Q&A: What to look for in a good online teacher
Question: I've got a chance to choose between the same online class taught by three different teachers. What should I look for in a good online teacher?
Answer: You mean besides if he or she's an easy grader?
Just kidding. Seriously, though, investigating a few specific qualities can help you figure out if a particular teacher may suit your learning style: clarity, communication, compassion and change.
In the traditional classroom, teachers who don't write clearly can get by if they can speak clearly, or if you're willing to keep asking questions until you get an answer. Given the asynchronous nature of most online classes, and the missing body language, you're a lot better off if your instructor is clear: what's due, when is it due, and what are you supposed to do.
Many online schools require teachers to respond to questions within 24-48 hours. If they do, then there's the question of how well they communicate. If you asked three questions, do your teachers answer them all? If you asked a clumsy question, did they try to figure out what you were talking about?
When you're online and confused, you can feel alone. If that happened in the traditional classroom, at least you'd know that everyone was having the same problem. In an online environment, a good teacher will reassure you and help you through any issues that may arise.
Several online schools require their instructors to teach standardized courses and give standardized assignments. These courses can include assignments with computerized grading. And the computer can be wrong and the assignment might not quite fit. An assignment might refer to page 44, which was the right page in the fifth edition of the textbook…but your class is now using the sixth edition. It sounds basic, but good online teachers change things so they work.