As promised... The benefits of being an online adjunct
Continuation of the Open Letter to University Administrators and HR Personnel:
Previously I detailed the cost-savings to the universities for whom I work as an online adjunct working at a distance. There are however myriad ways that I benefit from working at a distance. These help to mitigate the lack of benefits and resources of being an on-campus faculty member.
First of all, I can work from anywhere, anytime. If my best time of day is 4 AM that is when I do my course work. If I choose to work from my sofa or a coffee shop, I can do so. As long as my work is done regularly no one questions any aspect of my work attire, location, timing, etc. I don't have to cancel class because of a doctor's visit, I work before and after the appointment, or from the waiting room on my smartphone! My costs for attire are nil, literally I can teach in any stage or style of dress and no one ever knows. My costs for broadband and wireless are my own to bear but if I choose to take off to New York to see the grandchildren I can work from the airport, in the air with on-board wifi, and from the apartment once the grandchildren have been spoiled and are off to bed. My laptop and I have worked from Edinburgh, London, Maui, San Diego, San Antonio, New York, Philadelphia and other locales.
The workload varies by day, week, month, and time of year and I can balance the rest of my life around the work. Some days I have a lot of grading or course site preparation and must work for 6 or 8 hours. On other days I answer emails and respond to discussion boards in less than an hour with the rest of the day at my disposal.
My work can be done on my choice of equipment. Whether Mac or PC, smartphone or tablet, desktop or laptop; the equipment and software are my own. As long as I can access the course sites I can use any equipment and browser I like.
There are few if any staff meetings which I must attend. This varies with the university, a few do have web-based meetings which require attendance but these are always archived and can be accessed at a later time if I cannot attend online at the stated day/time. For the most part it can be said, there are no staff meetings, no committee meetings, and no one popping into my office to talk, or summoning me to their office on demand. The few administrators whom I deal with are truly wonderful people who fully understand the unique nature of online learning, and the student population in our courses. We keep in touch by phone or email. These fine administrators work very hard on behalf of all the eLearning faculty and insulate us from the many periphereal issues swirling around on campus which don't impact our courses.
When I explain what I do and how I do it to people they tell me I have a dream job. And I do! I know I do. Do I think universities are making money off me as a distance educator? Yes! Would I trade this and go back to faculty meetings, face-to-face sessions at specific times, parking, traffic, dealing with office mates, and being tied to one location for a whole semester? No! Never! I do love my dream job and I know that with every job comes a few drawbacks.
It works because I've made it work. I've curated a full time job by piecing together courses from several institutions, freelance-style, within an educational industry that has yet to figure out what its going to be when it grows up and become technologically self-aware. I am one of number of the early adopter online faculty - there are more like me scattered about, in coffee shops and home offices. For now, we are pioneers, but that status is rapidly changing.
Now... back to answering student emails from my sofa in front of the fireplace while still wearing my pajamas at 9 AM.