Nov 10, 2021 |

7 Qualifications and Characteristics of Online Instructors

By Gravitas

online instructor

Wherever you learn, you expect your teachers to be subject matter experts with strong moral character and a desire to impart their wisdom unto you. When that learning occurs online, however, those teachers and mentors need additional skills. Not only do they need solid technical skills to run the virtual classroom flawlessly; they also need to know how to engage with you across miles and through a computer screen. As you begin your search for an online high school, choose a school with institutional gravitas and top-notch teachers.

1. Online Teachers Need Subject Matter Knowledge and Enthusiasm

Have you ever been in a class when a teacher went off topic and you followed along on the journey because it was an unusual diversion? But then you discovered it was actually spot on and connected to the bigger lesson. The teacher made it so interesting that you didn’t even realize you were learning. And you still remember it!

A great online teacher knows their subject inside out—and loves it. They’re enthusiastic about what they teach and always look for news that relates to the discipline. If they teach science, they bring the latest breakthroughs into the classroom. If it’s Ancient Egypt, they find a way to make you feel like you’ve stepped back in time 5000 years.

2. Online Instructors Need a Passion for Teaching

Just because someone is a genius in a particular subject doesn’t mean they’ll be a good teacher. Especially in an online format, your teacher needs to be passionate about teaching you. That means they’re willing to come up with exciting new ways to approach a subject. They also understand that not all learners absorb material the same way and they may need to innovate. In an online format, that means using audio, video, and even hands-on demonstrations to make a point. Whatever it takes to help you learn is what your online teacher is willing to do.

3. Emotional Intelligence

Emotional intelligence (EI) isn’t just your teacher’s ability to self-reflect and understand their own emotions. It’s also their ability to understand the range of emotions you might experience in the virtual classroom. A teacher with high EI is helpful, supportive, and encouraging. They are better equipped to bolster your self-esteem and motivate you for success. Studies have shown that teachers with high EI foster a positive learning environment that translates to higher achievement among students. While forging a connection with your teacher is always beneficial, it is particularly helpful in the virtual classroom.

4. Online High School Teachers Need to Be Approachable

Your online teacher needs to make an extra effort to be accessible to you and your needs. Unlike a traditional classroom setting, the online classroom requires more of a concerted effort for students to connect with teachers. Breakout chat rooms, frequent office hours, and regular check-ins with individual students are tools your teacher can use. But it’s a demeanor of accessibility that will make you feel comfortable about going to your teacher with questions and concerns. It’s also what will open the door to bigger questions about philosophy, life, spirituality, and why we’re all here.

5. Communication Skills with Students and Parents

Good communication skills are essential in the online classroom. Your instructors need to be the conduit from the lessons they teach to you. But they also need to communicate well with the administration, your parents, their colleagues, and any resources they may tap to augment what they teach in the classroom. Ideally, they will also model the kind of effective communication skills that will serve you well in college and in your career.

6. Online Teachers Need to be Curious

To be self-motivated to learn, you need to be curious. Curiosity-driven learning is foundational to human cognition and it is what helps you succeed in the classroom and beyond. It is also what drives a teacher to sustain their passion for their subject matter expertise and the field of education. Just as a good communicator can show you how to interact well with others, a curious teacher demonstrates the very nature of learning. Your teacher’s curiosity lets you know it’s always a good idea to ask questions, look for answers, and to continually evolve.

7. Online Instructors Need to be Well-Organized

The digital classroom provides tools for efficiency and expediency. Through a robust learning management system, teachers can communicate with you, hand out assignments, give quizzes and tests, post grades, and more. However, all of those opportunities only work well if your teacher is well-prepared and organized. They need to keep digital files sorted, important data at hand, assets connected to subject units, and your access to all of it easy to find and share. And they need to follow through, always providing consistency in their lessons and feedback to you in a timely manner.


Gravitas is the online arm of The Stony Brook School, a Christian college prep school with a century of experience providing stellar educational opportunities to students. Gravitas brings that wealth of knowledge to a digital platform. If you want a high school experience that provides you with a quality education, with excellent instructors, while also affording you the opportunity to explore other interests, contact us today.

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