Choosing a teacher credential program is one of the most important decisions you’ll have to make as you pursue your certification.
A teacher credential program trains you, supports you and provides you with the foundation you need as you begin your teaching career. Particularly online programs, which are popular among many teacher interns today, offer both the tools you need to succeed and the convenience you crave from a work-life balance.
Like any important decision in your life, it’s critical to fully weigh your options and look for certain characteristics that the best online teaching credential programs possess. To help you with this important decision, here are some qualities you DO and DON’T want in an online teaching credential program.
What You DO Want In An Online Teaching Credential Program
When searching for the right online teacher credentialing program, here are a few characteristics that signal you are considering a quality program.
It may seem like an obvious characteristic, but all too often, online teaching credential programs tout how they can help you earn your teaching certificate but don’t have their own certifications to make that possible.
In Texas, an online teaching credential program MUST be accredited. In other words, it must be listed as an approved Educator Preparation Program on the Texas Education Agency’s website. The Texas Education Agency is the state agency that oversees primary and secondary public education in the state. This agency ensures that the state’s EPPs prepare qualified educators to meet the needs of learners.
Only programs on this list may recommend an individual for a Texas educator certificate. If you enroll in a teacher credential program NOT on this list, your hard work will likely go to waste.
Most of the time a teacher candidate will choose an online program because of the convenience it offers. Not only can you study when you want (and even take your classes in your pajamas), but you also typically have a greater selection of courses since you are not limited by geography.
However, there are some drawbacks to 100% online programs versus in-person programs. For example, you’ll have fewer face-to-face interactions, limiting the opportunity to make connections. You’ll also have fewer opportunities to get your questions answered immediately.
In-person instruction also affords more opportunities for networking and team collaborations. And, when you interact with people one-on-one, it’s much more likely you’re looked at as a person rather than a number.
An alternative teacher certification program that offers the best of both worlds can provide you with the flexibility you crave but the advantages of in-person instruction as well.
Teacher Advisers With Extensive Experience
As part of your 300 hours of required training, 30 of those hours must be mentor-observed classroom teaching time. ALL online teaching credential programs must provide you with an advisor. However, not all advisors are the same.
Teacher advisors will send information to your program to let it know whether you are ready or not to teach in the classroom. You want your teacher advisor to care and to be experienced enough to know when you are ready and when you need more training.
ECAP has former principals, vice principals, elementary education teachers, middle school teachers and high school teachers with extensive experience to help you through this process. Not all programs do this. Some simply send past teachers who are ex-students of their program to evaluate you. It’s imperative that you contact the program you are considering to ensure that you will get the best advisor to help you.
A Full Circle Approach
As you pursue your teacher certification, you’ll experience training, testing and teaching. The best programs will have you work on these three components simultaneously, creating a full-circle approach toward certification.
Why is a full-circle approach important? While some training must be completed prior to testing and student teaching, other parts of an intern’s training can be completed while in the classroom as a teacher of record. This approach is much more comprehensive than a one-step-at-a-time approach, allowing you to complete your program more quickly and efficiently.
We like to think of this approach as having three teaching rings, with training, testing and teaching each having its own ring. In one school year, a teaching intern will need to complete 300 hours of training, a pedagogy exam and teaching experience.
As you move closer to completing each area, a ring begins to close. Rather than each ring closing one at a time, they can be closed simultaneously.
What You DON’T Want In An Online Teaching Credential Program
In addition to some of the positive characteristics outlined above, it’s always a good idea to look for red flags that should send you running in a different direction.
Test Preparation As An Add-On
The best online teaching credential programs offer test preparation as part of their training … not as costly add-ons.
Every student intern must take at least one content test to earn a single subject credential. For example, depending on what you want to teach, you may focus on special education, mathematics, physical education, social studies or a different subject area. You can take more than one content test to earn a multiple-subject teaching credential, which can allow you to teach different subjects at a high school, for example.
The best teacher preparation programs will not try to nickel and dime you for every service that they provide, including test preparation. The best programs want you to pass your mandated exams and will do everything they can to help prepare you for them so that you have the most success.
Your Timeline Looks Like Everyone Else’s
Before beginning your program, you should ask what your timeline toward certification looks like. If the answer sounds canned or is a timeline that applies to just about every other student in the program, that’s a big red flag.
In our article, How Long Does It Take To Get A Teaching Credential? we explain that the certification process typically takes between 4 and 6 months. However, there are many factors that impact how long your journey will last, from your educational background (such as if you already have a bachelor’s degree or teaching licensure in another state) to your own personal work ethic.
The best online teaching credential programs will develop a customized plan just for you. This plan will help you stay on target to achieve your goals. A key clue that you’re inquiring with a high-quality program is if admissions professionals help you consider all of your options. They should NEVER pressure you into making a commitment and should NEVER promise you results in a short period of time.
A Checklist for Success
When searching for the right online teaching credential program, here’s a checklist to keep with you that can help guide you in the right direction.
The program is credentialed. An online teaching credential program should be approved by the Texas Education Agency.
There are some in-person opportunities for training. Online training is convenient, but in-person opportunities offer a chance to network and collaborate with other students and instructors.
Your teacher advisers have extensive experience. State law requires that you be assigned a teacher adviser. Look for a program that touts the extensive experience of its advisers.
A full-circle approach is prioritized. The best programs will have you train, test and teach simultaneously.
Test preparation is included. Exam preparation should never be a costly add-on. The best programs want you to succeed and help you with every tool possible.
Your timeline should be individualized. Your path to certification won’t look like everyone else’s. A customized approach helps to ensure you’re meeting your goals and are on the right track to success.
Micah is the Director of Curriculum & Technology. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in British Literature, from the University of North Texas and a Master of Arts in Teaching, from Louisiana College. In his previous career, Micah served for 14 years as a banker and bank manager. For the majority of this period, Micah managed the Downtown Fort Worth location of Frost Bank.
In 2005, Micah finally surrendered to his true calling to be an educator. After a brief, but fulfilling term teaching high school English at Flower Mound High School in Lewisville ISD, Micah went to work for the family business, training teachers.
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