A Day in the Life of an Online Professor

A Day in the Life of an Online Professor

Today’s Ask Dr. Diane Question:  I noticed you work for a lot of universities.  I’m considering working for several universities as well and I am curious what is your typical day like?

Answer:  My days vary, based on how many classes I teach.  I like to teach between 10-15 courses at a time.  I also serve as chair for 10 doctoral students and work on 5-10 doctoral committees.  Additionally I take courses to keep up with technology, education, etc. A typical day usually includes about 8-9 hours of grading papers, providing feedback, responding to discussions/emails, guiding doctoral students with dissertations, and developing curriculum.

I usually look at one school’s information at a time. However, I may have several school sites open at once, if my computer or the site is running slowly.  It helps that schools have different due dates for assignments.  For example, one school may require a “deliverable” or an assignment to be due on Mondays.  Another may have assignments due on Fridays, etc.  Usually it works out that all of the big assignments are spread out over the week.  However, most of them have discussions going on that I respond to on a daily basis. I will go to a school’s site to handle all email, questions, discussion responses, and grade any submitted assignments.  I do the same for the next school, and so on, until I have responded to every single item.  I do not stop working until everything is graded.   Most schools allow instructors a week to grade papers. I do not like to make students wait. If someone has submitted an assignment, I grade it as soon as I log on that day.

On weekends, less homework seems to be assigned, so I work less hours.  I probably work around 3-4 hours a day on Saturdays and Sundays.  I do not usually take any days off, but that is not required. Schools usually require 5 or 6 days of work per week.  The nice thing about working as an adjunct is that you can decide how many courses you can handle. You can start off  with just a few and add more if you find you have the time.

Related Articles:

Milgram’s Experiment, Horrible Bosses and Dwight Shrute Co-Workers

The recently released movie, Horrible Bosses, is about three friends who have three . . . you guessed it, horrible bosses.  While it might be fun to watch Jennifer Aniston play a bad character, the movie brings up some interesting issues about authority figures and their power to affect people’s lives.

In the early 60s, a guy named Stanley Milgram did some research into the willingness of people to follow directions given by those in authority. The question Milgram contemplated was:  If you were asked to shock someone with 400 volts of electricity, would you do it just because someone in a white lab coat told you to do it as part of an experiment? You may think not, but you may be surprised.

What Milgram was looking for was how authority leads to obedience. Isn’t that kind of what happens to you at work? You’re at the mercy of your leader or manager. You do what they tell you to do, because they are your superior, and you figure you should listen. Part of what makes up your personality is the part that is willing to obey commands that may not necessarily make sense to you.

There may be a few people you’d like to shock some sense into at work. We’d like to think we’d be the test subjects that wouldn’t have pushed the button to deliver the shock to the recipients. The thing was, though, although the people thought they were delivering a shock, they weren’t delivering any voltage at all. The people who were supposedly being shocked were actors who were just pretending to be shocked.

The people Dr. Milgram used as the “shockers” in his experiments were only paid $4.50, and were found through advertisements placed in newspapers. The reason Dr. Milgram wanted to do these experiments in the first place was what he’d seen the people in Germany doing in response to Hitler’s leadership. He was interested in answering a question that had haunted him from childhood: “What psychological mechanism transformed the average, and presumably normal, citizens of Germany and its allies into people who would carry out or tolerate unimaginable acts of cruelty against their fellow citizens who were Jewish, resulting in the death of six million of them?”(Blass, 2004).

His interest in this led him to conduct experiments into obedience, and he set up a simulated shock-generator box that had a label on it that read, “SHOCK GENERATOR , TYPE ZLB,

DYSON INSTRUMENT COMPAN Y, WALTHA M, MASS OUTPUT 15

VOLT S – 450 VOLT S” (Blass, 2004, p. 79). Initially, the “shocker” started giving a low voltage of what they believed was an actual shock, and they were then asked to gradually increase the voltage in response to suggestions from the experimenter, who would say things like:

1. Please continue.

2. The experiment requires that you continue.

3. It is absolutely essential that you continue.

4. You have no other choice, you must go on.

The experiment was intended to show just how far the “shocker” would go, based on receiving commands from someone in authority. This was all part of an experiment done at Yale. Predictions on how many people would be willing to continue to shock at high voltage levels were low … about 3%. In actuality, however, 65% were willing to give them the juice at the maximum level. Only 1% of the participants in the experiment, after having learned that it had been fake, were sorry they had participated.

Milgram had the following to say about the results: “Ordinary people, simply doing their jobs, and without any particular hostility on their part, can become agents in a terrible destructive process. Moreover, even when the destructive effects of their work become patently clear, and they are asked to carry out actions incompatible with fundamental standards of morality, relatively few people have the resources needed to resist authority” (Milgram, 1974). Milgram went out of his way to ensure that this simulation looked real. He wanted those doing the shocking to believe they had actually caused the person receiving the voltage pain. Those receiving the fake jolts would emit pitiful screams, begging the person to stop shocking them.

“The obedience experiments presented a disturbing view of human behavior. Milgram, his colleagues, and later the public were surprised by the sheer power of an authority to compel someone to hurt an innocent person, despite the absence of any coercive means to back up his commands” (Blass, 2004, p. 93).

