The summer semester began this Monday. I was on campus Monday for most of the day; however, Monday will be the only day I’ll be on campus for the entire 8 week term. Am I teaching this summer? Yes. Am I teaching a full load (4 classes)? Yes. So how did I manage this schedule? Online classes.
I received my online certification two summers ago and from that point on, I’ve been teaching at least two online courses a semester. Online education, its pros and cons, could be an entire post on its own and I’m sure I’ll write that post later this summer. However, from a teaching point of view, I’d like to outline the basic reasons for why I chose this track for the summer semester.
Normally, I don’t like going totally online. This past spring I taught two face to face courses and two online courses and I felt like this was a good balance. However, summer term is a whole other ball game. For starters, it is only 8 weeks long. When I started as an adjunct at the same campus, summer term used to be 10 weeks long. I don’t like the 8 week term for a lot of reasons but most of my issues come from the way my institution has decided to organize this 8 week term. Most classes are in 3 hour blocks and meet twice a week. For example, last summer I taught two comp classes face to face and one met on M/W 8-11 and one met T/TH 8-11. This might not be such a problem if students were only taking one class but many times they are taking two or three or even four. This makes for a scheduling nightmare and it is exhausting. After teaching a 3 hour class, the last thing you want to do is turn around and teach another one and that is what many instructors are forced to do.
Also, it is not a particularly effective way to learn. Students feel pressured and if they get behind for some reason, there is virtually no room for them to move. The grading is completely insane, especially if students are writing papers all semester. It’s basically a marathon and it is dreaded by most faculty in my division.
Now, online classes are not easier by any means. They are not easier to teach or grade or set up and they are not easier to take (from the students perspective). However, you can work at home, which eliminates the dreaded three hour blocks. Also, I feel already, and we’re only three days in, that my feedback is much better because I’m not overtired from teaching six hours of class. I also feel like I use my time better. This morning I got up, ate breakfast, went to the gym and then came home and worked on my classes for about three and half hours. This is normal no matter if you’re teaching face to face or online but because I was home alone (well, Kwe and Nimbus were here but sleeping) and had minimum distraction, I was able to move through my work relatively quickly and thoughtfully.
Would I teach an entire load online for Fall or Spring semesters? Probably not. A 16 week term doesn’t give me nearly the headache and again, I like the face to face contact with students. However, I think that the flexibility of online classes also works well for our students during the summer. Students in all my online classes have to post an introduction on the discussion board and I’ve lost count of how many work 2nd shift, have children or grand children at home, have two jobs, don’t live in town, etc. This option allows them to complete a class without actually having to come to campus.