Professors who work on a contracted, part-time basis are referred to as adjuncts. There are advantages for universities that hire adjuncts rather than tenured faculty. However, many adjunct professors do not like this option. Some refer to the way things have changed in the university system as adjunct purgatory, with low pay, few benefits and no security.
There is no shortage of articles that point out the problems with adjuncts. In an article from MindingTheCampus, author Mark Bauerlein stated, “The practice creates a two-tier system, with tenured and tenure-track folks on one, adjuncts on the other. Adjuncts take up most of the undergraduate teaching, enabling the others to conduct their research and handle upper-division and graduate courses, thus maintaining a grating hierarchy that damages group morale. Also, because of their tenuous status, adjuncts can’t give students the attention they deserve and they can’t apply the rigor they should.”
These problems are more often associated with traditional campuses. However, the future of education is headed toward more online learning. In fact, according to Campustechnology.com, “Nearly 12 million post-secondary students in the United States take some or all of their classes online right now. But this will skyrocket to more than 22 million in the next five years.” In private online institutions, adjunct positions can actually be more lucrative due to the ability that faculty may teach multiple classes for multiple universities.
The reason there are so many negative articles about adjuncts is that in the traditional setting, they have a completely different set of issues than those in the online setting. There are many positives that should be noted for adjuncts in online learning. Some of the positives from the universities’ perspective (online or traditional) include: Not having to offer tenure, having flexibility in course offerings and paying less money per course.
There are even more advantages for online adjuncts from the faculty’s perspective:
- Ability to work at multiple universities
- No driving to campuses
- Less meetings to attend
- No need to publish research
- Ability to work any time of the day in asynchronous courses
- Ability to have other jobs at the same time
- Ability to travel and still teach without taking time off
- Option to have some of the same benefits with some universities offering 401k, insurance and reduced tuition costs for the adjunct and their family
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