Teaching college online: getting rehired

As a part-time or adjunct faculty member, you are working on a contract by contract basis. The university is under no obligation to rehire you once the course is over. So, your goal is to be awesome enough to always be the first adjunct the department chair considers as they scan their upcoming hiring needs for the following semester.

There are two keys to getting rehired:

  1. No student complaints have reached the chair and/or hiring person.
  2. You have top-notch student reviews at the end of your course.

Avoid Student Complaints

Today’s students won’t hesitate to complain to you, and possibly higher up, if they feel they are being slighted on their education in some way. Take all complaints seriously.

How to avoid complaints (or how to be a rockstar online teacher!):

  1. Be clear on your expectations in the syllabus and assignments: include the best way for students to contact you (email, phone, Skype or ?), virtual office hours where they know they can always find you, a late-work policy, a course schedule including due dates, and links to lessons. Let students know your usual response time (same day, if possible), and whether or not you’ll be available on the weekends. Personally, any time my students contacted me, I would talk to them as quickly as possible, and I also provided them my personal cell. I rarely received calls, but it’s the feeling of getting personal attention that students want and it provides a sense of calm related to learning in the course to know they can reach you immediately, if needed.
  2. Make sure all links in course materials function, videos play, and documents are uploaded. Ensure dates are correct (especially if the course has been copied over from a prior semester).
  3. If you are building the curriculum, avoid tests (I could talk for hours about this one!) and instead require projects or other forms of applied learning where students get to build, create, do, analyze, compare and share. Also offer a choice of assignments (at least two) per concept. Student choice is proven to be one of the most important factors in engaging student learning. They love DOING and SHOWCASING their work for others to see. So build/create, then share the work in a discussion forum, in their blog, in social media, etc., and incorporate peer feedback requirements so they are engaging and learning with each other.
  4. Be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage. No one really likes the aloof, elite, all-knowing professor who is a hard-ass and makes you write summaries of papers each week. At the other end of the spectrum, most students will take advantage of the soft professor who’s always sweet, forgiving, “no worries,” etc. That’s just human nature. Be the guide, show you care about their learning , that you get being an adult learner can be tough as they are often working and caring for children, but also hold your standards. State your expectations and hold to them without being mean or angry about it. Make accommodations in emergencies. If you get a request for an Incomplete, talk to the chair about the department policy.
  5. In the very first lesson, introduce yourself to your students with an informal video shot with your cell phone, if needed. It feels personal and creates connection. It’s much harder to get angry with someone who is showing up on video to connect with you versus a professor who only communicates with written text. Give an overview of the class, explain briefly what they’ll learn, do, skills they’ll develop. Share an enthusiasm for the course and the opportunity to learn with and from your students. Be genuine. Ask students to submit their own introduction, let them be creative…a video, a multimedia collage, a poem, whatever works. Encourage them to share what they hope to learn in the course…this gives you valuable information to potentially customize lessons later in the course–it’s never too late to add options to an online curriculum!! I also created a video introduction to each weekly module, short and sweet. It was my job to guide them through the course, and the use of video helped set the tone each week.
  6. Finally, tell students in your syllabus and in your introduction that your top priority in this course is their success–you want them to be successful. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve used that phrase with my own students, “My job is to make sure you are successful. So let’s figure out how we can do it.” Ask them to reach out to you directly if they have a problem or complaint about the course, and guarantee you will respond fairly and quickly.

