Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Hound of the Basketballs Sends In This Week's Big Thirsty, And Shares Some Bad News.

First, the bad news: Last week I learned that my adjunct contract won't be renewed for the spring. After having a good cry and several stiff drinks, I have climbed back into the saddle of job-hunting. I am particularly proud of myself for resisting the urge to drive off one of the highway overpasses on my way home from the present Adjunct-Land.

Second, the Thirsty: I've been researching available adjunct teaching positions at online universities. I know, these are Not The Most Fun things to do, but at this point I need work. (I've also registered with our local temp agencies because it's more likely I'll find a job as a receptionist than as a college teacher, but that's neither here nor there.) The problem is that many of these jobs require prior experience with distance-learning software.

Q: How, exactly, do I get this experience if I'm just going into the online teaching world? Can I get trained to use this stuff someplace? Anybody got any ideas?


  1. The schools I online-adjunct for offer the training themselves, so this is new to me. Looks like they are outsourcing as much as possible.

    Idea: See if the software is at the school you are at now and offer a hybrid extra credit or option in your current courses. Some universities will have a moodle platform, for example. Put course materials there, offer study forums there, perhaps an assignment (for extra credit if it is too late to make it part of the course), etc. That way you can already use the software a bit - and claim "experience." Get any experience you can create with any e-learning software and that will already help. It shows that you can learn it and that you are actually teaching with it.

    Indeed, if I am not mistaken, with moodle you can even set it up yourself, without the university infrastructure.

  2. Ah, this is my moment to shine!! I have helped numerous friends get work online.

    The online gig takes an average year to break into. But there are some ways to push your way in more quickly. They are usually looking for people with online experience already. So go through a list of the top 20 online schools (try here: and systematically check their employment. Start blanket applying and see what happens.

    That's step one. Step two: apply to Phoenix. They hire. They are ridiculous. They are rude, they pay for shit, they scam their students. You will never make more than $900 from them (well, you might but you have to wait 6 months between courses). BUT: they have a vigorous training program that can go on your resume and make it appear that you have been working for Phoenix for 6 consecutive months even if you've only done the [unpaid] training. Consider it a crappy internship.

    Step three: actual employment. Depending on your background, I suggest looking into an online tutoring job. Again, not fun, sorta basic retail work, but it might be worth $1000/month while you wait for something else online or face to face to drop. Kaplan can pay $20/hour depending on your area. Smart Thinking is not awesome, but they are almost always hiring. They pay $11-12/hour.

    None of these are really long term for people like us, but they will all get you into the general realm of "online teaching" and enable you to find something over the next year. Maybe it will just tide you over as you find another face to face job. And who knows -- you might get a counseling job at a local uni while you're waiting.

    The best approach here is to "diversify your streams of income" so that if you get hired at 3 different institutions you always have money coming in. This is especially true of online unis that only give people a class every 3 months or so. Work of 3 of them consecutively and it ends up balancing out to a course a month, supported with weekly tutoring, for a pretty decent ($25k-45K) annual income.

    Good luck! I hope you find something.

  3. AM, this is so helpful -- because honestly? I think most of us will be working for for-profit online universities eventually.

  4. Thanks from me, too, AM; there's a part of me that says I will never go back to adjuncting, online or otherwise, because the pay is just so ridiculous, but, realistically, given my experience (which does include online teaching, though for a bricks-and-mortar state uni that has us using the same LMS as for regular classes), it might have to be my first step if I were to lose my current FT/non-TT job (though I think I'd actually go for a bricks-and-mortar class, since part of what I'd want out of the deal would be library privileges).

    It depends on your field, Hound, but another fairly lucrative gig can be writing standardized test items (try ETS,Pearson, whoever's running the MCAT these days). It's painstaking work (you have to write the rationale proving why the right answer is the only right answer, which will be sent to snowflakes who complain about the unfairness of the test, and may threaten to sue, so it has to be watertight), but, at least when I was doing it, the pay was by the piece rather than by the hour, which meant that, once you got a system worked out, you could make a pretty good (and self-scheduled) hourly rate. As with online courses (or any freelance work, really), the rate at which work arrives can be an issue; the editors contact you when they want an item. Signing up for several, and working ahead once you get a sense of the demand, are probably the best options (but working ahead would, of course, be a gamble).

  5. F&T has a point ... but, I think it is important to clarify that it is not just for-profits powering the online ed engine.

    I second the advice about flooding the system with applications.

    But before we all join hands and jump off an overpass on the Information Superhighway -- there are some institutions which DO believe in authentic education that just happens to be delivered online.

    I have been adjuncting on-campus and online for about eight years now. Presently, I am focusing my attention on two online appointments.

    One is an affiliate program of a well regarded state university system. I am classified as a state employee, belong to a faculty union and (so long as I maintain a 2/2 teaching load - which I have never had trouble doing) have the full benefits package offered to other state workers. I've also become their go-to course developer. They are on a semester schedule and, the only downside, do pay per student. Thus far, however, my classes have always been in the 20 - 25 student range, keeping me at the near the top of the pay scale.

    The other is a for-profit graduate school which paid (a pittance, but still) during training, and has an established payment scale for virtually every activity (e.g. training, sitting on dissertation committees, course development, serving as lead faculty, etc.). Their per quarter pay is among the highest out there.

    Yeah, there are potholes out there, but with some effort, one can travel the e-Education Superhighway relatively smoothly.

  6. "Hound of the Basketballs" is a great name. I laughed pretty hard at that.

    You should have been a poet, Gordo.

  7. Bubba, I had nothing to do with the name. The writer who asked the question provided it.

  8. By the way, I just found out that is hiring almost all subjects:

  9. Thanks y'all. I actually use Pearson textbooks in my classes, so I've been in touch with them. I'll work my way through the rest of the list of suggestions.


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