Teach psychology online

They hired you! Yes, they hired you as an online psychology instructor – your dream job! Now that you have the job, what comes next? In other words, how on earth do you teach an online psychology course? You always wanted to be a psychology instructor, but you never really considered what an online teaching position would like and feel like. You would ask someone to help you, if you could, but who do you ask and if you could ask someone would really want to? You want to seem competent, knowledgeable and cool, right? Of course you do! Unfortunately, they do not teach you these things in school. If you are scratching your head, wondering how to teach an online psychology course – you have come to the right place. This article will teach you everything you need to know to teach your first online psychology course.
Listed below are suggestions that can help you teach your first online psychology course:
• Look Around

The first thing you want to do, before the first course begins, is to log-on to the online courseroom and look around. Play with the icons and look up the icons that you do not recognize. Practice sending emails and using student tools and resources. Look around in the online library – you will probably assign your students papers in which they will need to utilize online books and articles so it is important you understand how the online library is set up. Look for the place where you will record student grades and where the students will place their discussion post answers.

If an online instructor manual is available, research how to administer online exams and how to how score them. Play around with audio resources and online lecture meeting rooms in case your students are required to do PowerPoint presentations and/or team projects. If you have trouble uploading your online syllabus, books and/or articles – contact the school administrator, IT or the dean of your department for assistance. Do not be embarrassed – some online courseroom platforms can be challenging and confusing.

• Be Professional

Although this is self-evident, you will need to remain professional at all times. This is especially true if you are teaching an online psychology course. It is important to remember that your students cannot see or converse with you so it is easier to misconstrue the tone and content of emails, instant chats and discussion posts. Your task will be to remain accessible, open and professional at all times. You will also be required to maintain ethical and confidential guidelines.

Do not become “too close” to your students. It is not appropriate for your students to email and/or call you on a personal/friend/romantic level. It is also not appropriate for you to contact your students through personal emails and/or phone calls. If you feel that a student is displaying inappropriate behaviors – contact the dean of your program immediately.

• Be Creative

You want to be a fun, likable, creative teacher, right? Of course! When a teacher is boring students do not want to take his/her course. You don’t want to be classified as a “boring teacher.” Your students will not learn anything if they tune you out. Although online audio and/or written lectures play a significant role in the learning experience, they can become quite trite if you do not “spiff them up” or at least add a fun, educational activity to accompany the lecture. Stay away from teaching “fact after fact” because your students will only retain a small portion of that information. Truthfully, your students will only pay attention to the information they feel will be on your exams or asked in discussion post questions.

Add in a fun crossword puzzle (that reinforces the topic) to the weekly course assignments or split the students into groups for a fun weekly group activity. The key is to be creative. Think back to when you were in college. What would have peaked your interest? What would you have considered fun? Pick a few ideas and add them into your lesson plans. Lastly, make your lessons practical and relatable. Try to point out themes that are relatable to almost everyone. Center your discussion post questions on those relatable/accessible issues. Invite your students to share personal experiences and opinions (as long as they are not offensive or discriminatory). Moreover, encourage your students to dig deep and use their own creativity to answer discussion post questions. Offer incentives for completion of assignments (i.e. homework passes, test passes, extra credit, etc.). Don’t forget to provide your students with constructive feedback.

• Actively Listen

One of the most important keys to successfully teaching an online psychology course is to actively listen to your students. Your psychology students are already interested in the human mind and behaviors. Some students may even have a background in psychology. If so, they have probably formed their own theories and opinions on why people think and behave the way they do. Although you have an advanced degree in psychology, you can still learn new psychological approaches, methods and theories so it is important that you pay attention to what you students share with you.

When you introduce a new topic, ask your students to think about their answer (their own answer) and then post it in the discussion area. Respond to the students’ thoughts and answers and foster a continuing conversation. Make sure to reassure your students that there are no “right” and “wrong” answers. In fact, inform them that you just want to get different viewpoints and opinions. Actively listening to your students will make them feel valued, appreciated and special.

• Use a Variety of Teaching Strategies

It is important to use a variety of teaching strategies, if you want to effectively teach an online psychology instructor. It is important to remember that some students learn best with a “hands on” approach, while other students learn best by reading the online articles and books and answering discussion post questions. Moreover, some students prefer to work alone, while some students thrive in groups. The key is to switch up your teaching styles so that all of your students are included in the online learning experience. In other words, Creativity, Creativity Creativity!
Association for Psychological Sciences. (2014). Teaching resources. Retrieved from http://psych.hanover.edu/APS/teaching.html
Developmental Psychology. (2014). Learning & teaching developmental psychology. Retrieved from http://www.devpsy.org/

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