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Distance Learning Teacher Preparation Programs: How Do They Work?

Find out about online teacher preparation courses and in which degree programs they're most commonly offered. Get course descriptions, program info and online requirements to make an informed decision.

Essential Information

Several four-year universities and colleges, both public and private, offer online or hybrid degree options for prospective teachers. Some degree programs can be completed entirely online, while others offer a combination of online and campus-based coursework. In either case, individuals must complete student teaching at a school in their area. For online programs, students need to ensure that their computers have audio and video conferencing capability.

A bachelor's degree is required for those interested in obtaining teaching certification or licensure. Students can find several online four-year degree programs in fields such as elementary, middle or secondary education and areas like special education or early childhood education. Some schools also offer master's degrees in teaching or education for those who have an unrelated bachelor's degree and are looking to enter the teaching profession.

Distance Learning for Teacher Preparation

Usually, online teaching programs work much like other online degrees, providing students with a login to school education software that can be accessed via the Web. This software usually combines email, forum, and instant messaging communication with a system that allows students to take tests and turn in assignments. This may also provide real-time grading of a student's work and audio or video conference capability to allow for easier class interaction.

Program Information and Requirements

Teachers in public institutions must have both a 4-year degree from an accredited college or university, usually in the subject they will teach, and a state-approved teaching certificate, often earned at the same time as the student's degree. Requirements for teaching certificates vary from state to state, but usually a period of student teaching is necessary, which requires some kind of in-person contact.

Online-only colleges and universities will sometimes work with students' local school districts to place them in a school for a term of in-classroom teaching. This fulfills the student teaching requirements of licensure and gives prospective teachers invaluable face-to-face experience with a class. In addition to the academic and practice teaching requirements, prospective public school educators must pass a certification exam.

Course Topics

Coursework in an online teacher education program is in keeping with that required in traditional on-campus programs. Bachelor's degree programs require general education coursework and foundational courses in education, along with specialization classes focused on the chosen grade level or teaching subject. Common courses in a teaching education program include:

• Instructional methods

• Instructional technology

• Academic assessment

• Curriculum development

• Literacy

• Classroom and behavior management

To recap, online coursework in education is available often in conjunction with a student teaching experience at a local school. Prospective students should ensure they possess the necessary software for videoconferencing.


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