Would you teach for free?

Discussion in 'Online & DL Teaching' started by thomas_jefferson, Sep 19, 2010.


Would you teach a class or two for free to break into online teaching?

  1. Yes.

    22 vote(s)
  2. Maybe.

    2 vote(s)
  3. No.

    12 vote(s)
  4. I am already established/not a teacher/abstain/etc.

    1 vote(s)
  1. Would you teach a class or two for free to break into online teaching?

    Obvious benefits:

    1) Experience.
    2) Something to put on the resume.
    3) Possible letter of recommendation.
    4) Possible research environment for graduate work in education.


    1) Time involved.
    2) No pay.
  2. Ruble

    Ruble New Member

    I absolutely would. I'm in the process of looking for a position where I can teach a class or two while I finish my doctorate. I love teaching middle school but my eventual plans involve CC or a University position.
  3. Kizmet

    Kizmet Moderator Staff Member

    I would, if I could teach what I want where I want.
  4. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    How about this - would you teach for free if you already had experience and just wanted to do it for free because (1) you agree with the schools mission, (2) don't need the money, (3) or just have a passion for it?

    My answer - yes.
  5. b4cz28

    b4cz28 New Member

    If everyone teaches for free to start out, schools would just stop paying anyone.
  6. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    My answer is no. I have been burnt few times with non paid training just to get no work. The last one was TUI, they required me to take time consuming non paid training just to never offer work or at least the decency of sending a thank you for your time letter.

    Some online schools abuse the over supply of available teachers, they train a lot more than they need as training is not at their expense.
    I wouldn't be surprised if they start asking for free "trial" teaching sessions just to get some more free extra work.

    I believe that if a school is not serious enough to provide paid training, there is no point of working for them as they can drop you anytime as no money has been invested on you. The same goes for free teaching, if the school requires me to teach a free class just to "try" me out, I would know that they might not be serious enough to be considered a serious opportunity as nothing prevents the school from always "trying" new teachers in order to keep the free labour coming.
  7. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    What a stupid question! Once upon a time, someone thought it was a good idea to take an adjuncting position for low pay and no benefits in the hopes that it would lead to a full-time tenure-track position. History has shown that when you take a low paying no benefits adjuncting position, you prove to your employer that you are dumb enough to work for damn near nothing. Now you are proposing that we volunteer to teach for no pay. The result will be that the departments chairs will think we like working for free.
  8. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    This has happened already with training. At the beginning training was paid but now there are so many PhDs available that schools like TUI hire anyone that applies with a PhD as they don't pay training. They figure that if there is no demand for your skills they won't lose anything as training is at your expense, in addition most of their training is self taught which makes it even more time consuming.
    I'm sure as more PhDs start to come out, they will start asking for "free" trial classes just to get free labour coming in. New start up schools can use this "free" trial class as a way to finance their operation while they get students. Some places like "Universal class" already do this, you are almost forced to teach for free at the beginning while you get some students. It is an excellent model to reduce financial risk for the company but it keeps decreasing the already low online adjunct wages.
  9. What are your thoughts on internships?

    I see what you're saying but I am not sure I agree with your general sentiments here. I broke into my first line of work by offering to work for free on the weekends. They eventually hired me on full time and it led to a very lucrative career.

    Sometimes you need a wedge to break into something you have no experience at.
  10. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I agree with this. I have been an adjunct for more than 10 years, during this time I observed that tenure tracks were always given to new graduates from top schools rather than existing adjuncts. Why schools would want to pay you more when they already have you for cheap? They figure that if a new budget becomes available, it should be used to bring new star faculty that can help them to increase their reputation.

    In few words, if people start teaching for free, this would depreciate even more the profession and will open the doors for more abuse in particular from the money hungry schools that might jump into any opportunity to make even more money.
  11. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Internships can be good for some particular industries such as financial or accounting but not good for online faculty. The problem with online faculty is that is a heavy automated environment and faculty can be replaced easily without jeopardizing much quality.
    The risk of free online teaching is that the school can use it as a source of free labour that can keep running an operation with almost no cash. The online school can ask someone to teach a free trial online class and keep rotating faculty as long as the faculty is willing to train themselves at their own cost. As some of the online classes are fully automated, the online school knows that faculty can be replaced easily and profit from the cheap labour as long as they can.

    I wouldn't be surprised if some schools would start using this model as many are not paying for training now.
  12. Good points. I think they're particularly relevant to the for-profits coming out.

