping me keep up with the use of technology as a classroom teacher.
- The future of education: The growth of online education has become immense over the past several years, and is expected to continue to experience an annual growth rate of nearly 10 percent. As one gathers experience and skill as an online educator, more doors will open across this broad and expanding field. For example, more and more brick-and-mortar secondary schools—intentionally or unintentionally, because of dual credit courses and other online options—are increasingly moving toward a blended school model. According to recent data, 63 percent of high school students use e-learning tools daily, and more than three million complete their education online. In addition, in higher education, approximately 33 percent of college students take a course online. Staying on top of these changes—and therefore being part of how education is changing—will only benefit the online instructor in the future.
For the past thirteen years, I have benefited immensely from being an online educator. Ease of organization and planning because of standardizing, the wide-ranging flexibility that allows one to control schedule and environment, being able to focus on student engagement while building relationships through video conferencing, the privilege of teaching international students and being able to share my faith all have made being an online teacher an enjoyable and rewarding endeavor. Whether you’re contemplating it or are already currently involved, the future of online education will lead one down a path of improved technical skills and lifelong learning.
Baker, Greg. “Tips for Teaching International Students.” Sevenstar, July 24, 2023, sevenstar.org/tips-for-teaching-international-students.
Indeed Editorial Team. “10 Pros and Cons of Being an Online Teacher (with Tips),” Indeed, Feb. 23, 2023, www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/pros-and-cons-of-being-online-teacher.
“Online Education—Worldwide.” Statista, www.statista.com/outlook/dmo/eservices/online-education/worldwide#:~:text=The%20Online%20Education%20market%20is%20estimated%20to%20reach,a%20projected%20market%20volume%20of%20US%24257.70bn%20by%202028.
Sharma, Prateek. “Benefits of Online Teaching for Educators.” eLearning Industry, Nov. 17, 2022, elearningindustry.com/benefits-of-online-teaching-for-educators.
Vlasova, Helen. “Online Education Statistics—How COVID-19 Changed the Way We Learn.” Admissonsly, Dec. 25, 2023, admissionsly.com/online-education-statistics.