Handle Student Complaints

Oh crud, it happened. A student has complained to you or your department chair. It can be very disheartening when you’ve received a complaint. Depending on the nature of the complaint, it can be handled in several ways:

  1. Student has been harassed (verbally, sexually, in any way!): Report this to your chair immediately, and follow up with the appropriate division on campus, student services, HR, etc.
  2. Online course isn’t working: Nothing is more frustrating that being unable to access an online course or materials when you have the time to work on it. You will lose students if this is a recurring problem, even if you didn’t cause it! If the fix is in your control, fix it immediately and let the student(s) know. Encourage students to report broken links, etc. Help create the “hey, we’re in this together” feeling.  If the fix isn’t in your control, report it to your chair and/or IT as soon as possible. Keep your students updated on your actions, and any timelines to getting a fix. Give them a workaround, if possible or needed. For example, put the assignment in Google docs, and send it out using a URL. Keep people from feeling interrupted in their work.
  3. Grade isn’t fair: I use rubrics (there are many online rubric makers) for most of my assignments, and give very clear criteria for what I’m looking for (and usually encourage students to build the rubric with me on complex projects). The grade should never be a surprise. I often ask students to self-assess their assignment using the rubric prior to submitting. Then I can see where we agree or disagree. I have given Cs, Ds, and Fs, but those are very rare with graduate students (more often seen with undergrad), and the grade would never be a surprise. My students always know exactly how to earn an “A,” and I’m willing to work with them to get there if they want to put in the effort.
  4. Curriculum or professor is boring: First, if a professor is called “boring,” it means you are lecturing too much. No one like sitting and listening to a talking head for 30 minutes, much less an hour. Shift away from lecture and focus on using some of the above strategies in curriculum design to 1) create visual engagement in your curriculum by varying multimedia, including pictures, embedding media that prompts student interaction such as Voki (if you have design control), and 2) create learning engagement through applied learning activities where students do/build/create and share, use peer feedback, and offer a choice of assignments. This one feature alone can win over a class that is used to traditional lecture and tests. Finally, if your class is fully asynchronous, add some synchronous options where students can login, share their work, discuss concepts more in-depth, etc. 

To learn more…

book cover

This blog is fifth in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

Pay and copyright for online teachers

Teaching college online part-time varies greatly across institutions. Courses can range from 6 to 8 weeks, or up to 16 weeks long. You may or may not have to design the online curriculum, and possibly give up copyright. You may have 10 students or you may have 100. All of these variables should come into your early discussions around job expectations, and help you determine whether the pay is worth your time.

In general:

  • Part-time teaching: typical pay can range from $1,500 – $5,000 per class, $2,500 around average. You will be hired as an independent contractor.
  • Full-time teaching: Pay and benefits should be the same as a regular job in the field, you’ll be hired as an employee.
  • Are you teaching someone else’s curriculum or designing your own?
  • If designing your own, ask if there is development money to support your work and who owns copyright.

You can see you’re probably not going to get rich teaching part-time online at the higher ed level. Typically, it serves as a supplemental income. As soon as you go full-time, the pay and benefits should be the same as the regular teaching job in your industry. You may ask yourself, why would anyone work for so little money over a potential 15-16 week period? Freedom, my friend, freedom to work from home, work at a time that meets your needs, and develop that work-life balance. And supplemental income is good! If you teach multiple sections of the same course, the workload becomes easier, and your revenue potential increases.

The pay varies widely in online teaching–this is often due to the online curriculum itself–if you have to create your own, the pay is usually more. So the first aspect you need to consider when you’re teaching online is if you are teaching someone else’s curriculum or are you designing your own. At large online universities, you are most likely teaching a canned curriculum that they want taught consistently among all courses in order to meet standards for accreditation. You wouldn’t be responsible for developing lessons or materials, in this case. For some online teachers, this is a wonderful thing. For others who enjoy that aspect of teaching, this may be a deciding factor in whether or not you want to teach for that institution. I always design my own curriculum, and wouldn’t want to work where I had to teach a canned curriculum. But again, this is my personal preference.

At other institutions and state universities where they may only need one course taught, or they are putting a few new courses online, you may be asked to build the content. There are many hours involved in curriculum design in addition to the day-to-day teaching and interaction with your students, and you’ll need some basic comfort with creating online lessons, embedding graphics and video, using a variety of apps to make the content feel “alive,” as well as engaging and interactive. Knowing some basic principles of graphic design are essential. 

