As an online adjunct instructor, I have found that there are many benefits and negative aspects to this career. The following is a brief overview of the pros and cons associated with online teaching.
1. Flexibility: Some institutions require their adjuncts to teach a certain number of classes per semester. With many online instructor positions, though, they operate out of an ‘adjunct pool’. Basically, this means that you can accept or decline a position offer. So, if you need to take a couple of months off, you can remain in the ‘adjunct pool’ and still be in the running to accept a class once you are available. For adjuncts who seek only part-time employment or supplemental income, this is a great benefit of teaching in the distance learning classroom.
2. The benefits of teaching without research expectations: Of course, a tenured professor has job security and an admirable standing with his or her university. However, with this title comes great responsibility; as an online adjunct instructor, you will most likely not have the weight of expectations concerning research or appropriately utilizing grant money. If your sole passion involves spreading your knowledge to others, the adjunct platform provides this opportunity.
3. Experience (online communication): The face of higher education is certainly changing, and with this change comes various teaching environments. Many adjunct positions are within the classroom, online, or both. For instructors who prefer to work at home, online positions can contribute to a great amount of experience in online communication. Such expertise is invaluable in this technology-driven age. Tacking this experience onto your resume can only help you when applying to other institutions.
1. No set income: With the aforementioned flexibility offered to online adjunct instructors comes job insecurity and a lack of steady income. As a contracted worker, the university is not obligated to offer you a position. There could potentially be months in a year where an adjunct instructor is scrambling for work. While the ideal situation is to establish a standing with multiple universities, this may not always be possible.
2. No benefits: Anyone who has lived the ‘adjunct life’ can commiserate with this negative aspect. Although an online adjunct may teach consecutive classes for years, the institution does not consider he or she to be a permanent employee. Therefore, an adjunct will deal with a lack of employee benefits; this includes sick/vacation days, stock options, retirement, and, of course, medical insurance. This negative aspect of adjunct teaching is not limited to the online platform; even those in onsite positions suffer from this deficiency. Even most adjuncts who work a full-time load are not granted benefits. In his article “Dear Adjuncts: Don’t Get Sick”, Isaac Sweeney states, “Let’s face it: ‘part-time’ and ‘adjunct’ are no longer fitting monikers for so many faculty members. It seems clear that departments, maybe even entire universities, have come to rely on adjuncts so much that they would fail without the adjuncts.” Clearly, institutions who hire adjuncts are getting the sweet part of this deal. This con can certainly have detrimental effects and is something to remember when considering the adjunct life, whether online or in the classroom.
For teachers who want to impart wisdom while staying at home, being an online adjunct instructor is an excellent option. A job search will reveal that many institutions are seeking qualified, experienced professionals in many fields. After weighing the pros and cons of being an online adjunct instructor, you may find that this is the perfect career.
Isaac Sweeney, “Dear Adjuncts: Don’t Get Sick”, Inside Higher Ed.
If you found this article helpful, you may want to also read “How to Succeed as an Online Instructor”.