Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Civilian Comes to CM For Some Help. Say Hello to Carlos from Calabasas.

I'm a nonacademic in Hamster Accounting, Management and Taxation, and I currently work for United Hamster, a company that is extremely prominent in my field. Overpriced University, a local institution, has a (fairly well-respected) graduate program in Hamster AMT and is starting up an online graduate program to bestow the same degree. I ran into the program's director, and he asked me to teach an online class in September 2014.

 The director straight up told me that OU Online is desperate for credibility and that having someone from United Hamster as a teacher looked good for them. I don't (particularly) need the money, but there is some not-insignificant payment for both putting the course together and "running" it when it is offered. It looks like the preparation is the most involved part. I gather that the lectures etc., are videos and my running the class is mostly answering questions from students, grading the assignments, etc. They may want to offer the class about twice a year, so I would be able to "run" it each time and get paid. If things work out, I will be paid to update the class as well. There is a pittance I can use to hire an assistant.

I said sure, why not. Now I'm panicking.

I have taught before, maybe fifteen years ago, as a grad student and also one year as a professional teacher (in liberal arts). The particular sub-specialty of the class (Hamster Financial Planning) is one that I last worked in about 10 years ago. I'm rusty, but I figured that I could do it with a good textbook and some time. I spoke to an old guy in my company who also teaches in the online program -- he told me that it was a terrible experience and a ton of work, but he also didn't own a computer before getting started and he basically picked an encyclopedia as the textbook. This made his life much harder, I think. He still teaches in the program. The class uses Blackboard. The students will be seeking a professional credential.

I'd like to do some teaching again, although I won't ever be face to face with the students. I have no experience with the technology. I have several months of lead time, but am pretty busy in general. As I said, the compensation is decent and possibly ongoing. I think it would look good for me to have done it, both with United Hamster and elsewhere.

Based on the above: Is this a good deal? Should I be worried about the work? Should I feel bad about participating in this online thing, or is it just the wave of the future? I really don't think I'm taking a position away from a starving adjunct, due to the nature of the class and what the director told me (i.e., they would probably ask other people from industry before they got to any academics). What problems would you anticipate?

Please share your collective, conflicting wisdom with me.

- Carlos from Calabasas


  1. I'd say you sound interested enough to at least try it out. As you say, you have some prep time. The worst that will happen is that it'll be a badly run college course. It won't be the first!

    But you sound keen on trying it, and it certainly seems to be the right gig for you.

    I don't teach online so I can't help with tech advice.

  2. I'd get some training in Blackboard. Find out what this company offers, and take full advantage of it. Blackboard also has some great online tutorials. Read about how to most successfully set up an online class. You know what----you have time! Take an online class! Pick one, and just take it. That will show you what works and what doesn't more completely than almost anything else. Make sure you take one in Blackboard for most effective results.

    As far as how much trouble this is going to be for you-----it is hard to say. You might love it! It is technical, for people looking to work in the industry, and you have the knowledge they need. Sounds great, in many ways. And if it is horrible, all you have to do is get through it and never do it again.

    1. Indeed. Bella's right. You have got to see if fussing with the online system is something you'll be able to handle. Otherwise there will be nothing but tech trouble for that whole semester.

    2. This! If you're familiar with online LMS systems and feel fairly confident in your ability to work with Blackboard, then it won't be too bad. If Blackboard is something you struggle with, the rest of your experience will be that much harder.

      I love the idea of you, yourself, enrolling in a class right now just to see what it is like. I wonder if the college can add you to a course they already offer.

    3. Either this, or use the assistant money to hire someone to deal with the Bb stuff. Still, as is almost always the case, you'll get much more value out of the assistant if you know how to do things yourself. And yes, taking a class via Bb is a good idea. If your school is like mine, it may offer Bb training via Bb, which might be one way to go (though probably without the interactive elements, which are a major part of what you want to understand/experience).

  3. In terms of amount of prep for the first time I taught a course (ie. building lecture content from scratch), I've averaged about 12-15 hours per lecture hour. From then on, every time I've re-taught the course I've averaged about 1-2 hours of updating and tweaking material for every hour of lecture time.
    Anyone else have average prep times for 1st time teaching to offer Carlos as a rough guide?

  4. I'm with the others: you do, indeed, sound like a good candidate for the job, and the job sounds like a potential good experience for you, so go for it. I'd be much more worried if you weren't a bit panicked; the panic shows that you have some idea of what you're getting yourself into.

    I don't have any handy time estimates to offer in response to Prof. Poopiehead's excellent suggestion, but I would suggest estimating how much time you think it will take, and then putting aside 2-3 times that much time.

    I also have a favor to ask: please do keep track of your hours, and please to communicate them, to your employers, and perhaps, if you can find a way, to the general public (maybe write a blog or an article or something?) As a member of the business community, you have far more credibility with policy-makers, higher-ed administrators, etc. than we full-time professors do. If you could manage to explain to those folks just why the teaching well is so time-consuming, you'd be doing us all a tremendous favor.


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