Typically, when you have to design your own curriculum, there’s development money that goes along with that, not always, but sometimes. It’s not considered inappropriate or unprofessional to ask about curriculum design stipends in addition to the teaching stipend. I’ve often been offered development money to design courses in addition to the teaching salary.

Copyright – Who Owns the Curriculum Design?

If you’re creating online lessons, multimedia tutorials, graphics, etc., you need to know who owns the copyright to that material, and that becomes critical, because whomever owns the copyright gets to keep it. So if a university agrees to pay you $2,000 to build a curriculum and they own the copyright, that means you can never use or sell that content again without their permission (and they usually don’t give permission).

For example, let’s say you get a job teaching part-time at Amazing University, and you develop an online course for freshman History 101, but assign copyright to the university. You create all these great multimedia tutorials, interactive assignments, and lessons, and then that course ends up being taught again and again and again, but by other instructors as well, because they need more than just one instructor to teach History 101, or because they don’t want hire you back again. The University maintains the right to take those materials and use them in any way, shape or form with any instructors they wish without compensating you, and you lose the right to take those materials and teach them at any other university. It might be worth it to you if the pay is high enough.

I advise all curriculum designers to own, or at least share, copyright on their work with their employer. Typically when you’re a university employee, whatever you do on university time belongs to the university, unless their Intellectual Property policy states otherwise (many universities make exceptions that online curriculum design belongs to the faculty member). So that distinction needs to be clear and there actually needs to be a discussion and written agreement upfront as to who owns those materials. An email confirmation is ok, something listed on your contract is better.

Leveraging Your Curriculum Design

One strategy for leveraging your course design is to resell that content and/or teach it at multiple institutions. If you find one institution that wants to hire you to teach a specific course (or you can interest them in a new elective on a “hot topic” where you are the expert), work to maintain copyright on that course, don’t sign any “non-compete” agreements, and then sell and/or teach that course at multiple institutions. There is nothing unethical about this approach, it is business, so take your agreements seriously, and make sure everything is in writing. If you just assume you can resell your content, and you end up violating a copyright agreement, you will harm your reputation, lose a teaching job, and possibly end up receiving a cease and desist notification from the university’s general counsel (attorney).  So play it safe, and know your rights up front! 

Proposing a “hot topic” elective course to your interviewer (if it’s a department chair) will always be of interest. Chairs need student enrollments. The worst that can happen is you’ve planted a seed for them to consider, so don’t take a “no” personally or as the final word.

Tip: Toward the end of your first interview with the potential employer, ask questions around job expectations if the employer doesn’t provide the information up front. What period of time is the course? How many times a week are you expected to login? Average number of enrolled students? What is turnaround time for getting back to students? Will you design the curriculum, and if so, what is the additional compensation and do you retain copyright? Is there a flat rate compensation or is it a per-student fee model?

I’m curious to hear about your experiences with curriculum design, copyright and adjunct instructor pay, please share!

Want to learn more?

book cover

This blog is fourth in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

Interview preparation for online teaching jobs

interviewThinking about applying for an online teaching position, either full or part-time? Below are few strategies to make sure you’re prepared for the interview when it comes.

Learn the Lingo

Like any profession, online teaching has its own lingo. You’ll impress employers if you know the terminology, include references to it in your letter of introduction, resume, and conversations. This is especially true if your potential employer does not teach online (a chair of a philosophy department who just offers a few online courses in her department, for example). Buy reference books on online teaching strategies, check out state-of-the industry reports and online teaching standards  on iNACOL.

