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Certified Online Instructor Training Programs and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become an online instructor. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about job duties and voluntary certification to find out if this is the career for you.

The training requirements to teach online are the same as for an on-campus instructor, which often means a graduate degree in the subject taught. Online instructors may also take courses in online teaching and can earn professional certification as an online instructor, as well.

Essential Information

Instructors who teach online courses need a strong background in their subject matter, and they typically hold an undergraduate or graduate degree in whatever field they teach. Additionally, aspiring online instructors might benefit from courses or a certificate program in online instruction. They can earn the Certified Online Instructor (COI) credential by completing a voluntary certification program.

Required Education Master's or doctoral degree in a specific subject AND courses or a certificate in online instruction
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 13% (for all postsecondary teachers)
Median Annual Salary (May 2015)* $63,000 (for all postsecondary teachers)

Source: *United States Bureau of Labor Statistics

Training Programs for Online Instructors

Training programs in online instruction teach faculty members to adapt current classes for online education, as well as to design new online courses. Through individual classes and certificate programs, prospective online instructors are familiarized with formatting course materials for electronic platforms, incorporating Web-based resources into lesson plans, using online discussion boards and e-mail to communicate with students and developing assessment rubrics to evaluate online learners.

Formats for online instructor training vary, but programs often are offered online and can be completed at the student's own pace. The duration of each course can range from one week to a full semester. Some courses are self-led, while others are taught by instructors. Often, participants are required to teach an online course as part of their training. Some programs are only offered to current college or university faculty members, while others are open to the public.

Requirements for Online Instructors

Online instructors usually must meet the same employment requirements as their on-campus counterparts. This generally includes a master's degree in the subject they teach, although some schools, particularly research universities, require their faculty members to hold a doctoral degree.

Although not typically required by employers, online instructors might choose to earn certified online instructor (COI) status through the Learning Resources Network (LERN), an international education group. COI certification generally can be completed in 3-6 months, and students must meet all certification requirements within two years of beginning the program. In addition to completing classes in teaching online, designing distance education instruction and building online learning communities, certification candidates must pass a test on COI content and design and teach two online courses. They also must allow for professional assessment and student evaluation of one of the courses they've taught.

Salary and Job Outlook

Employment of postsecondary teachers, including both online and on-campus instructors, was projected to grow by 13% during the 2014-2024 decade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The median salary among all postsecondary teachers in May 2015 was $63,000.

Requirements for becoming an online teacher are much the same as for on-campus instructors. You'll need a bachelor's or graduate degree in the field, and you may want to seek additional training in online teaching as well as professional certification as an online educator. The job growth for all postsecondary teachers is projected to be faster than average for all occupations from 2014-2024.


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