The Selection Process for Straighterline's Online Educators

Jaime Dalbke

From August 2008...

One common misconception we hear about using online educational systems such as StraighterLine (SL) is the doubt that the basic introductory college courses we offer do not involve "real" teachers. People usually ask the question along these lines: "How do I know that the person teaching the lessons has any real credentials?"

We respond by telling potential clients that SL's parent company, SMARTHINKING, Inc., employs certified tutors who are seasoned educators, most with advanced degrees in their fields. Drawn from among college faculty, graduate students, high school teachers and retired educators, all of these prospective "e-structors" must first pass SMARTHINKING's rigorous real-time, online training program that focuses on both technological skill and online instructional practices.

Tutors also must collaborate with SMARTHINKING colleagues and participate in on-going development exercises held throughout the academic year. The E-structor® Certification program involves a combination of self-paced online modules, interactive sessions with veteran tutors and meta-cognitive exercises. In their online practice sessions, tutors undergo an orientation to their respective technology platforms and then work with academic coordinators and veteran tutors, who assume a variety of student roles. Simulated tutorial exercises represent diverse situations and student needs that typically are encountered throughout the semester (for example, scenarios involving English as a Second Language students). Upon completion of the training program, tutors must demonstrate competence in specific content areas, competence in online communication and instruction, and an understanding of the values that drive our practice.

The credentials our tutors possess are the same as or better than those of most university departments. Indeed, a variety of publications from professional journals to have assessed and documented the quality of our tutors, ranging from the 2003 book Preparing Educators for Online Writing Instruction: Principles and Processes to an article in the winter 2007 edition of Technical Communication Quarterly on "Online Teaching and Learning: Preparation, Development and Organizational Communication." Further, studies from a variety of colleges have shown that the use of SMARTHINKING's tutors results in greater student success.

These tutors are available online 24/7 to encourage students with constructive criticism; help students identify areas for improvement; involve students in discussion and problem-solving strategies; and treat students with respect. They do NOT provide students with answer or perform their assignments; review and correct errors without active participation of the learners; or comment on grades or predict a possible grade. In other words, they perform the same duties as any other college instructor.

We at SL are more than happy to discuss the qualifications of our tutors with you - please ask us for more information, if you like. We believe that we are offering students the best college courses of general education online, and the people select and constantly review for high standards as our educators are one of the main reasons why we at SL feel this way.

To learn more about StraighterLine, visit and learn how we can become the shortest distance between you and your degree.

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