I’ve copied the following, with permission, from a post on an online forum. The original poster is a professional educator and adminstrator in a graduate program which relies on online instruction. I think the post asks some good questions.
It will come as no surprise to anyone here that the biggest challenge I face is not in finding excellent teachers who know their subject cold. Rather, it’s (you got it) finding people with all of that going for them who can write in the way that you have to in order to give of yourself, show yourself, online.
My big hiring mistakes have all had the same thing in common — they all glide around classrooms like they’ve spent a lifetime in the theater (i.e., they’re great “performers” and know their stuff so cold that they can hold students spellbound for three hours)… but ask them to commit that to paper, and it’s just no go. We’ve always given our own graduate faculty first crack at writing these courses… usually disastrous, because they’re as bad at writing what they do as they are good at doing it!
Asking for writing samples has been a waste of time… it’s just plain not the same genre, and there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from their last article in The Journal of American YouPickIts.
The same thing happens from time to time with the folks who tend the discussions in the class… they don’t know how to show or give themselves to students in their writing… and that’s what it takes when teaching and learning relationships have to happen and develop in print.
How can I “screen” those applicants with credentials and teaching success for their ability to function online, whose persona in print reflects an appreciation for the very specific art of being able to “talk” in black and white like they do in a classroom? Or am I doomed to a lifetime of having to endlessly edit the stuff of people who know something I need them to share, so that it doesn’t put my students into a coma?
What suggestions can we offer about finding applicants who will excel at online instruction?