Blackboard Addicts Anonymous

Hello, my name is Jodi, and I am a Blackboard addict. If they had a support group for people addicted to their online classrooms, my husband would force me to go. It seems the only time I am not online is when I am driving or sleeping. I use Blackboard as support in every face-to-face class I teach as well. I just love the online classroom.

I have worked in non-traditional education most of my adult life (I became an adult around 30), starting in the administrative side of the house at a small private University for working adults. After almost 10 years, I decided I would like to teach, so I joined the adjunct rank at the same University in 2005. I was limited to 4 classes a year as an employee/adjunct and I quickly discovered that I enjoyed my time teaching the students much more than administering to them, so what was a girl to do? When a full-time Faculty Chair position posted; I applied and I got it. I know, this is an adjunct blog. Give me a year, and I’ll be back in the adjunct fold.

I found out quickly that being the Faculty Chair was really not teaching, but academic administration of faculty. My days were spent chasing syllabi, evaluating faculty, reviewing grade appeals; this was not teaching, this was work! I might add it was not very well paid work. I did not accept my next contract and dropped back to the adjunct ranks where I still exist today. I came to the realization that if teaching is what you want to do, there is no better place than as an adjunct.

Working exclusively as an adjunct presented a few challenges for me. For one, I have my undergraduate and graduate degrees in Aeronautical Science and a Ph.D. in Higher Educational Administration. The subjects I can teach are limited, so the schools I can teach at are also limited. I also own two teenagers, complete with the accompanying food, car insurance, and college tuition bills. I do need a steady source of income.

Time to take inventory, what can I do? I can continue with the aviation and education classes but there has to be more I can teach. I speak technology and engineering and I am qualitative and mixed-methods researcher. A little web searching leads me to schools that teach qualitative methods. I also tapped my networks and found the schools where aviation professionals are pursuing advanced degrees. These schools are all online. I am not experienced with teaching online. I send out a few CVs and hear the “we want online experience” rejection line a few times. The classic how can I get experience if no one will give me a job situation.

2006 was my lucky year. Many people who teach online will say that luck plays a big role in getting the first job. I found an ad for a new online university that was opening in my metropolitan area and it was hiring an administrative team. I pulled up my résumé, applied, interviewed and got the job! I spent the next few months developing courses, learning the Angel platform from the administrative side, and getting online teaching experience. I now had teaching experience and online experience. I applied to two non-profits and immediately heard back from both. Within six weeks, I was hired and in training. My new life in online adjunct teaching had begun. I have enjoyed it and cursed it ever since.

It is January, a new year, and I need to make an income since the government thinks I need to wait 25 more years until I can retire. I am doing two online introductory courses at a for-profit, two online Ph.D. research courses for a for-profit, one blended aviation course and one synchronous online research course for a private non-profit. I also have a contract through June to do some administrative work at Sunny Research University. I just had two weeks off from all my assignments, so I am ready to begin the adventure. I will be chronicling my search for more online classes for March and beyond and letting you know how things are going with my various classes. I will be discussing the challenges and sharing my concerns. I see scheduling it all in as my biggest challenge, but I am sure something else will come along and surprise me. In the world of online teaching, that’s common.

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4 Comments
  1. Doug says

    Hi Jodi / Susan,

    Yes, I have been teaching Strategic Planning for Organizations for 3 years, now and this course is taught about 24 times per year. With this same university, I just receive PSY Adult Development and Life Assement – entry level course. My master’s degree is in Organizaitonal Management.

    Thanks for your suggestions, and in the meantime I will keep plugging away with submitting my resume.

    Doug

  2. Susan says

    My suggestion would be to seek out a local community college and research what types of courses are offered in a distance learning format. Many of the community colleges cater to adults with busy schedules returning for an education. I begin my online teaching in two ways. I jumped on a five week faculty certification course at a community college where I was teaching as a faculty and then, wrote an online version of an existing face to face. I now teach it online. I attended inservice faculty trainings on teaching online, legal ramifications (FERBA) and technology training as they came available at a University where I now teach online. I found a class that I taught and took the intiative and wrote a proposal to teach online, got the backing of my dept chair and voila, I made my own way…..and gained credibility teaching online. Hope my experience helps!

  3. Jodi says

    Hi Doug:

    I will again stress, I think luck has so much to do with getting that first big break into online teaching. I agree, 4 years seems like a long time!

    What is your highest degree? Some schools are looking for terminal degrees, so if there yours is not terminal, it can make for a longer search for a school that will hire you.

    What class do you currently teach? The people who are making a living teaching online tend to be those who can teach the general education courses offered at every college and university. I know people who are doing very well with Economics, English, Psychology, and Accounting courses.

    As far as teaching for University of Phoenix, that might be hard for you. Many schools are enacting policies where they will not hire their own graduates (the one I graduated from with my Ph.D. will not hire me). This is because the accrediting bodies will look at the percentage of “home grown” faculty and penalize a school that has too many.

    Do you have online teaching experience or is your class face-to-face? Being an online student does not seem to play into the selection game. If your class in the summer is not online, could you start to incorporate online elements into it to get experience for your CV? When I was strictly a brick and mortar faculty member, I still had access to Blackboard. I used it in every course I taught as a way to communicate with the students between classes. This way I could say I had experience working with the platform. This was helpful for me in getting to the next step in my career.

    I belong to a newsgroup on Yahoo called “Online Teaching Jobs: Making a Living Teaching Online”. This is a great resource to information on getting that first online job. The questions you are asking me here are debated there every day. No one has found the secret code to getting that first job. The one thing that seems to be said over and over is to keep trying and keep sending out CVs. Some people apply many times at the same school before they finally get their big break.

    ~Jodi

  4. Doug Nelson says

    Hi Jodi,

    I am interested in online teaching, I work for one University but only teach one class every summer. I would very much like to increase my class load.

    I hear that University of Phoenix is always hiring, and I received my master’s from UOP online and have applied many times. I even no an adjunct that I work with in the reserve who also graduated from UOP. This person gave me the name of his Dean/Chairperson who hired him. He responded and forwarded my resume to UOP HR, and I received several request for my resume. However, I have not landed an adjunct with UOP over four years. I have also applied to numerous other online schools to only be told my application would go into an adjunct pool. I do have the experience as an online student and adjunct for about four years now, if include my experience as a student, that would give me 7 years of experience. By the way, I also have 26 years of military experience.

    I agree it’s a number’s game, but applying for four years now is a bit long. Any suggestions?

    DN
    dnelsonskc@aol.com

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