There are many who want to teach online today, far surpassing the number of available positions. The mix of those who are interested in online teaching is well-balanced between those with extensive experience, minimal experience, and no experience. What often occurs within the hiring process is the entire group of candidates is reduced to a single collective, due to automated functions of human resource systems. It doesn't matter what your level of experience may or may not be, your degrees or advanced education, nothing is guaranteed to give you a competitive advantage at first in the job search, as you are considered solely by key words and an algorithm.

This is why I have chosen to share with you what it means to be a transformational educator, someone who has worked within the field of distance learning over 16 years, and also been highly successful. I want to show you what the key words and algorithms are likely to miss, in the event you are looking for someone uniquely qualified to teach online classes in several key subject disciplines. Success has come in the form of long-term jobs, increased responsibilities, positive feedback from supervisors, positive end-of-course evaluations, awards based upon student nominations, teaching awards, positive student retention numbers, and a continued love of the profession.

What you will read is going to introduce you to someone who cares deeply about the success of online students, enjoys cultivating meaningful relationships within a challenging environment, and continues to contribute to the field through engaging online posts and articles. You'll read some of the basics that are covered within a traditional resume; however, most of what follows is an overview of the important strategies and characteristics which defines who I am as a transformational educator in the online classroom. What this should help demonstrate is that I'm fully trained in online teaching methods, adult learning principles, familiar with most LMS platforms, able to teach many key subjects, and would only require learning about your key methods, policies, processes, and procedures.

How My Transformative Online Teaching Began

I began my online teaching career in 2005 with an online school that was about to begin its rapid growth period. I soon discovered I was a natural fit for the virtual environment, and I was recognized for my talents with this online school, which meant I quickly rose to the top 200 from a pool of 30,000 faculty. This allowed me to take on faculty development responsibilities, which in turn taught me about following strict processes and procedures as part of online classroom management. This training and work in faculty development, which included evaluating, teaching, and mentoring new faculty, would help guide me throughout my career.

Since 2005, my positions would grow to include Chief Academic Officer, Faculty Development Manager, Core Faculty, Doctoral Mentor and Committee Member, and Faculty Development Specialist. I have mentored hundreds of online students, and served on hundreds of doctoral committees.

A Record of Successful Long-Term Jobs

I have been fortunate to have developed several fairly long-term jobs throughout my career to date, with the exception of my latest position. The reason why these positions have concluded is the typical reason why for-profit online schools layoff faculty: declining enrollment.

• University of Phoenix (2005 – 2014)

• Kaplan University (2008 – 2014)

• American Public University System (2011 to 2015)

• Capella University (April 2019 – December 2021)

My role as Core Faculty at Capella University was the most successful of all positions held, and the most disappointing layoff of all. There were significant accomplishments during this time, both in recognition from administration, and from students.

Stephen Shank Recognition (March 2020)

Stephen Shank Recognition (March 2021)

• The Stephen Shank Recognition honors teaching or mentoring excellence by a Capella faculty member for making a significant difference in a learner's pathway to success.

Another accomplishment: I was selected by the Dean to represent the School of Education for development of a video for The Center for Faculty Excellence about the Top 6 Soft Skills for Capella University Faculty. The interview was conducted and the video was completed. The video is now part of The Center for Faculty Excellence.

How I've Become a Transformational Educator

Now I can share with you what isn't readily available on a resume, or the details of my work as an educator that speak to how I interact with students, along with personal characteristics that have contributed to my success. First, I'll share strategies that require extra effort on my part, to be involved in the learning process.

Strategy: Become Visible

I want to let students know I'm engaged in the class. The more they "see" me in class, the more comfortable students become in general. One method I use to meet this goal is with the discussion board. I'll start early in the week and make it a goal to respond to each student at least once. If there is a large class size, I'll make it a point to rotate my replies so that all students will eventually receive a reply from me.

Strategy: Personalize the Learning Experience

Another strategy is to become a "real" person to my students, and I can do this by building connections with them. While I will attempt to avoid sharing any information that is too personal in nature, I do want to include basics within my introduction, such as hobbies, favorite foods, television shows, pets, etc. I'll also share professional interests, and provide the link to my LinkedIn profile, as I keep it up-to-date. This allows students to see me as a real person.