Basic terms to know:

  • LMS (learning management system):  the online platform the institution uses to organize, offer, and track online learning. Popular platforms include Canvas, Moodle, Blackboard, and Desire to Learn, for example, “The LMS at my university is Blackboard.”
  • Blended or hybrid learning:  A “blend” of learning environments that include both virtual and face-to-face (f2f) components. The percentage of time in each environment can run across a spectrum of choices. “Our program requires all courses to be blended, at least 50% online and 50% on campus.”
  • Flipped classroom: A movement in blended learning where lectures and readings are provided online and intended to be viewed prior to attending a live class where learning activity around the materials can take place. “I started using the Flipped Classroom model last year.”
  • Asynchronous:  Readings or assignments done on the learner’s own time and pace. “Students will be assigned asynchronous readings and simulations.”
  • Synchronous:  Learning activities that occur in real time, whether online or in-person. “We will have five optional synchronous meetings using Skype to support completion of projects.”
  • Video conferencing:  A synchronous and interactive online learning experience where students and teachers log into a platform such as GoToMeeting, Skype, or JoinMe, and can share slideshows, documents, screens and/or videos.  “I host synchronous meetings using video conferencing in Skype.”
  • HTML:  Hypertext markup language. Tagging language used to create many online instructional materials.  “Yes, I can make minor edits to instructional materials using html.”
  • WYSIWYG: Pronounced wĭs-ē-wĭg, what you see is what you get. This describes a technical interface where whatever is typed is how the final display will look. Imagine a word document…you put a bold title, body text, and italicize something for emphasis. That is wysiwyg. Behind the wysiwyg is html code that the browser users to interpret the display of information, but the average user never sees the code. Wysiwyg interfaces make it easy for the average user to create online materials without having to know html. “Yes, I can use the wysiwyg window in Canvas to create online lessons.”
  • MOOC:  Massive open online course.  An online course open to thousands of students, typically self-paced with little to no instructor feedback unless you have paid a fee for registration. “I’m taking a MOOC on climate change in Udacity.”

Understand Online Teaching Strategies

Learning to teach online can be a lifetime experience. There are many strategies and tools, and the options continue to evolve over time as new technologies emerge on the market. If you haven’t taken a course on online teaching, there are definite strategies that you might be asked about during an interview for an online teaching position, and it’s helpful to get on top of those.  Some of the strategies might include teaching approaches (project-based learning (PBL), using online course modules, the “flipped classroom,” quest-based learning, etc.).  Other strategies include the use of specific tools to support the online teaching experience such as LMSs, Google Apps, wikis, blogs, portfolios, videos, glogs, vokis, and more!

Your best means to be prepared to teach online without formal training is to take multiple online courses or workshops so you can gain experience from the student perspective. With the availability of MOOCs (massive open online courses), and platforms like P2PU and Udemy, these are really easy to find and join. Browse a few, push yourself to get exposed to a variety of strategies for how online courses are organized and taught. Pay attention to the communication tools (email, video, web conferencing, etc.) and teaching strategies that make YOU feel engaged or not engaged.  Your goal as an online teacher is to keep the learning personalized and relevant for your learners.  You want them connected to you and each other, engaged in the learning process, and not dropping out of the course or giving you a low rating as a “boring” instructor.  This will be critical to getting rehired in the long run.

Where to participate in free to low-cost online learning opportunities:

Get Familiar with LMSs & Web Conferencing

How does the institution offer its online courses to students? What tools are they logging into? Get familiar with some of the most commonly used learning management systems (LMS). Some people refer to them as course management systems or CMS. I use the terms interchangeably. Before interviewing, find out which platform that institution uses and learn it, at least at a basic level! Here are several popular LMSs:

If you’re able to snag an interview with an institution, I would find out what LMS they’re using, and before I was interviewed, get thoroughly familiar with it just to be articulate and say during the interview process,  “Yes, I’m familiar with Canvas, I understand how to manage a course.” Be prepared to discuss some of the strengths and weaknesses of their platform (and your possible suggestions to enhance those weaknesses with other options).

