Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Adjunct Technology...or pay your adjuncts better :)

I was reading a post by Leahgrrl the other day titled Adjunct Technology, or why I can't figure out Blackboard. It was quite an interesting post, and not something completely foreign to me - I've read my fair share of adjunct posts on the Chronicle of Higher Ed, and Inside Higher Ed, as well as having known many adjuncts personally. This past week, while attending the Sloan-C annual conference (virtually) I saw a session on developing faculty, and one of the institutions (the name escapes me now) had faculty take an 8 week long training seminar which focused on pedagogy, but the final "product" of the course was a full course on Blackboard (or whatever LMS the institution used). The faculty were not paid for the workshop, but they were paid a stipend for creating the course on Blackboard (so I guess they were sort of reimbursed for the time they spend on this project in some fashion).

What should be pointed out was that not all institutions do this - I think only a minority of institutions do! And, it seems like the  institutions that do only do so for online courses, not courses that are face to face and use technology to enhance the course; so if you are an adjunct, who is tasked with creating a course from scratch, you are putting in countless hours in course development (that your institution may retain copyright over!) for no pay.  On top of that you are paid only for the hours you spend in the if you pro-rate everything you are getting poverty wages at best - after all, you do want to give your students good feedback and opportunities to excel don't you? This stuff takes time!

Adjuncts in the US get paid pretty poorly and institutions many times also don't provide for basic things like an office to conduct student consults, a computer or a printer for student handouts. It's a situation where you're getting paid poorly and it's BYOT (bring your own technology). From a management perspective, if you're just looking at the dollars and cents, it makes sense! Dirt cheap labor with no overhead!  But, in my opinion, this is what has brought down wall street - focusing on just the short term gain, and not keeping in mind long term benefits.  How do you retain great, qualified, instructors if you don't provide better wages and some job perks? Yes, there is always someone else to replace them, but at what cost to the students and the reputation of the institution?  If you don't pay well, adjunct faculty won't go the extra mile, because they either have another job and this is their hobby, or they string along several (low paying) teaching gigs and do the bare minimum.

I'd like to know which Higher Education Administration genius thought of this cockamamy scheme :-)  Education isn't about opening up a student's brain and pouring in information - it's about educating people to fend for themselves and this requires mentorship and educational innovation. Both of these require time, and if you're paying your educators very little, they aren't going to put in the time.  It's all is this not visible?
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