August 16, 2018

Adjuncts, LMSs and lack of training: an accident waiting to happen?

© Gozo News, 2011

The use of underpaid, untrained adjunct faculty is one of higher education’s dirty little secrets, especially (but not only) in the USA. The two blog posts below discuss this issue.

Leahgrrl (2011) AdjuncTechnology – or why I can’t figure out Blackboard Connexions, November 12

Apostolos K (2011) AdjuncTechnology – or pay your adjuncts better? Multilitteratus Incognitus, November 16

We all like to brag about the rapid increase in online enrollments, but it is being achieved often on the backs of highly exploited adjuncts. Apostolos K (AK) is absolutely right in pointing out that not only is this unethical, but also damaging for students and in the long term for the institutions themselves. I suspect that the new regulations brought in by the US Department of Education for online courses don’t come near to addressing this issue (if they do, please point out where). Also, as AK says, this is not just an online education issue; it also applies to classroom instructors who also need training in using technology within the classroom.

My question though is: where are the US accreditation bodies in this?  The use of untrained adjuncts is a quality assurance issue, and if the accreditation agencies aren’t tackling such an egregious example of poor quality, why do they exist? I work occasionally as an assessor for a Canadian accreditation agency and the use of adjuncts and the training offered is one of the areas we pay particular attention to when institutions are applying to run a new online program (although once they have been approved, little is done to follow up afterwards).

Of course we know the answers to these questions. Many institutions or full-time faculty don’t see teaching in post-secondary education as a skill or profession. Anyone can do it and the cheaper the better.

Underlying Leahgrrl’s post though is another interesting question. She suggests that it is too much work to learn Blackboard (appointed just a week before the class opens), yet the whole point of learning management systems is that they are meant to make it simple and easy for faculty to move their teaching online. How much extra work will Laehgrrl be doing because she isn’t using an LMS?

In the meantime, stop asking why we have such poor use of technology in higher education. We won’t get better use until training is mandatory, and for all instructors, not just adjuncts, and since it is an essential requirement, institutions will need to pay adjuncts for training. If not the institution shouldn’t be accredited.

See also:Review of book on disasters in teaching online