The same is true for web conferencing. You’ll want to meet online with your students in real-time. They’ll need to be able to share their work, you’ll want to be able to demonstrate you’re comfortable with web conferencing technology. After all, your interview will probably be hosted in Skype or web conferencing tool. Some LMSs have integrated video conferencing tools, other universities use separate tools.

Practice using a few of these tools. The neat thing about web conferencing is that you can create content this way, as well. Video record yourself talking about something, then share a website or document on the screen while recording (simple as pushing a “record” button). Use these types of recordings in your online portfolio to demonstrate your skills!

Web conferencing tools:

Set Up a Showcase Portfolio or Website

You will dramatically increase your chances of employment by setting up an online portfolio that showcases you and your relevant work. A Google search for “teaching portfolio” will show you a hundred different examples, or use features of LinkedIn to create a professional profile.  When you make initial contact with the employer, you can provide them a link that shares examples of anything you’ve done related to your area of expertise or to online teaching or both. For example, you might include your resume on your website, you might include examples of lesson plans that you’ve designed, awards that you’ve won in your industry, videos you’ve created, recommendations from people. Basically, you’re just creating a site that employers can visit in one click, and once they see it, you immediately come to mind as a viable candidate. The visual is much more powerful than just a written resume and an email.

On your showcase profile, be sure to share:

  • A recent photo and short biography
  • A copy of your resume
  • Degrees and certificates
  • Highlight relevant teaching and/or online learning experience and expertise
  • Examples of your work:  multimedia, lesson plans, online courses, videos, etc. (embedded is better than linked, but whatever works for you)
  • Any awards or recognitions you’ve received
  • Letters and/or brief statements of recommendation

For comparison, you can view my personal website or. my LinkedIn profile.  I use them both.

Setting Up Star References

It’s easy to get some quick references. On your LinkedIn profile, use the recommendation request and ask people who know your work for a couple of sentences. People will usually write more, and concise references are all you really need on your website. If you aren’t well connected through LinkedIn yet, email several recent people who can speak to the quality of your teaching experience, especially if you’ve done any work virtually, and post those references on your website. For example, see my brief reference list.

Want to learn more?

book cover

This blog is third in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

How to find college online teaching jobs and make initial contact

pexels-photo-306534.jpegHere are four strategies for finding online teaching jobs. Although these strategies are mainly for college level positions, these might be useful if you are looking for K-12 online teaching jobs, as well.

Strategy 1:  Great sites for job leads

If you’re looking for a job in higher education, you’ll want to visit the job section (Vitae) of the Chronicle of Higher Education. Not familiar with the Chronicle? It’s a news journal for higher education, and every single teaching job I’ve ever seen in any university throughout the United States, and many international jobs, are posted on the Chronicle. This includes online teaching jobs for adjuncts, part-time and full-time.  Their search engine is fairly advanced and you can customize your searches, save them, and set up automatic email notifications. Narrow down your searches with keywords such as “remote,” “virtual,” and “online.”

Other search tools you can use that include jobs for university online faculty include:

  • HigherEd Jobs (an emerging new favorite of mine, love the easy way to pull up “online” jobs, but their sorting capability is still somewhat limited)
  • Indeed
  • Flex Jobs
  • EdJoin (mainly K-12, but some tutoring jobs, etc.)

Strategy 2:  Identify college programs where you want to work

Open your mind about potential employers. Ninety eight percent of universities and colleges offer online courses! They all need qualified adjunct instructors, and the majority of those work online from home.

Start a list (create a spreadsheet in Google Sheets, and track my information in columns).

  1. Think about all the local colleges and universities around you. Write down their names in a column.
  2. Think about all the universities in your state and around the country that offer degrees in your content area of specialization. Do a Google search, such as “Math undergraduate degrees,” and see who comes up. You could also search with the qualifier “online” if you’re interested in teaching for fully online programs. Add these universities to your list.
  3. There are also major online universities with strong reputations where you might consider applying: Penn State World Campus, University of Maryland Online, Capella University, University of Phoenix, National University, Walden University, Full Sail University and Western Governers University. Add these to your list. Personally, I would avoid unaccredited for-profit universities, as they make your resume look weaker to accredited institutions.

