There are many, many extra income ideas, such as online education, floating around today, and, yes they do generate extra online income. However, it remains for us to ask just who is really benefiting from the extra income from online teaching. Let’s face it: the economy is in very hot water, and the reason online degree programs, along with the necessary online adjunct faculty positions are growing like mushrooms on a wet lawn, and it does not take a rocket scientist to figure this out, is that the main part of tuition and fees students have to pony up comes from borrowed money.
Even though I am separated from my students earning online college degrees by physical distance, I am still able to identify their position on the food chain. It has occurred to me that most of my students are from economic backgrounds that do not traditionally provide the cash required to attend online degree program. They have to borrow the money, lots of it, by the way, to attend their chosen online degree program This borrowed money makes a first rate extra online income for the schools.
Online Degree Programs Control Extra Online Income
Given that online degree programs are relatively new, and that most online degree programs are able to hire an almost unlimited number of teachers seeking to supplement their meager incomes, it crosses my mind that online degree programs could be a way to keep both under employed college instructors and unemployed young citizens off the streets.
If you are a college instructor managing, say, a dozen online adjunct faculty positions, you hardly have time to go to the bathroom, much less consider in any serious way that you are being grossly underpaid, or that you are inside, literally, an electronic sweatshop that requires you to continuously seek more and more extra income from online teaching. This is not to say that the education experience offered by online degree programs in general is worth less than an on ground degree program, or that the education offered by those in online adjunct faculty positions is less than high quality, but the economic reality is unavoidable once some perspective is gained by both parties.
The Sweatshop Economic Model
The vast majority of educators have little or no idea how the educational economy actually works against them. Because of this ignorance, teachers may be uncomfortable initially because they do not know how to sell and manage their skills effectively on the open market, and, therefore, they are unable to view students as customers and to gauge their reactions to feedback. Perhaps the best approach in the beginning is to understand that undergraduate education today is a retail operation. The instructor is simply a clerk hired to serve the public. A strong grasp of this reality will help them tailor their lectures or tweak their online classroom performance. Intellectual practice does helps, as does practical experience, and techniques such as envisioning the student audience as customers in a shoe store, replete with smelly feet and unreasonable demands may help with initial discomfort. It goes without saying that teachers could condition themselves for these eventualities in a regular classroom, but the online format encourages students to respond much more vigor and in greater depth than a time-constrained classroom discussion. The simple fact of the matter is that it pays in the long run for a teacher in an online degree program to be resigned to getting the hands a little dirty learning as they adjust to the grim realities of how difficult extra income from online teaching really is once the computer is glowing.
Online instructors set the emotional and intellectual tone for their classes. It does not pay to begin teaching by expecting too much in the form of financial reward. They must make plans to consistently integrate the sweatshop model into their learning activities. Teachers in distance learning settings need to design deliberate methods to find out how well students are learning to be passive receivers of electronic information whizzing by at an ever increasing rate. Online instructors actually demonstrate how to behave in a learning environment designed to enrich the online degree programs themselves, and they have a responsibility to do this without tipping their mitts, so to speak, and letting on that there is something fundamentally wrong with an educational system that pays an a person with a graduate degree in an online faculty position so little money.