Online Instructor Certification and Certificate Programs

Certification programs in online instruction require students to take classes and teach independently. Students may also need to pass a written exam, submit to student evaluations, and produce a final essay or portfolio.

Essential Information

Online instructors must be competent in a number of skills, such as email, computer operating systems, current online educational software (like BlackBoard or Moodle, for example), online testing and audio chat software. Most people who earn online instructor certifications are already instructors, or are qualified to teach in a brick-and-mortar classroom. Certification programs can take anywhere from six months to two years to complete, with some schools offering programs online. Nearly all participants have a master's degree or teaching certification.

Online Instructor Certification and Certificate Programs

Online instruction is very different from face-to-face instruction and requires a different skill set. Once admitted to an online instructor certification program, students will take courses to become familiar with tools for teaching and assessing online, effectively communicating with online students, and designing online courses. To complete a certification program, a final project, such as an essay or portfolio may be required, as well as practice teaching online.

Here are some courses that might appear in an online instructor certification program:

  • Teaching online
  • Developing online curriculum
  • Students in the online classroom
  • Student-teacher relations online
  • Online evaluation

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Nearly all teachers who pursue this certification are postsecondary educators. The employment rate for postsecondary educators is expected to grow 13% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the national average according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics ( Also, an increasing number of postsecondary education institutions are offering distance learning programs, which may contribute to a faster growth rate for online educators.

Full-time postsecondary educators in various specialties made a median annual salary of $63,000 in 2015, according to the BLS. It should be noted, however, that many online instructors work as adjunct professors; salaries also vary widely according to subject area.

Those looking to teach online usually attain a master's degree or teaching credentials before entering an online instruction certification program. These programs can prepare students for the specific considerations that come with online teaching, and the general field of postsecondary education is expected to experience healthy growth over the next decade.

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