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Contracts & Licensure

Online teaching and learning raises numerous teacher contract issues. Traditional teacher contracts define the school day, number of work hours and the school calendar. Although it is certainly possible to design your program so that the same rules apply to online teachers, that’s not always the best scenario. Policies and contracts can play a critical role in maximizing the flexibility and the attractiveness of online teaching, and the effectiveness of learning.

Time and Location Flexibility

Virtual schools can provide as much flexibility for teachers as they do for students, particularly in the case of full time online teachers and fully online programs. Virtual High School Collaborative, for example, has teachers from all over the country and no fixed hours. The majority of teachers for Florida Virtual School live in Florida. Full-time teachers are expected to “be available” from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm, but that doesn’t mean they work 12 hours per day. Work quality is measured by performance, not by the number of hours worked. (See teacher evaluation.)

A teaching staff that reaches across state boundaries can raise licensure issues in many states. Be sure you understand your state’s laws with regard to licensure reciprocity if you are planning for a multi-state teaching staff.

If you’re creating a program within a more traditional school system, there may be tension between the existing system and any desire to provide teachers with the same sort of asynchronous flexibility that online learning provides for students. Providing such flexibility can not only make online teaching more attractive, it can provide greater responsiveness to student questions, which may not always arise during the traditional school day.

Questions to be answered in policies include:

  • Must online teachers keep the same building hours as face-to-face teachers?
  • Can teachers who are part-time online and part-time face-to-face leave the building for the online portion of their day, regardless of when they actually do the online teaching work?
  • If you are using adjust instructors, will they have any requirement of specific office hours or be required to attend professional development sessions, either remotely or face-to-face?
  • If your program is not limited to the traditional agrarian calendar, what flexibility do teachers have regarding their teaching calendar, including when they take vacations? If so, what redundancies will you provide so that students can still get help when their primary teacher is on vacation?
  • Will you allow the hiring of teachers from outside the district or outside the state? What licensure or union issues might arise, and how will you address them?

Teacher Workload

Teacher workload is composed primarily of the number of courses (or preps), the number of classes (or sections), preparation time, and class size. These factors intertwine, in a way that is more often art than science, with the goal of creating an efficient and effective teacher workforce.

In the online environment, a wider range of possibilities for balancing these factors creates additional challenges and opportunities. Consider the following:

  • In the online environment, the primary factor in a teacher’s workload is generally the number of students. The numbers of preps and sections are important, but secondary. Class size-related issues are addressed in detail elsewhere in this website. Please see: Class Size.
  • Will your program define a specific amount of separate prep time for teachers? If so, keep in mind that even if there are very few students in any particular course, preparation time is required for teachers to be familiar with the curriculum and guide students effectively. This is particularly true in rolling enrollment programs in which students can be in very different places in the course.
  • Particularly for new or very small programs, assigning each teacher a large number of courses can provide a way to offer a wide range of courses without overloading the teacher. The assumption is that many courses will have few or no students to start with. As the program grows, adjustments will no doubt need to be made. (You will also need a contigency plan in place in case enrollments are higher in a specific course than expected in order to avoid overloading the teacher.) Your policies can define the ratios between teachers, students and courses.