An Important email message today about sick leave policy from one of the universities I work for starting me thinking. I am saving these universities SOOO much money by working at a distance. As an online adjunct very little is provided to me... thus was borne this open letter...
Open letter to University administrators and human resources personnel who have adjunct instructors working at a distance:
I am the faceless, nearly nameless, person teaching tens, if not hundreds, of students for you each year via your online courses. Since I never set foot on your campus and in fact probably live hundreds or thousands of miles away, I am saving you a lot of money. Clearly I am saving you money when compared to tenured faculty but even compared to the meager existence of a local on-campus adjunct, the saving from my work is substantial.
For clarity's sake let me define who I am since you probably don't know me at all. I teach online courses via my own computer from my home. You pay me by course, or by student. This is my full-time job but I work for several universities in order to earn a full-time income. And following this rant about how much I am saving you, I will detail the benefits gained by working as an online adjunct.
Like most adjuncts face-to-face or online you likely do not pay me any benefits. No insurance costs or pension fund contributions must be funded on my behalf. Sick leave doesn't apply in my world, nor does paid vacations or holidays. My courses do not close because I am laid up with the flu, I cannot close the course site and say 'take the day off' and I cannot ask someone to cover my class and teach it for me because of illness or injury. I teach from my sick bed, and while on vacation, and over holidays. In fact graduate students in online courses tend to do more work and ask more questions over holidays, weekends, and during traditional vacation times because they have extra time for their coursework. And I cannot even imagine a scenario where I would file an L and I claim for injuries sustained on the job.
There is no physical classroom to be provided for myself or the students. No utilities to be paid, equipment, furnishings, or physical presence to be maintained. In fairness you do pay for a learning management system where my course is housed. I have no idea what the balance in costs is between a physical classroom and the cost of one course on a learning management system so perhaps this is a fair trade.
No office space, even office space shared with other adjuncts, must be provided. You don't provide a computer or Internet access for me to do lesson planning, grading, or other teaching functions which require electronics. I provide my own equipment, keep my software up-to-date, use my own phone for calls to students, and pay for my Internet access while at home and on the road. Some universities do offer discounts on software or reimbursement for phone calls and postage. The hassle of filling out your paper forms and mailing them to you with receipts to get reimbursed isn't worth my time.
You have no costs for meetings or professional development. I have not consumed a cup of coffee brewed by your staff during a meeting because there are no meetings. And rarely is any professional development offered to online adjuncts. A few offers to audit a class are just about the only costs for PD that you have incurred for me.
You may offer technical support to help me with media creation, troubleshooting, and other issues but I usually figure things out on my own with the help of my PLN. To be honest your technical support people often assume a level of digital stupidity that takes so long to dispel it is easier to figure things out on my own. One does not teach online without some level of competency using a computer and Internet-based tools.
To summarize, I earn few, if any, benefits. I don't get health insurance, take sick leave, or get paid vacation. You don't have to provide a parking spot, chair, desk, or a light bulb. I don't eat doughnuts at meetings or run off 20 copies of a 10 page syllabus. I do provide excellent service to your students and take pride in doing so. Perhaps you should thank me for my generosity and willingness to teach online courses in your institution.
Instead, for this excellent customer service, you continue to spam my inbox with email about local face to face meetings, policies, and politics; none of which have ever applied to me. I am your ever-growing future workforce...it is high time you figure out who and where I am.