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Practical Homeschooling® :

So You Want To Be An Online Educator?

By Fritz Hinrichs
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #22, 1998.

Fritz Hinrichs explains how to become an online educator.
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Fritz Hinrichs

In a day when conventional schools seem to be increasingly riddled by insurmountable problems, homeschooling is attracting a rapidly growing number of parents. For many families, the difficulty with homeschooling in the past has been the lack of professional instruction to supplement the work of the parent when needed. Today, Internet-based online education has the potential to revolutionize the nature of homeschooling, bringing the professional educator into the student's home in a live, interactive format.

Online education can bring many benefits to the homeschool family. The professional educator and the student are brought together in a manner that means more convenience for families, less expense, and more time away from the bureaucracy of education for both student and teacher.

Perhaps you have considered developing online courses of your own so you can reach out and help teach homeschool students around the world. Online education offers a whole new way of teaching! Imagine a school without photocopiers, administrators, noisy maintenance men, or faculty parking lots. Imagine a school where the students came into your own home, but never left a mess. Imagine a school where you build your own curriculum and teach in your slippers. Sound interesting? Let me tell you about Escondido Tutorial Service and share how you could join the growing ranks of online educators.

Escondido Tutorial Service (ETS) uses a real-time video-conferencing software package called CU-Seeme. Using this software, ETS provides professional instruction direct to the homes of homeschooled students across North America. ETS currently has nearly 200 students working with a growing network of tutors who offer their services in a variety of subjects: math, science, literature, law, language, logic and rhetoric.

Using CU-Seeme's audio abilities and its whiteboard, the sound and visual components necessary to run an effective online learning environment are in place. The whiteboard is an electronic window on the computer screen that is used to display pictures, overheads, or diagrams. Students are required to each have a microphone so they can participate orally in the class discussions. In fact, CU-Seeme's audio capability has worked so well that "reader's theater" enactments of plays have been possible. Each student is assigned a part to read, and when it is his turn, he simply clicks on the "push-to-talk" button and reads the appropriate lines into his microphone. Students can stop the reading to ask questions or interject comments by typing a "!" into the chat box.

During each class, ETS records the audio and video portion of the tutorials using an Internet-based video technology called RealVideo. Whatever is displayed on the whiteboard during class is saved so that a student can access it later if needed. By using RealVideo in conjunction with CU-Seeme, students can catch up on any class they miss at their own leisure. This frees up families to take vacations at convenient times of the year - often to visit other online students! (If you would like to view a recording of a real online tutorial, please go to www.gbt.org/cpub.html. Before listening, you will want to make sure you are prepared, so your assignment is to read Sophocles' play, Antigone.)

This is the third year that ETS has run online tutorials. The ability to continue with the same students over a number of years has allowed a close relationship with many students and their families to develop.

Most educators devote a great deal of their efforts to managing educational bureaucracy rather than teaching their students. Online video-conferencing allows teachers to work directly with students to meet their particular educational needs. Eliminating educational bureaucracy has enabled ETS and other online schools to offer private education at a substantial savings over traditional methods. As an example for what you should expect to charge for your online courses, a typical ETS tutorial has 10-15 students and meets once a week for two hours, and charges a fee of about $200-$300 per year.

No matter what your age or location, being an online educator will provide you with the opportunity to educate some of the nation's best students. As we saw with the printing press, there are times in history when God provides technologies that can radically improve our lives. Now is such a time.

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