Wednesday, June 27, 2007

    Where the [Wild Things] Adjuncts are

    * Institutions that pay full-time faculty members well.
    * Institutions in urban areas.
    * Institutions with relatively small enrollments and large proportions of part-time students.
    * Institutions that rely more on tuition and fees for balancing their budgets.

    This was the culminating list given by the Scott Jaschik's story "Where the Adjuncts are." While not really insiteful, the story does indicate that those institutions that employ on the cheap are also those institutions that operate on the cheap...they need money, so the scrimp.

    No real news...just connecting dots.

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    Ask the Piss Poor Prof--online teaching

    My first letter of advice...a reader asks:

    I found your blog via the comments at dean dad's blogs ... If you don't mind (and if you have the time), I'd like to pick your brain about your online teaching experience.
    >I'm contemplating picking up an online adjunct section with [specific place] and was wondering if you happened to have had any experience with them, and if so, was it good, bad, or pretty middle of the road. Also, even if you've never worked with [them] specifically, as I go looking for online teaching gigs, are there any warning signs that should send me clicking in another direction?
    >As far as my stats-- I'm an English PhD who's not currently living a tenure-track lifestyle. I'm thinking about the teaching purely from a pocket money perspective. It's been about 4 years since I last taught online (which would have been as a TA for my grad school institution)

    Hi [welcomed reader of my blog],

    [skipped stuff here]

    I haven't taught at the institution you mentioned. I know nothing of them. The big players, if you are trolling for gigs, are:

    * University of Phoenix--[said something really snarky here]
    * Baker Online--not bad, depending on the program and dean--6 week semesters, up to three courses per 6 weeks. Pay is average.
    *Kaplan is up and coming. Longer semesters, average pay

    And then there are a slew of small players with online components. Send to way more than you expect to teach at as the offers are not always consistent. I think that since they don't see your face they don't keep you in mind. I guess reminder e-mails wouldn't hurt here.

    Also, teach relatively the same content at all of the various gigs. This will greatly streamline your off-line build of materials. Also, never delete. Not source materials, student papers, e-mails, etc. This will come in handy...always.

    I also used Outlook as an e-mail aggregator (it collects e-mails from various accounts). This also helped become a one-stop shop for e-mails. Others are Outlook Express (not that great) and Apple's Entourage (their version of Outlook) and another which I am blanking on...This is a big time-saver.

    What to look for:
    * control over text or source material. A few will let you determine your own materials. Go to these. Others who wish to centralize content only end up watering the content down, and you are left being little more than an online discussion facilitator...not what you got an advanced degree to do
    * check the online requisites. That is, how often do you have to log in and by what measure will they judge your "presence." Logging on and answering general questions is often not enough. Some joints expect significant discussion from you, which can often water down a per-hour rate to well below minimum wage. Avoid these.
    * develop online quizzes. Blackboard and WebCT (the only real players in the LMS game here) both allow, although tricky to figure out, decent uploadable quizzes. These are easy to upload once they are programmed (which isn't as hard as it might seem), and counts toward an easy method of grading--not a small factor for a teacher. That is, put the work in up front on a quiz and reap the extra free time later.
    * seek out source materials from book vendors. Often there is a companion website (especially for comp and some for lit) where there are PPTs and other materials which you can use to flesh out your materials. They also may have a set of quiz questions which you can then adapt to your own reading checks--important in keeping online students relatively honest.
    * invest in any software you can to aid in making things easier and quicker (GradeEaze,, etc.). In online teaching, time is money.

    I hope this helps.

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Friday, June 22, 2007

    Teaching metrics--again with the teaching metrics

    From the planet obvious, Inside Higher Ed writes that gender doesn't matter in successful teaching. Nor does age or scholarship. Well, I threw in the scholarship.

    The findings, though, I think are flawed. Well, the findings I agree with, but the methodology I find flawed. In order to control for gender, the study looked at cattle-call classes where the prof didn't actually interact with the students much at all. The article cites:
    the authors limited their research to large introductory courses where instructors don’t grade exams and students typically have little interaction with faculty. That way, the results would be likelier to reflect how gender factored into the equation, as opposed to how well a student got to know a faculty member or what type of reputation an instructor had earned with higher-level students.

    The study then concludes that gender is not a factor. What they should have concluded was that this type of class (large, relatively anonymous--what of the gender of the TA?) is genderless. What of the smaller, more intimate major courses? Are they really looking at teaching styles over gender anyway?

    Where do these people come from?

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Sunday, June 17, 2007

    Zero tolerence is intolerable

    I read in today's paper (yes, they still exist) a story detailing how the Justice department has moved away from fighting race-based crimes and focused more on religious rights. When a large percentage of new-hires come from Falwell's Bible college of law, then it is of little wonder.

    Then I come across this video (sorry, AOL's crappy site doesn't allow for embedding their videos without their player).

    Her story goes that she spilled the water on the floor. They say the deliberately poured it out.

    She says that she was worried about her child. They say she was belligerent. They say she wanted to flash her secret service badge at them.

    I say that she poured the water on the floor. I would have too.

    Notice this:
    • She is being shadowed (probably conversing with) security well before she gets to the screening (if this event occurred after going through e-ray, all the more on her side)
    • The one screener grabs her by the arm
    • She is a single mother going through a security checkpoint
    • She pours out the water and moves to exit (which makes me think she has not yet gone through e-ray) at which point she is blocked
    • I wish she would have flashed her badge. The wholesale liquid ban is ridiculous and a waste of time
    One more story along this vein. A fifth grader was asked to cut off the guns of his GI Joe's. Apparently it was a danger and against "zero tolerance."

    Zero tolerance is a waste of time and effort as well. If a school does not show judicious judgment, but rather demonstrates an "all-or-nothing" absolutism, how can it (the school, the federal gov't, etc.) expect an informed and rational citizenry?

    Pisses me off.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Free survey to take

    Going through my e-mail, which I do quarterly, I came across an academic survey dealing with blogging. The questions, which you can find here, attempt to tease out the taker's tech savvy-ness (do you know what RSS means), then her affiliation to a school (in the US?).

    I found the section on research grants kind of amusing. How much in grant money have you received in the past three years. Oh the measures of an academic.

    Take the survey, let me know.

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