Strategy: Plan for Office Hours

I'm always thinking about students and when they might be online and working on their learning activities. As such, I try to offer means for contacting me during those times. I know Zoom is one option that can be used for virtual Office Hours, along with contact by classroom messaging or email. I also take it another step further and offer telephone contact, especially during times when I know I will be online and working. There are times when speaking with an instructor can calm a student who feels stress or confusion, and it helps build a productive relationship.

Strategy: Use Proactive Outreach Strategies

It's also important for me to be monitoring classroom conditions, and to be aware of students who may be slowly disengaging from the class. For example, if a student posts a discussion response late, or posts an incomplete message, this may be a clue they are struggling. That's when I will attempt to contact the student to see if I can assist them in some manner. Again, the goal is to connect with students and demonstrate I'm willing to take the time to help them stay engaged in the class.

Now I'd like to share some of the most important characteristics that have contributed to me becoming a transformative educator.

Characteristic: A Calm Disposition

My goal, as an online instructor, is to remain as calm as possible when I'm interacting with my students. I've found that my disposition will help to reinforce a perception that I'm interested in being an active part of the class, and more importantly, students can contact me and I won't act upset, indifferent, or uncaring when they do.

Characteristic: Emotionally Intelligent

I've found there is a difference between being devoid of emotions, and managing your emotions intelligently. There are going to be times in which students are not going to communicate in the most appropriate manner, and this is when I need to make certain I'm managing my emotions. What this means is I need to approach conversations more rationally, rather than being reactive to the words and tone used. This may require setting the message aside and coming back to it, to ensure I'm using a proper tone and response.

Characteristic:  Kindness

This is a basic human trait that I apply to all students and in all situations. My goal is to maintain a positive disposition with everyone I interact with each day, and I do this by having a state of mind that shows kindness and empathy towards others. I also show appreciation for students, in their efforts made, progress, questions, and contributions to the class. My goal is to make this disposition an automatic response for each person I encounter, regardless of their tone used.

Characteristic: Patience

This is another very important characteristic I possess naturally, and always have demonstrated, and it is patience. Where this comes in most valuable are the times when students contact me while I'm grading, or perhaps when they use a tone that isn't the most engaging. I never view a student as an interruption, and I always work to find out what the heart of their frustration may be, when they contact me and are upset. I remember what it's like to be an online student, and this has always influenced my work as an online educator.

Now I'd like to share some of the advanced skills I've developed through time and practice.

Advanced Skills: Use Words Thoughtfully and Carefully

Within a virtual environment, words replace verbal communication. Those words have a perceived tone and can be misinterpreted if I'm not careful about how they are developed and written. This is why I create my posts and messages in a Word document first. Not only do I edit what I write, I can also scan what's been written to determine what the perceived tone may be. I use this method for classroom messages, feedback, discussion posts, and emails.

Advanced Skills: Engage the Intellect

The goal of any discussion is not to just have students post a correct answer. My goal as the instructor is to help them prompt critical thinking skills, or higher order thinking. This means they are taking information they have read, analyzing and synthesizing it, and creating new meaning from it. I'll post follow-up messages that will help to engage their intellectual curiosity, and include supplemental information, resources, materials, quotes from the course materials, along with questions at the conclusion to extend the conversation.

Advanced Skills: Provide Feedback that Matters

I have always viewed feedback as something more than providing a rubric and canned commentary. For me, this is an opportunity to teach, even if it requires an investment of my time. Whether I download a copy of the paper and insert commentary, or insert commentary directly into the paper within the LMS, I want to again engage the intellectual curiosity of the students. I'll add my expertise and ask questions as a means of continuing their thinking about the course topics. By developing feedback in this manner, I find students are more likely to keep reading it each week.