What does this say about our personalities? Think about Dwight Shrute on the TV show The Office? Isn’t he willing to do just about anything that Michael tells him to do to please his boss or, in other words, a person of authority? We’ve all worked alongside the Dwights of the world. Is it Michael who is to blame for how Dwight acts because he takes advantage of his willingness to please? Possibly. How do you keep from turning into Dwight? How are you supposed to question your boss? In hard economic times such as we have experienced recently, many people find it difficult to turn down any request at work. Fear of losing one’s job is a big factor in what we will allow. Unfortunately, many may not feel as if they have a choice, and will comply with demands.

Is it OK to never question authority? There comes a point when employees feel psychologically abused, whether they recognize it or not. When someone is constantly a target of abuse of authority, they may not realize what’s happening right away. One instance of someone in authority making a negative comment may go unnoticed, however, should the comments continue, that can constitute an abuse of authority. This abuse can lead to poor work performance as the employee’s self-esteem drops.

This excerpt is from the book It’s Not You It’s Your Personality . . . Click here to read the rest of the book.

Japan Breach Danger Increases: Explanation of What This Means

There is a lot of fear of radiation due to the nuclear reactor damage in Japan’s recent earthquake.  Many people fear what could happen should the facility not be able to be kept under control.  AOLNews reported an update today claiming, “Two weeks after an earthquake and tsunami triggered a crisis at a nuclear plant, the facility is still not under control, and the government said Friday there is a suspected breach at a reactor. That means radioactive contamination at the plant is more serious than once thought.”

Just the words Nuclear Meltdown can bring panic.  The podcast “Stuff You Should Know” with Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant includes an excellent explanation of how nuclear meltdowns work.  An interesting thing they point out in that podcast is that the earthquake was not as damaging as the tsunami that followed.  For a written explanation of How Japan’s Nuclear Crisis Works, click here.

Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant, Stuff You Should Know Guys, Discuss Dr. Diane Hamilton’s Book

I am a huge fan of Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant who do a podcast called Stuff You Should Know from HowStuffWorks.com.  On a recent podcast, they mentioned my book, The Online Student’s User Manual.  For those of you who have read my book, you may have noticed they wrote a nice review that I included on the back where they stated:

“Here’s something you should know—Dr. Hamilton has provided the most comprehensive ‘soup to nuts’ book about online education on the planet. It’s a real hand-holder to get you started, guide you to a degree and beyond into the workforce.”  Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant  “Stuff You Should Know” Podcast

I try to listen to all of their podcasts. They recently did an excellent one about octupuses (and yes, that is one way you can say it according to their report).  I recommend listening to all of their podcasts though.  They are extremely informative as well as fun and creative.  You can hear the mention of my book at the 34:34  mark on one of their recent podcasts by clicking here.

To find out more about why Josh and Chuck’s podcast is so awesome, click here.

Attention And Excellent Reviews Generated By New Book for Online Students

The following are reviews  for The Online Student’s User Manual due to be released in the next month. Click on the highlighted links to see information about the reviewers.

“I wanted to share with you, that the post on your book, generated the most traffic in a single day since I started the site.”  Jon at  Action Book Review

“Here’s something you should know—Dr. Hamilton has provided the most comprehensive ‘soup to nuts’ book about online education on the planet. It’s a real hand-holder to get you started, guide you to a degree and beyond into the workforce.” Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant  “Stuff You Should Know” Podcast

“As a former online learner myself and online professor for more than a decade, I can say this is by far the best book I have read on becoming a successful online learner. I WILL recommend this book to my learners.” Dr. Dani Babb  Author, Professor, Consultant

Inventions: Good Intentions Gone Bad

In my entrepreneurial and foresight classes I teach, we often talk about how some seemingly wonderful or harmless inventions have unintended results.  I often refer my students to a “Stuff You Should Know” podcast about Agent Orange.  If you are  creating a product or idea, have you considered all future consequences.  I highly recommend reading Jacob Silverman’s article at:  http://www.howstuffworks.com/agent-orange.htm.

Why Josh and Chuck and the Stuff You Should Know Podcast is Awesome!

If you haven’t found their podcast yet, you must give it a try.  Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant have a podcast titled Stuff You Should Know.  I am very busy with my teaching and writing, but I always find time to listen to their downloaded podcasts.  They are a very entertaining team, part of the “How Stuff Works” site at http://www.howstuffworks.com/. Josh and Chuck have recorded over 250 episodes with topics ranging from serial killers to cliff diving.  

Check out this article about them on mediashift:  http://www.pbs.org/mediashift/2010/06/how-josh-chuck-made-stuff-you-should-know-a-hit-podcast162.html

 You can get the podcast on their site at http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/stuff-you-should-know-podcast.htm or just go to Itunes and look for them there.  That is how I found them.

Howstuffworks “Stuff You Should Know Podcast”

­­Why can’t robots get married? Are exorcisms real? Listen in as­ Josh Clark and Chuck Bryant take a look at astonishing facts from across the globe in this podcast. They’re world travelers, too — take a look at the image gallery of their trip to Guatemala. Don’t forget to check out their Stuff You Should Know blog while you’re here.

I am a huge fan of Josh and Chuck’s “Stuff You Should Know Podcast” . . . You can find them on Itunes or click on the links above to find out more about them. I often refer to many of their podcasts in my courses I teach. These guys are entertaining and educational at the same time. Check them out!