Can you make a living as an Adjunct ?

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by Joeybsmooth, Jun 12, 2011.

  1. dlady

    dlady Active Member

    I agree with the first nine words, but I don't agree with most of the rest of this... :)

    (excluding the person mentioned, I vaguely know who she is but have never meet her and don't have any insights into any evaluation of her performance)
  2. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    The model that dlady is referring to is what some schools like the University of Toronto call "Professor of practice" and others call "permanent sessional". The concept is a professor that is required to keep a professional profile by keeping professional certifications, consulting, etc.
    Most of these positions require you to teach 6 classes a year and give you the flexibility to work at the same time in your field. However, at least in Canada, these positions are considered prestigious and pay top dollar and not just peanuts as most adjunct positions.

    The bottom line is that you cannot have it all, if the school wants "cheap" then it has to accept the "teaching machine" profile like Dr. Babbs. If the school wants the "star" profile on an "exclusive" basis then you have to pay more than the 10 to 20K a year.
  3. dlady

    dlady Active Member

    Here is where I got the idea from. If it is possible in today’s world ignore any religious elements to this, they have nothing to do with how I viewed the concept.

    Also, remember that in the world everything is not as extreme as message board writing tends to suggest when reading it. Almost always the truth is in the middle. The model you reference is one concept of the idea, there are others. Further, suggesting that online schools all have to employee the same 200 faculty is not really going to move things forward. I don’t know who you are (others might and I know we’ve both been on the board long enough that you have valuable insights).

    My comments here are a conversation not trying to start a flame war or suggest that because we have different visions for the market one is more right than the other.

    Anyway back to my point. For the past 6-months in between the time I left as president and CEO of aspen and we kicked off the new Taft MBA structure, I toured a good part of the country and made a few select international stops.

    I was looking at different styles of higher education, observing them first hand. Many of us sit back and become familiar with a single educational administration, work our way into it, and then defend its viewpoints and declare it as supreme to all others.

    My mind works differently, I have a systems viewpoint (systems theory not IT systems). This means that I look at assumptions and decide if they are universal, or if they are based upon limiting confines or arbitrary boundaries. Or even real boundaries but not universal ones. For example a government’s law is not necessarily arbitrary but it also may not be universal, other government may have different laws.

    Anyway, I was most struck concerning the model I witnesses in Jewish colleges, I visited about 10 of these types of schools in different places (BTW I am not Jewish). There was no class bigger than 5 students and a great deal of the education takes place one-on-one in a large central room. After having just finished my spring semester teaching at the local community college, it was apparent that this was a very different model. In US classes the students can randomly attend or not, pay attention or not, do homework or not, answer questions or not, and so on. But here there was no escape, as a student you were on the spot and either performed or was instantly corrected.

    Further, after talking with many of the instructors, I discovered that this model was much harder on them than the US model. The US model is all about faculty prestige and comfort. The model I was watching was all about student learning.

    Further, many of the instructors were from the local community, they came in on a schedule but had other jobs, for very modest pay; because they believed in the material and their community and sincerely wanted to help others learn.

    I saw other models also, I watched three different courses at MIT, watch an English course at the University of Panama, and watched a business training seminar in Pakistan.

    You, I believe, are talking about a model where the faculty is on a pedestal and teaches as their primary source of income. I think this model is tough because teaching, and educating, can be very different. Further, to you point their drivers become how much money they can make instead of what a good job they can do getting to know their students and educating them on their trade. Honestly the model is backwards, it needs to be about the student and the material.

    Believe it or not, there are some very well-credentialed and accomplished people that would rather give back to the community instead of trying to make yet another buck. If you are making $250k a year, I would challenge you to give back and teach, not try and lure you in because I think you need more money.

    I don’t teach at the community college because I need the money, honestly it comes out as about a wash when you factor in time, parking, gas, and meals. I do it because I want to help the kids in my community. And, if their comments on the schools survey are any indication, I did a pretty good job of it. 75% rated me as outstanding, the highest rating possible. I honestly feel good and believe I helped some kids. That, IMHO, is what it is about, not pay or prestige.

    I find I have more success in life if I surround myself with the right kind of people motivated by the right things. I hope, counter to your suggestions, that I am right and they exist, so far so good, BTW.

    Anyway, my 2-cents.

    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 22, 2011
  4. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

    Very well said. Making money isn't everything in life, nor it should it be. It should be about helping society in any way possible. This is called social responsibility. I am not sure Execs pulling down $300,000k would make the best teachers. Making money is different than having moral values, ethics, and the ability to teach. This is not to say all execs make bad teachers of course.

    Kudos to you for giving back Dr. Lady.

    Abner :)
  5. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member


    Please don't take me wrong. I have been in online education for more than 10 years and have been at part time hiring committees at different Universities for many years too. In my experience, I see 3 types of adjunct faculty:
    1. The teaching machine type (e.g. Dr. Babbs). This type is highly reliable but normally lacks the real world experience and more suitable for lower level undergrad classes. This type of faculty also is not up to date but there are exceptions (e.g. some publish frequently and keep themselves up to date with continuing education).

    2. The retired professional type. This type is highly experienced and suitable for MBA type courses but many lack the teaching skills and some are not so reliable as they don't do it for the money but to keep themselves busy. Some are terrible teachers and some are really good, we have few that are "star" faculty that are more or less reliable but this is a rare animal.

    3. The practicing professional type. This type is highly unreliable as many tend to cancel on us few weeks before the class starts and many only do it few times before they realize that teaching takes time and commitment. We have some stable professional type faculty but this type of animal tends to be rare and hard to find.

