Distance Learning Instructor: Job Duties & Career Info

Mar 27, 2019

The responsibilities of distance learning instructors are similar to those of campus-based teachers and include lecturing, leading discussions and reviewing assignments. Read on to learn more about the education requirements, skill sets and career outlook for distance learning instructors.

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Career Definition for Distance Learning Instructors

Distance learning instructors teach real-time classes online, as well as record lectures and presentations that their students can view at their own convenience. In addition to Web-based seminars or slide shows, distance learning instructors may use audio tapes, DVDs and traditional print-based materials. Additional responsibilities include communicating with students through chat rooms, email, online discussions and text messages; exams and projects are also assigned and graded electronically. In general, distance learning instructors, similar to their campus-based counterparts, are experts in their fields of study and hold the same academic credentials, such as a master's or a doctoral degree.

Education Certificate programs available and may include courses in instructional design and web publishing
Job Skills Computer literate, attention to detail, critical thinking, writing
Median Salary (2017) $76,000 (for postsecondary teachers)
Job Growth (2016-2026) 15% (for postsecondary teachers nationwide)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A growing number of universities and colleges offer certificate programs in distance learning instruction. These are short-term courses of study that may take up to one year to complete. Although each program is different, the curriculum may include topics in distance education theory and strategies, instructional design and technology, program management and Web publishing. Participants may also learn how to work with Blackboard, an online learning management system.

Skills Required

Distance learning instructors must be computer literate and have the patience to help students who are new to Web-based learning. Like their brick-and-mortar colleagues, they should be able to convey new or unfamiliar information in an easy-to-understand manner. The ability to engage students in the online environment is key, as are the technical skills necessary for creating attractive and interesting presentations. Distance learning instructors should also be attentive to detail and have good communication, critical-thinking and writing skills.

Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report employment and salary information for distance learning instructors in particular; however, statistics for postsecondary teachers are available. According to the BLS, there were approximately 1.3 million postsecondary teachers in the United States in 2016, with the majority employed by colleges, technical schools and universities. Postsecondary teaching jobs are expected to grow by 15% nationwide from 2016 to 2026, or much faster than average in comparison to all other occupations. As of May 2017, postsecondary teachers earned median annual wages of $76,000 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Career and Technical Education Teachers

Teachers who specialize in career and technical studies develop and implement content in a variety of occupational areas, including agriculture, construction, dental hygiene or health care. Although candidates with a high school diploma or 2-year degree and substantial experience in their field may qualify for some jobs, many public school districts limit their hiring pool to applicants with a bachelor's degree and state license. The BLS reports that employment prospects for career and technical education teachers nationwide are projected to grow by four percent, somewhat slower than average, from 2016-2026. Those who were employed in May 2017 were paid median yearly salaries of $55,240 (www.bls.gov).

Postsecondary Education Administrators

The responsibilities of postsecondary education administrators can vary according to the position, but duties may include oversight of admissions, registrar or student services offices. Although candidates with a bachelor's degree may be considered for some positions, most colleges and universities prefer administrators with a master's or Ph.D. degree in their field of study, higher education or another related area. According to the BLS, job opportunities for postsecondary education administrators are expected to increase by a faster-than-average rate of 10 percent nationwide from 2016 through 2026. In May 2017, postsecondary administrators earned median annual wages of $92,360 (www.bls.gov).

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