Setting up an online school- Part 13

The post interview process

Here I will go through my experiences post interview, dealing with snags, and approaches I found were best.

So, you have gone through CV and cover letters, had interviews and looked at your post interview reflections. It may sound like a cliché but the one that checked the most boxes is the one to go for. However personal chemistry does come into it. If you felt a chemistry for, say, the candidate who checked the least boxes, I would say don’t go for him/her. But if two are close together at the top then it probably should come into play. It is best if you are likely to get on. Again, I can’t stress enough that if there is any disqualifying trait or requirement, even if it only came to light at the interview, then don’t employ them no matter how much you felt you liked them. You can’t afford the risk at the start. Gambling on your instinct may be a risk worth taking when you have lots of staff, but not now.

Technophobe versus technophile?

Here I will reiterate what I have said before, a technophile will pick up your system quickly and a technophobe will be slow to, but as against that, the technophile may be quicker to jump to a better job whereas the technophobe will not be quick to come out of their comfort zone. They will reason that it took me so long to master this system (even a straightforward one like Vedamo) that I don’t want to change. You must make your choice. Loyalty versus technical ability. I will say one thing, though, and that is long-term good teachers attract students, they get recommendations, and students return to them again and again. I always feel it is best to have the same teachers, if they are good. Students say to other students to ask for teacher X, they are the best.

Contacting candidates

Ok, you have made your selection. Write first to them only and make sure they have accepted. When they have started, write a nice letter to the unsuccessful ones and ask any you were impressed with if they would like to be kept on file for any future vacancies which they would then not have to go through the process again. This keeps good candidates happy and you may need them particularly in a period of rapid expansion. I have found this very useful. Also if the first one declines you can ask the second and so forth.

Setting out your standards

This aspect is crucial. Sit down over a period of time and figure out what standards you wish to see applied. Take the best practices of the places you worked in and eliminate any bad ones. The obvious ones are discipline, punctuality, deadlines, empathy, friendliness, patience and advancing their qualifications. Anything you feel is important should be written down and gone through with new employees. Bring them onboard with your vision and emphasise that you will be strict with these areas.

Getting them started

If you use a top class system such as Vedamo, then they will train the teachers in using the system. When you are confident they can handle teaching online, after doing dummy classes etc., you can link them with students. The great advantage with Vedamo is that you can sit in invisibly in the classes and watch the progress. You can choose to do this unbeknownst to the teacher or not. The advantage of not telling them is that they may get nervous knowing you are watching them. Certainly I know, from my own experience as a teacher that having an observer in the classroom had an impact on me and I was probably extra careful and maybe not as natural as normally. It is your decision.

With the best will in the world, operating through the internet is going to be problematical. If you have say, eight students and a teacher, then you need the internet not to drop for all of them for the duration of the class. If it drops for a student and they disappear and come back, then maybe it is not too big a problem. The teacher needs to be constantly online though, as far as is possible. The teacher will need backup internet, in my experience. Mobile phone internet used as a hotspot is a great backup. With a technophobe you may need to explain how to create a hotspot. Unless they know their internet is very stable, I would insist on this. They can be back online in 30 seconds causing minimal disruption to the class.

Internet problems

You will need to work out an agreement as to what happens if the internet disrupts a class. Obviously a very short delay is no problem but beyond that, if a class has to be cancelled, or you need to keep students on for longer than scheduled there needs to be a plan. If the teachers are fulltime, it’s not such a big problem but teachers being paid per course may need to be paid more. It is guaranteed that you will have internet problems so plan accordingly. Have a plan for different scenarios, short delays, medium delays and long delays. And for teacher disruption and student disruption. However, if a student misses a section because of bad internet I feel it is minimal what a teacher can do to help them catch up. I feel the class should continue and the student picks up as best they can. Do not stop a class and wait for them, that way leads to chaos.

Next time I will continue talking about actually starting with teachers.

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Gus Worth is a highly experienced writer and educator having worked in universities for nearly 20 years and being first published at the age of six. Currently in the English department of the American University in Bulgaria, he also writes extensively for the web and in print for many companies. He has a particular love of online teaching and enjoys helping teachers take their first steps in the exciting world of the future where you can connect with, and help students develop, all over the planet.
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