    Mos of the faculty we have are type "1". This type of faculty tend to be professional adjuncts and are reliable as we can count on them every semester unlike type 2 and 3. Types 2 and 3 we try to keep for MBA classes that are more demanding in terms of experience but many are not so reliable and more than once we had to replace them in the middle of the semester due to work conflicts.

    Yes, there are people that do it for the service to community but this type is not so reliable and you cannot run a business school with people that do it only for the love to teaching.

    I'm not really convinced that a teaching model of professionals teaching just for the "love" to teach would work. You can justify low wages if the school has prestige, some people teach at prestigious business schools only for the image but I don't see it for a no name online school.

    Again, my experience is based on only one individual but I'm might be wrong and there are successful professionals out there that will be willing to commit to one no name online school for low wages just to give back to the community (and also back to the pockets of the no name online school).

    The model seems to be weak in my opinion but I might be wrong and you might report that this model works later. If it indeed works, you will see all the other schools following it as it is the dream of the online schools that would want "star" faculty that just do it for service to the community and not for the money.
  6. dlady

    dlady Active Member

    Reasonably accurate assessment of the traditional US academic approach to adjuncts (for better or worse).

    If I were driving on the road of US education and looking in the rearview mirror this is what I would see. I would still probably see this on the dashboard with the instrument panel for the car. However, if I was to look up off the panel to the road, and squinted just a bit to see past the car in front of me, I suspect the view will be different.
  7. Cyber

    Cyber New Member

    Honestly, what things do adjuncts really do other than read and grade papers, moderate class forums (that require redundant postings and answering of useless questions), as well as reply to emails (i've never contacted any of my professors for anything in any of my online classes before...). In my opinion, these tasks are easy enough for anyone with a degree to perform; online adjuncts do not do much, any degreed person can do a good job if given the opportunity.

    Also, because for-profit schools care more about making more, majority of them care less about their students; hence, they hire any adjunct with previous online teaching experience on their CV/Resume to facilitate the classes (online adjuncts are facilitators, they don't teach anything because the courses are pre-created). That is why we see the same set of names on the faculty pages of schools, which makes attending some of these online schools nauseating.

    With this for-profit education model (of taking money from students, and then saddling them with the next adjunct " in line" who does not bring anything special to the table), only produces pervading patterns like having Dr. Babbs name pop up almost everywhere, not because of any special knowledge that distinguishes her from others with PhDs.

    Again, it works for the adjuncts who get paid whatever, it works for the school that charges students high tuition, but students who end up with such adjuncts get a substandard education; students loose, ultimately. Why? Because as soon as the adjuncts secure a class to teach, all they really look forward to is the next class at either the same school or another school to make more money.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jun 23, 2011
  8. douje

    douje New Member

    While I agree with you that money isn't everything in life, personally, right now I in it for the money. That is not to say my ethics on this are upside down - I actually go the extra mile(reasonably - for example, I am always available even to phone conversations with my students to provide guidance should they need it even though this is not a requirement for the schools I teach). I wonder if this(being in it for the money) will change with time as my financial situation changes with time - I currently have less than 10 years since I got my masters.
  9. dlady

    dlady Active Member


    We can lament it or change it. Many people on this board work inside these systems, do you huddle in your corner not wanting to make waves, protecting your income, or do you go out and make a difference? Do you say one thing but then benefit from another?

    If only someone in the industry were working to get the costs down, exclusive faculty, and a focus on student learning… and doing it in a transparent way for the betterment of the industry so others can follow…

    The time is coming where folks will have to start deciding who they really are. :cool2:
  10. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

  11. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I think that with the new "teaching machine" model, you will see more the Dr. Babb's profile more often. Online classes pay little so if one needs to make a living doing this, one would need to teach 40 to 50 classes a year just to make an equivalent to a full time tenure professor. If Dr Babb teaches 50 classes per year *probably more), it is quite normal to see her name everywhere, she also makes money selling the "teaching machine" model to others so she wants to have her name everywhere as a proof that her model works.

    She is just the product of the new "dot com University" model of canned courses and online babysitters with "dot com" PhDs. The whole model might collapse eventually once people realize that there is little value with this, as you mentioned, it is quite upsetting that you get the same canned courses with the same "dotcom" PhDs everywhere with little value added.
  12. Abner

    Abner Well-Known Member

    I admire your courage and fortitude! We can either complain about current educational models/Systems, or we can try to change them. I would rather die trying, rather than die knowing I never tried.

    I commend you,

  13. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree with you, there is no need to have a PhD to teach an online canned course. The job can be easily done by a person with a B.Sc and some online teaching experience.
    PhDs were required mainly because instructors were expected to create and develop their own courses so a high level of expertise was required. With the new canned online teaching model, the PhD becomes "a justification" for high fees and also an income generator as the same online schools that sell the MBAs also sell the PhDs for those interested in online teaching careers.

    It is a win to win situation, schools sell online PhDs for 60K-70K so graduates can teach online canned courses for 2K a pop. The online PhD is not meant to train scholars that require to publish in highly ranked journals but only to train professional online trainers.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 6, 2011
  14. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Of course Cyber's question can also be applied to adjuncts teaching face-to-face courses that were developed by others.
    Not true. PhDs are required because bachelors cannot teach doctors. The types of issues and questions that our doctoral faculty deal with , such as mentoring students in their research projects, applying advanced theoretical models to the students research and preparing them to do their dissertations is not something that a faculty members with a B.A., B.S. or MBA can do. This is why the accrediting bodies require graduate courses to be taught by those which terminal degrees.

    This statement may be true for some programs, but not for others.
  15. CornCod

    CornCod New Member

    Adjuncting brings me about a third of my income. I live in the Deep South, where there are very few people with masters and doctoral degrees. I believe I could adjunct full time, but I would have to kiss medical insurance and other benefits goodbye.

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