Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Another Semester Online

After nearly a month away from my students, I start teaching again on Wednesday when three of my five sections start up. In some ways, I’m lucky to have an additional two weeks before the other two sections begin because it gives me time to prepare those classes well and to get used to the classes that I’ll have at first. Usually, I have little time to devote to each class and struggle to get the grading completed in a timely fashion.

If I were teaching in the classroom, I would only need to have the syllabus prepared for Wednesday. My students, on the other hand, will be able to see the entire course when they log into the class for the first time. An online instructor, I have to devote a portion of my break to altering and preparing my classes. In an effort to eliminate the confusion my students have had with some of the assignments, I made some corrections in the hope of making these assignments clearer. Analysis of a text and evaluation in general are particularly hard for freshmen. I have also altered the due dates and made a few other corrections in the forty or so pages that make up each class.

As much as I might grumble about my teaching schedule, I am actually fortunate to teach online. Online courses fill much quicker than classes meeting onground, ensuring that my income will remain steady because I lose money whenever a course is cancelled for insufficient enrollment. My twelve-year-old car would not perform as well if it were driven three hundred miles a week, so I save money on repair bills and manage to forego buying a newer car and making payments. The amount of money spent on gas would take a significant portion of my income. I’m currently only having to fill up about once a month. If I were also teaching in the classroom, I would have nothing to wear because my clothes anymore are only suitable for extremely casual Fridays—blue jeans, t-shirts, sweatshirts, etc. With the weather forecasters now calling for about four weeks of cold and snowy weather, I am fortunate at not having to deal with the hassle of negotiating the ice and snow packed streets. I would like to say that more and more jobs in the future will be performed online; that statement assumes that the workers have the education and training that will allow them to transmit their work through the Internet. Many people, unfortunately, are limited in what they can do for a living. I appreciate my degree the most when I compare my work life to those other people I encounter at the grocery store, for example. In the long term, I am at a disadvantage by not working for a retirement income; in the short term, I benefit in ways that others would probably relish if the opportunity were available.

Probably the people who see me at the grocery store mistake me for someone who works in a warehouse because of how I am dressed. I was surprised recently when the checker and the man behind me in line started talking to me. I’m not one to put on airs or to think of myself as privileged; my wife and I struggle as much as any other family if not more so because of the massive student loan debt that hangs over our heads. It’s as though these people accepted me as a Kansan and as a regular working stiff, which are things I have wanted a good part of my life. At long last, I have finally blended into my environment, and it has only taken fourteen years of college, three degrees, and an online teaching schedule to accomplish that feat.