I just read the printed version of Neil Gaminan’s 2012 “Make Good Art” commencement address Philadelphia’s University of the Arts. At one point, he explained why people get freelance work.
- “Their work is good.”
- “They are easy to get along with.”
- “They deliver the work on time.”
Thinking about that list, I realized that it is not that different from why people get and keep online teaching jobs (full-time or adjunct).
- “Their work is good.” – In the case of online teaching, this means that they know and love what they are teaching. This is not just about having a credential in the discipline. It means that the really know it and they have a passion for learning more about it, continually reading, exploring, experimenting, talking about it with others, and striving to grow in disciplinary knowledge and skill. The second part to this is that they are good at helping students learn. Note that I did not say that they are good at teaching because some people still think that the heart of teaching is just being good at explaining things to others. While that is valuable, the really good online teachers don’t stop there. They want to figure out help to help each person get what they want and need out of the learning experience. They invest in being skilled at both the art and science of teaching.
- “They are easy to get along with.” – In the online teaching world, this means that they communicate with kindness, put the best construction on situations with others, that they carry their expertise with humility, realizing that teaching is about serving others. They are “quick to listen, slow to speak [strive to be good listeners/readers], and slow to become angry” (James 1:19). They are flexible, friendly, and genuinely interested in getting along with others. They have high academic standards, but they and embrace the idea that you can be kind and rigorous at the same time. By the way, this goes not only for their interaction with the students, but also with the many school staff with whom they might interact: instructional designers, human resource people, IT people, student advisors, etc.
- “They deliver their work on time.” – This applies to getting paperwork submitted quickly, meeting all the established deadlines for submitting content and helping get the course ready for teaching (I confess that I have plenty of room for improvement with this part), promptly (same day when possible) replying to emails from students and University people, and quickly grading student work, 48 hours when possible, but always making sure the students get their work back at in a reasonable (as agreed upon by all parties) timeframe.
If someone can demonstrate these three abilities (and they meet the minimum required credentials to be considered), they should have no problem getting and keeping good & well-paying adjunct online teaching jobs. The full-time jobs are a bit more difficult to acquire, but these same abilities are coveted traits for academic leadership in the world of online education.
Interestingly, the next thing that Gaiman says is, “Two out of three is fine.” While I don’t like to admit it, if the two are really strong, that probably applies to getting and keeping that online teaching job as well. However, I am not sure how one will even get a chance without #2.