Six-figure salaries for adjuncts?

That’s what Rebecca Brown is claiming in her book How to Teach Online (and Make $100,000 a Year). From the website for the book:

Colleges and universities always need adjuncts to pick up their overflow classes. So an adjunct could get one class at the local community college, and maybe another one or two across town at the state University. No single class paid very much and adjuncts were notoriously poor. [Ed. — Does the word “poor” refer to adjuncts’ financial status, or their teaching abilities?]

Because all classes were taught in classrooms, teachers were restrained by the physical distance they could drive each day to reach their classes. No one could manage more than about four classes at a time, even if they were lucky enough to be offered more.

But with the advent of the online universities, all that has changed. Now teachers, just like students, can work from their home office.

Without the restraints of physical distance to travel, a college teacher can accept enough classes to earn a respectable living. They can handle 5, 7, 14 classes at a time, if they know all the tricks!

I suspect that, if you are going to have 5 or more classes running at the same time, that “the tricks” include how to make up assessments that don’t take forever to grade and how to give minimal attention to each class. Brown claims that “the new economy of distance” is what makes this unheard-of level of multitasking possible, but I’m not so sure. It’s planning, assessment, and grading that tends to grow to Godzilla-like proportions and consume all the instructor’s time, and those are independent of travel time and distance. So unless she’s got some workarounds for things like grading essays (the traditional bane of humanities professors like herself), I’m skeptical. (I’ve got four courses right now with a total of just 40 students in all, and I’m perpetually swamped with prepping and grading, and I don’t think it’s because I haven’t streamlined my workflow.)

However, online universities do change the higher education game pretty drastically, and it’s only a matter of time before they lose their (probably unfair) reputation as diploma mills and start to really eat in to the market share held for so long by brick-and-mortar schools. So it’s worthwhile to think about what opportunities do legitimately exist for freelance faculty in that kind of setting. (And the idea of making $100K a year working at home doing what I am trained to do does sound pretty appealing.)

Brown also has a blog and an online forum for stuff like this.

[via Wired Campus Blog]

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Filed under Education, Higher ed, Life in academia, Teaching, Technology

One response to “Six-figure salaries for adjuncts?

  1. All of our projects and exams were graded by program (VBA embedded in the files), so all teachers had to do was download the files and the grader, and click a button (the VBA also includes code that catches files submitted by students other than the owner and files with values pasted into cells from other files), and in a few minutes, all of the projects or exams were graded and the scores dumped into the teacher’s gradebook. This ensured that all students were graded in exactly the same way regardless of who their teacher was.

    The downside is that the VBA has to be custom written for every project or exam, then tested, and all before the project or exam is posted. That makes creating the assessments far more work intensive. But it also makes everything nearly cheat-proof, and flags cheaters, so it’s well worth the extra work.