Do online teachers need their own accredited teaching certificate?
Online learning has been the fastest growing sector of the education industry for some time now, and recent events have pushed more and more teachers to work online. The need for online provision has never been higher, and with so many teachers making the switch to e-learning, regulation is becoming an important issue.
By far the biggest online teaching industry is in language education, with China leading the way in outsourcing English teaching to teachers around the world. Some large ed-tech corporations in China are recruiting online teachers at the rate of thousands per week, though regulation in this area is only just starting to develop.
The Chinese government passed a law last year which required all language teachers working with students located in China to hold the same level of qualification as those living and working in China - that is, an approved 120-hour, face-to-face initial training certificate such as the Trinity CertTESOL or Cambridge CELTA. However, despite these courses being the gold standard for language educators working in classrooms, the crossover to online learning has brought a lot of issues concerning quality of provision.
Most private online providers give training in methods and techniques which can be used on their specific LMS or related platforms, but online educators need a broader set of principles which can apply to any e-learning situation, delivered comprehensively for the emerging discipline of online education, and its application on any system, and with any group of learners.
With the spread of Covid-19, and the quarantine / lockdown situation which around half the world is currently experiencing, teachers in mainstream schools are also facing this challenging adaptation. Many teachers have been asked to work from home, leading classes with their regular students online for the first time with little training in e-pedagogy or instructional design for the online context.
Now that most countries are into the first few weeks of the lockdown, many teachers are settling into this routine, but are they delivering the same quality of education online as they would in their regular classrooms? Evidence suggests not. I have read accounts of teachers dismissing the online context as a ‘temporary fix’, seeing it as an inconvenient way to replace ‘proper’ teaching, which cannot be used effectively with the learners that they work with.
This is far from the truth - with training in approaches and methods which effectively engage students and allow for interaction, collaboration, critical research and learner-centred, independent work, online learning can be every bit as effective as classroom work. Yes, kids need face-to-face interaction and exploration of the physical world, but in these challenging times, necessity has to be the mother of invention for many online educators. With e-learning becoming a bigger part of what we do, e-pedagogy should by necessity become a more significant part of the qualifications we take, and the requirements for the positions we apply for in the future. The only way to regulate this and ensure quality across the board is to achieve formal qualification in the skills which go to make up an effective online teacher.
Spending a month or two upskilling, and developing new techniques which can be applied to online learning environments can ease the pressure on teachers as they transition to online learning, and can confirm the skill-set of teachers whose main position is working with students online. An accredited qualification for online educators, such as the Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, not only provides development for teachers working through their lockdown, but extends their skills with blended, flipped and online tasks to complement their regular teaching load. As a level 6 qualification, this certificate represents a high-level developmental tool which can be studied alongside educators’ regular teaching load, and is focused on the educational setting where they already work.
Tom Garside is Director of Language Point Teacher Education. Language Point delivers the internationally recognised RQF level 5 Trinity CertTESOL in a totally online mode of study, and the RQF level 6 Trinity College Certificate for Practising Teachers, a contextually-informed teacher development qualification with specific courses which focus on online language education or online methodology.