    I have a question for you... What if rather than being "automated" the school gave adjuncts the opportunity to design their own courses within a subject area. Perhaps this school is a nonprofit with a mission of giving experience and training to new teachers rather than exploiting them. Maybe the school gives preference to graduates of online programs.

    I know this is very hypothetical, but under these conditions, would your opinion change?
  13. Garp

    Garp Active Member

    I have read that adjuncts are becoming more popular because they are cheaper (etc). This can be very disheartening for someone seeking an academic career. Also people get trapped into that or teaching at a community college (which can be very rewarding). You are right on. There was an article in US New's about professorships and one women described it as being seen as "damaged goods" after teaching at Community College because Universities wanted people straight out of PhD programs and post doc stuff into a tenure track posititions. Yet, the reality was there were not enough tenure track jobs open so you have to go somewhere.

    I know people teaching at Community Colleges and they find it quite rewarding. I guess you have to bloom where you are planted.

    I think most people here looking at DL doctoral programs are not doing it to end up in a tenure track job at a 4 year research University. So the perspective is different. Some may want CC jobs, professional advancement and so on. What I have noticed is that there is a pecking order in the way doctorate programs are perceived. For those graduating from traditional PhD programs they defintely do not look the same way on PhD's from NCU or U of Phoenix and so on.
  14. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Community college teaching is great. However, at least for technical programs, it seems that hands on skills and working experience are more relevant than a PhD qualification. I have seen many PhDs trying for community college positions but don't get them due to their lack of working experience and hands on skills.

    If one's goal is to teach at the community college level, I would build myself on hands on skills rather than a doctoral qualification.

    A PhD can very tricky, if you don't get the tenure track, you can fall in the endless game of the post doc positions or become a professional adjunct. Some others just give up the dream and go back to industry but need to take jobs that only require a bachelors or master's degree.

    Some others just use the PhD for teaching on the side while their main source of income is an industry job. Some of these might jump into academia if they continue with publications after graduation (thing that is very hard in practice).

    In general, there are many ways to get that teaching position you want but I don't think is the free service that will lead to one.
  15. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Actually, online courses started like this. Faculty were hired to design their own courses. However, schools realized that most faculty were not willing to do this as the design of an online course is more time consuming than a face to face class. I remember that some schools started offering first time setup stippends that would motivate faculty to develop a course. However, this approach also was problematic as the course remained the property of the faculty and new faculty would have to design a fresh new course and cost more to the school.

    Few schools in the late nineties started with the current automation model. The one that I remember is JIU, they were one of the first ones that came with the concept of a course designed by a star faculty and then moderated by a low paid adjunct. The model was excellent for the school as students were told that the course was designed by professors from Harvard, MIT, etc but they school did not have to pay Harvard wages but low online adjunct wages. The model was followed by many schools after this. Eventually, some other schools realized that could reduce cost even more if courses were developed by professional content development companies such as ed2go and Laureate.

    To answer your question, I would jump into an opportunity to teach for free if I were to design my course as I would know that I can make my money back eventually. This is the model that ed2go and Universalclass follow, you basically get only money if the course enrolls people but nothing if the course fails. In a way, you are required to work for free but with the guarantee of money if the course makes it.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 20, 2010
  16. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    1) I think I've said enough that you could guess that by now.

    2) So you boke into your current position by working for free on weekends. Goody for you. I still suspect that volunteering to teach for free will result in a permanent revolving door of volunteer professors.
  17. Come on, Ted. "Goody for you." ? Do we really need to be sarcastic and condescending? :)

    You're probably right, it might result in a revolving door but I'd say only at certain institutions and certain levels.
  18. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    1) Okay, let's say it some other way. Anecdotal evidence that it worked for one person is not statistical proof that it will work for everyone or even for the majority.

    2) It'll work for all institutions at all levels.
  19. Maniac Craniac

    Maniac Craniac Moderator Staff Member

    I already do teach for free, in non-university settings. I really enjoy it, and it is nice when you see students make progress and become teachers themselves. I'm considering broadening my volunteer work by teaching a course at my local library for young children and their parents.
    If the school neither paid anyone nor collected tuition, then my answer would be yes, too. I doubt I would ever do it professionally, but if there was some rinky dink little project that was all about education and not about degrees, AND if the types of courses offered were of some practical benefit to those attending, then I would be all for it.
  20. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Do you really believe the hogwash you just wrote? Having someone work for no pay is exploiting them.
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 21, 2010

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