About Me

Education, the knowledge society, the global market all connected through technology and cross-cultural communication skills are I am all about. I hope through this blog to both guide others and travel myself across disciplines, borders, theories, languages, and cultures in order to create connections to knowledge around the world. I teach at the University level in the areas of Business, Language, Communication, and Technology.

Monday, January 20, 2014

The challenges and strategies for online adjuncts: Adjunctchat Jan 21, 2014

There has been a lot of discussion lately about the possibility of all classes going online and MOOC's (Massive online courses)replacing the traditional classroom. A result has been a backlash in which many still believe that online learning is not as effective as face to face learning (despite the body of work that proves that online learning, if done correctly, has no significant difference to learning outcomes than face to face traditional learning. Add to this that many of the online faculty are adjunct and their is a second layer of challenges online learning adjunct faculty have.


As an occasional online (and traditional) instructor, an instructor teaching "Distance Learning", and adjunct for 25 years, I still come in contact with misconceptions about online learning, including:

  • Online learning instructional design is the same as traditional in-class instructional design
  • Plagiarism/academic dishonesty is easier with online learning
  • All online learning is the same and can be used for any subject
  • Online instruction is easier/less time consuming than face to face instruction
  • Any course can be put online (including same content and class size)
  • Online instruction will allow for more courses with the same number of inputs (instructors, IT) and in some cases reduces instructional costs
  • Any student can do well in an online class as long as the instructor is competent
So, for those of you who have never taught an online class, here is the reality:

  • Most online learning is broken up into modules which allows for more individualized learning over a longer period of time.  In addition, because of the lack of social cues, there has to be some differences in how content is presented and there usually is a greater level of "use" of the content than in a traditional lecture.  There is at least 15 years of good research which has resulted in a variety of instructional design.  However, incorporated in the instructional design is a built in structure required by LMS's (Learning Management Systems such as Blackboard or Angel).
  • Plagiarism is no more prevalent than in a traditional large lecture  or class.  Just like a traditional class, there are ways to design a course to prevent academic dishonesty and plagiarism.  In fact, because of the fear of plagiarism (from my experience), online instructors are more aware of possible online cheating.
  • Some subjects still need to have some face to face time.  This does not mean that some instruction cannot be online.  Subjects such as studio art, theatre, medicine, and some of the lab sciences need to have hands on instruction/learning.  More and more, new technologies are making these possible  (i.e. via skype or videoconferencing at facilities with labs and studios).
  • Planning and maintenance of the course can be twice as long for an online course than a traditional course.  Because of the lack of social cues in many cases, instructors need to work harder at identifying when students don't get a concept.
  • Online courses will take more time to communicate.  As a result, the content will need to fit into time, technological, interaction, and distance constraints.  The ideal class size for an online class is 20 students and anything over 25 may need a TA to keep on top of questions and problems.  In addition, online problems require much more IT support which must be designed into the class (as does the use of the online LMS).
  • IT will need to have 24/7 support for online degrees along with constant upgrades to programs.  Also online degrees and classes can require more security.
  • Not all students have the self regulation to do well in an online class.  Some people also learn better in a face to face class as they need instant feedback they may not get in an online class.
For many of you who teach online, you are familiar with this.  As adjuncts, your only interaction with a department may be with those that hold the opinions above.  For others, you key contacts may understand, but your university administration may not.

This may mean:
  • You are given contradictory instructions/requirements
  • You are expected to meet criteria that may not be possible
  • Students may rely on you for support you can't give (i.e. technology glitches, program requirements)
  • You have limited colleagues to discuss learning/teaching problems with
  • You don't have enough time to design a course or you did not design the course you are teaching
  • You spend a lot more time on instruction than you are being paid for 
  • You feel as if you are on call to the class at all times
Discussion for this Chat

This chat we will discuss:

  • Challenges for the adjunct teaching online
  • Getting support for your teaching (institutional and social)
  • Expectations for adjuncts and online instructors
  • Strategies to make online adjunct teaching easier