Posted by & filed under AdjunctWorld Resources.

sigmund-YUuSAJkS3U4-unsplashAn adjunct instructor at a college or university (also referred to as adjunct faculty or adjunct professor) is a contract-based, part-time teacher. Their jobs as classroom instructors don’t differ tremendously from regular, tenure-track faculty. But the job of an online adjunct instructor differs in important ways from that of an on-ground teacher who is tasked with lecturing on specific days of the week in a physical classroom. What is it that online adjunct instructors do? What makes them unique?

Online adjunct faculty teach college courses exclusively in an online environment. Though many of the tasks of college faculty remain the same—evaluation of student performance, curriculum development, and student conferences to name a few—the delivery of the coursework happens in an online environment. This changes the job dynamics significantly!

There are freedoms and limitations to teaching in an online environment, just as there are challenges and rewards. Let’s take a look at the life of an online adjunct instructor, how their classes work, and how the schedule accommodates all participants.

What Do All Faculty – Online and On-Ground – Have in Common?

If you’re asking yourself, “So what does an online adjunct instructor actually do for their job?” it’s important to know that their work doesn’t differ too dramatically from a regular, full-time, tenure-track faculty member’s. They rarely differ from other on-ground adjunct instructors, either. All professors, at least as far as classroom teaching and interacting with students, do the same thing, essentially.

dom-fou-YRMWVcdyhmI-unsplashThey teach. They just do so in different ways is all.

All teachers have to develop a curriculum. For most online adjunct teachers, the curriculum is most likely already developed by the department they work for; in other cases, the online teacher may have to create their own. The school may prefer a specific textbook be used, but some online instructors may choose their own course materials. In either case, teachers need to lay out a plan for the semester, identifying learning objectives and making the requisite lesson plans to suit the curriculum.

With a curriculum under their belt, an online adjunct instructor will have to develop and deliver a syllabus to students. They will need to provide rubrics for evaluation, guidelines for assignments, and a calendar of lessons with due dates. If the course is synchronous, the online adjunct instructor will have to lead live, online class meetings with lectures and discussions. If the course is asynchronous, the online instructor still teaches and leads class discussions, just a little differently (more on that below). The online adjunct instructor will meet with students and evaluate their work, providing detailed, formative feedback intended to help them develop their skills and knowledge.

So far, so good; we can see that the online adjunct instructor doesn’t differ too markedly from traditional on-ground faculty. What the online adjunct instructor does have to do that differs from a traditional in-class teacher is to deliver the whole of their course in an online environment. So what does that look like, typically?

What the Online Adjunct Instructor Does That’s Different

For one, the online adjunct instructor will need to lead their course entirely online. What this looks like depends on whether the course is asynchronous or synchronous.

Synchronous online courses follow a traditional on-campus model in that the class meets at specified times during the week (i.e. MWF from 9 to 9:50 am) for live lecture and discussion. The school will typically provide a platform for these live discussions, like Zoom, Google Classroom, Blackboard Collaborate, or Microsoft Teams. All students are expected to log on during class times to attend the instructor’s live lecture and participate in live class discussions.

In the vast majority of instances, however, online courses are held asynchronously, meaning that while there are due dates each week and expectations for participation, there are no specific times a student or instructor must be logged in to the classroom. The instructor uploads the readings/materials, assignments, and discussion prompts to the learning management system (Blackboard, Canvas, Brightspace, Moodle, etc.), and students work through each weekly module at their own pace, making sure to hit important weekly due dates along the way. The instructor engages in weekly discussion forum conversations as well, facilitating student learning, answering questions, promoting critical thinking, and building the all-important online classroom community. (Most online classrooms follow the asynchronous model because schools market online programs to working adult learners, and the asynchronous environment is more conducive to their lifestyle and eventual success.)

linkedin-sales-solutions-VKJt1EZHlWs-unsplashAs the instructor, you’ll have to be present in the online environment, answer questions, and teach (whatever form that takes – asynchronous discussion or live lecture). Managing the classroom may look a bit different as well. An on-ground instructor can look around and see who is in class and who is not. An online instructor must pay careful attention to student participation in the online classroom, monitor who is turning in assignments and who is missing due dates, and reach out to these at-risk learners before they fall further behind. Online instructors also have access to data on how often their students are logging in to read materials and view assignments.

Despite the distance that comes with “remote learning,” as an online adjunct teacher you will need to develop relationships with students—and as every teacher knows, this is one of the most rewarding parts of teaching. You will need to be available to students and approachable; students will undoubtedly ask questions and are more likely to ask them of an online instructor who seems genuine and willing to help. You will need to meet with students, as requested and appropriate, for conferences, to help with work-in-progress, and so on, though that will probably be coordinated via email, so the online adjunct instructor will need to check their school email daily and reply back to students in a timely fashion. Schools most often stipulate that their online instructors will respond to student communications within 24 hours.

Finally, an online adjunct teacher will need to evaluate and return student work. LMS systems like Blackboard allow students to upload assignments which the instructor later downloads; then, once the work has been evaluated, it can be uploaded by the instructor—with notes and comments—and downloaded by the student, all in the same LMS platform. Tests and quizzes happen within the LMS. Grades are posted in the LMS as well.

The Online Adjunct Teacher Follows a Different Drummer

The online adjunct teacher dances to a whole different tune. You can forget the morning commute, or any commute for that matter. The online college course can be led by the instructor entirely from home. This saves enormous time, of course. And that goes for commuting to a class meeting as well as office hours. Does a student want to meet? Simply log in or place a call at an arranged time.

Online systems for uploading assignments also saves worry. Emails get lost; documents get corrupted. With an LMS system like Blackboard—where due dates can be enforced simply by applying a lock at the specific moment an assignment is finally due—and in this way the online class is efficient, consistent, and fair.

roberto-nickson-GaBDdA63GcQ-unsplashTo put it succinctly, an online adjunct professor is just that: a professor. A teacher. A mentor. A guide, facilitator, and subject matter expert. The only difference is in venue. The flexibility of an online course can benefit both the instructor and the student, especially when the consistency, organization, and community of the online class is nurtured and maintained.

So what an online adjunct teacher must do is be diligent in a way that maintains the enriching online classroom environment. They must be responsive, responsible, and organized to meet their students’ needs. If you can do this, I wager that you’ll find online teaching rewarding.

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