At least once a month a friend or colleague reminds me that I’ve got it made. I have the cushiest teaching gig around, they say. I work from home 95% of the time. I do that work at my convenience and from a table overlooking a lake. I don’t punch a clock or observe a dress code.
If you think that’s cushy, you don’t have a clue what I do every day. So give me five minutes and we’ll fix that.
People get the wrong impression of my work, and that’s partially my fault. I talk too much on social media, you see. And people use my posts to create their own misdirected narratives. If I post a photo of my one-hour ski run around Sandy Lake, for example, people assume I’ve checked out for the day to frolic in the snow. I reality, that’s my daily workout. If I take a bike ride early in the morning and share a nature photo, people conclude that I’m on vacation or generally goofing off.
And I do take vacations from time to time, almost all of them working vacations. You see, the teaching schedule I’ve chosen in the online world is inflexible and year-round, so my work goes where I go and sometimes that’s a beach house or a mountain cabin. But when I travel, I still do the work and I still meet my deadlines. So far, not one student has complained of being neglected.
What’s different about teaching online?
Just about everything in my program, but let me give you a short list.
I don’t actually teach. All the course materials – videos, lectures, assignments, and the like – are prepared long before the first “class” convenes. Once the course launches, my job is to provide one-on-one guidance and tutoring to every student. Much of that feedback is included with the grading of weekly assignments, 2-3 per week (times 32-36 students). It works out to about one hour per student – or between 32 to 36 hours committed to teaching. Every 7 weeks we do it again.
I’m a student AND an instructor. I spend 6-8 hours a week, independent of class, immersed in the course materials and related research. Each time we offer a course (only about every 16 months for most of them) instructors must re-read and digest the voluminous course materials. It’s part of preparation. This preparation also involves external research on case studies and academic publications related to the course topic, since students expect me to introduce new information in discussion forums and as part of the feedback content.
My work is 90% productive. I accomplish a lot because I don’t work in a traditional office with built-in distractions. I don’t have coffee-room chit-chat, and colleagues don’t drop in to talk about weekend plans or the grandkids. I’m also dragged into a lot fewer meetings — a major time suck. Yeah, my work isolates me from colleagues, but my connection to students is stronger than it ever was when I worked in a bricks-and-mortar classroom.
I get to know my students well. Far better than I ever did in the F2F world. I chat with every one of them, often multiple times each week. My relationship with online students is closer and more productive than it ever was in the F2F environment.
So you see, this is no “cushy gig.” And, in fact, my 20+ years in the F2F environment was cushy by comparison. I also produce a lot more revenue than in the past, since I teach more classes and more students than I ever did in the bricks-and-mortar world.
I’m not complaining about my gig. I like it a lot, and it works well for the students, for the school and for me. But there’s nothing cushy about it. Nothing at all.