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Ask the Piss Poor Prof–online teaching

June 27, 2007

My first letter of advice…a reader asks:

I found your blog via the comments at dean dad’s blogs … If you don’t mind (and if you have the time), I’d like to pick your brain about your online teaching experience.
>I’m contemplating picking up an online adjunct section with [specific place] and was wondering if you happened to have had any experience with them, and if so, was it good, bad, or pretty middle of the road. Also, even if you’ve never worked with [them] specifically, as I go looking for online teaching gigs, are there any warning signs that should send me clicking in another direction?
>As far as my stats– I’m an English PhD who’s not currently living a tenure-track lifestyle. I’m thinking about the teaching purely from a pocket money perspective. It’s been about 4 years since I last taught online (which would have been as a TA for my grad school institution)

Hi [welcomed reader of my blog],

[skipped stuff here]

I haven’t taught at the institution you mentioned. I know nothing of them. The big players, if you are trolling for gigs, are:

* University of Phoenix–[said something really snarky here]
* Baker Online–not bad, depending on the program and dean–6 week semesters, up to three courses per 6 weeks. Pay is average.
*Kaplan is up and coming. Longer semesters, average pay

And then there are a slew of small players with online components. Send to way more than you expect to teach at as the offers are not always consistent. I think that since they don’t see your face they don’t keep you in mind. I guess reminder e-mails wouldn’t hurt here.

Also, teach relatively the same content at all of the various gigs. This will greatly streamline your off-line build of materials. Also, never delete. Not source materials, student papers, e-mails, etc. This will come in handy…always.

I also used Outlook as an e-mail aggregator (it collects e-mails from various accounts). This also helped become a one-stop shop for e-mails. Others are Outlook Express (not that great) and Apple’s Entourage (their version of Outlook) and another which I am blanking on…This is a big time-saver.

What to look for:
* control over text or source material. A few will let you determine your own materials. Go to these. Others who wish to centralize content only end up watering the content down, and you are left being little more than an online discussion facilitator…not what you got an advanced degree to do
* check the online requisites. That is, how often do you have to log in and by what measure will they judge your “presence.” Logging on and answering general questions is often not enough. Some joints expect significant discussion from you, which can often water down a per-hour rate to well below minimum wage. Avoid these.
* develop online quizzes. Blackboard and WebCT (the only real players in the LMS game here) both allow, although tricky to figure out, decent uploadable quizzes. These are easy to upload once they are programmed (which isn’t as hard as it might seem), and counts toward an easy method of grading–not a small factor for a teacher. That is, put the work in up front on a quiz and reap the extra free time later.
* seek out source materials from book vendors. Often there is a companion website (especially for comp and some for lit) where there are PPTs and other materials which you can use to flesh out your materials. They also may have a set of quiz questions which you can then adapt to your own reading checks–important in keeping online students relatively honest.
* invest in any software you can to aid in making things easier and quicker (GradeEaze,, etc.). In online teaching, time is money.

I hope this helps.

  1. Gregory permalink
    June 29, 2007 3:02 am

    Thanks for posting that. I’m sure many folks like me have had the same questions in our head, but we forgot to ask…

    Again, thanks!

  2. Tom permalink
    October 30, 2007 12:14 am

    How do you get into online adjunct teaching like in History. I am just looking for extra money. Thanks.

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