Advanced Skills: Use a Strengths-Based Approach

I've been studying appreciative inquiry and positive psychology for quite a long time, and as a result, I've embraced the use of a strengths-based approach to teaching. I try to remain focused on the strengths of each student, especially when I'm developing feedback, rather than deficits, as a means of building up students. One strategy that helps implement this approach is called the sandwich method. This begins with something positive, then selects and addresses a developmental issue, and concludes with something positive. I've found this approach really helps to build students up.

Advanced Skills: Nurture Hope

The reason why hope is so important for online students is this: They need to feel hope if they are going to continue on in the class, especially when challenged. This is when my relationship with students becomes even more important. I cannot help develop a feeling of hope within students if I do not have a positive working relationship with them. I've found when I do develop this type of relationship with students, and I can instill a sense of confidence in their abilities within them, they are more likely to continue on in this course and the next one as well.

Advanced Skills: Teach Supportive Beliefs

Every student comes into class with pre-conceived beliefs about their ability to complete what's required of them, whether it is consciously thought about, or subconsciously held. They may or may not have support from family and friends as they work on their studies. As their instructor, I can help them overcome their doubts and concerns, if I show them they have an ability to learn, grow, and develop their intellectual capacity and academic skills. When I uplift students through the power of my positive beliefs about them, I can teach them to develop their own supportive beliefs.

Advanced Skills: Acting as a Role Model

The last, and most important skill I've learned to develop over time, is to act as a role model while I'm interacting with students. This summarizes all of the characteristics and skills I've listed. I want to embrace the qualities that represent someone who cares deeply about students and their progress, will be responsive to their questions, is accessible and available for support, and demonstrates respect for all students. I want to maintain a positive disposition and inspire students to continue to try, even when challenged, because I believe in them.

Transformational Educator Dr. J: Available for Online Teaching

Now you know about the qualities, skills, strategies, and characteristics that are combined to create my work as a transformational educator. To understand how I've had an impact on the lives of many, you will find documents below that share a sample of the feedback provided by students and faculty about my work as an educator, along with recent awards. You'll also find other important information and links relevant about my background.

What is most important for you to know is this: Online teaching is not a job for me; it is part of my mission statement to Teach, Write, and Inspire Others. Now I'm available to continue my online teaching journey, and utilize the training, education, and experience I've acquired for a new opportunity. I'm excited about the new year ahead.

About Dr. Johnson

See the documents provided below.

Social Media, Websites

Dr. J's website

Twitter

Instagram

Dr. J's LinkedIn group, Motivation for Transformation

Advanced Education

• PhD in Postsecondary and Adult Education (2010)

I chose this specialization as I wanted to learn more about topics such as andragogy, critical thinking, teaching with technology, etc. For my dissertation study, I took appreciative inquiry, an organizational development change management strategy, and translated it as an online teaching strategy.

• Certificate in Training and Performance Improvement (2005)

I chose this certification as I was planning to continue work as a consultant, which I did for several years.

• Master's in Adult Education (2004)

This was the first step in my doctoral journey.

• Master of Business Administration, MBA (2000).

I earned this degree while I was still working in Corporate America, as a Manager of Training and Development.

Contributions to the Field of Higher Education and Distance Learning

eBooks:

Transform Adult Education: Expert Teaching Strategies for Educators, CreateSpace (2017)

Transform Online Teaching: Expert Strategies and Essential Resources Every Educator Needs, CreateSpace (2016)

Appreciative Andragogy: Taking the Distance Out of Distance Learning, CreateSpace (2013)

Book:

Getting Down to Business: A Handbook for Adjunct Faculty, The Part-Time Press (2015)

Journal Article:

Johnson, B. A. (2014). Transformation of Online Teaching Practices Through Implementation of Appreciative Inquiry. Online Learning, 18(3). doi: 10.24059/olj.v18i3.428

Conference Presentations:

Capella Faculty Virtual Conference Presentation: Critical Intellectual Discourse: Engaging Learners with Critical Thinking (October 28 & 29, 2020)

Capella Faculty Virtual Conference Presentation: Appreciative Andragogy: Taking the Distance out of Distance Learning (November 14, 2019)

21ST Annual Online Learning Consortium International Conference Presentation (2015)

 

 

 

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