After you’ve collected names of programs where you’d be willing to work, begin to look at their website. Make sure they offer a degree program in your area of specialization. If so, write down the exact names of the degrees you’re interested in teaching in a second column on your list. Now you’re ready to identify the key decision maker and make outreach!

Strategy 3:  Identify key decision makers

It’s fairly appropriate protocol to call or email potential employers who might not have jobs advertised. I actually got my an adjunct position at Boise State University that way, and later went on to accept a tenured track line and become department chair. I have also hired many people because they contacted me at the right time when I had an opening, and it was an easier solution than searching back through old resumes. Timing is essential! 

Key tip

Take the time to find out who actually does the hiring of adjunct faculty in the department (this may be hard to do at private online universities where they don’t show program faculty, easier to do at state universities). It’s usually the program chair, or an associate chair, if the program is large. You can easily call the department office (not HR), and explain you are interested in an adjunct position, and ask whom should you contact. Make sure to get an email address for that specific person, and address them by name in your email contact. A department chair will always pay more attention to, and remember, email received directly versus being sent over from HR or forwarded from the Dean of the College. You want to make an impression in their memory….if you reach out during a non-hiring period, they may end up calling you a few months down the road when they’re getting the new course schedule together.

You think this type of outreach is a needle in a haystack, in actuality, it’s not. Department chairs of higher education are often at the mercy of needing adjunct instructors at the last minute, because new sections of courses get added when there are enrollment overloads. Even if you aren’t a regular adjunct for that program, you can be called in a pinch if you are on the mind of the person doing the hiring.

Strategy 4: Make personalized contact

  • Send an introductory email directly to the Chair or Director of the program with a resume attached – make sure your contact is made with the person directly responsible for hiring. This isn’t usually Human Resources.
  • Don’t create an additional letter of introduction, just introduce yourself in the email itself.
  • Personalize the email heading, “Edtech adjunct position at Penn State,” seems very specific and more important than if the chair gets a generic email they may not read.
  • Use their title and name, “Dear Dr. Jones,” in the salutation.
  • Keep it brief on initial contact, indicating your interest, background, and availability. Show you have done your homework about their particular program. Mention what degree you are interested in teaching in, and any courses in that degree program you feel qualified to teach.
  • Include a link to your online teaching portfolio in the email, and attach your resume directly to the email.
  • Say “I am happy to provide references upon request.” Drop names directly in the email if you have connections in the same field as the program chair.
  • Don’t ask about salary, yet.

Want to learn more?

book cover

This blog is second in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

Can I teach college online part-time? Do I qualify?

NYC Gap App ChallengeMany teachers and other professionals are looking for ways to make extra money, or perhaps spend part of their time mentoring and teaching upcoming professionals. Did you know there are over 14 million online college courses being taught in any one year? An estimated 28% of college students take an online course at any one time. Meanwhile, “Only 29.1% of academic leaders report that their faculty accept the value and legitimacy of online education.” So where are those instructors coming from?

You may have often thought about whether or not you’re qualified to teach at the college or university level online as an adjunct, or part-time contractor. If you have any college degree, the answer is most likely, YES.

Do Advanced Degrees and Certificates Help?

  • A Ph.D. is more valued than an M.A.
  • However, not all degree programs want Ph.D.’s.
  • You can teach online without a graduate degree.
  • Take multiple online courses for experience as an online learner.
  • A Certification in Online Teaching goes a long way to convince an employer you’re prepared to teach online.

Advanced Degrees

A lot of people ask, “Do I need to have a Ph.D. to teach at the college level?” No, you don’t. Most accredited college and university programs typically prefer applicants with doctorates to teach at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. A doctoral degree is more valued than a Master’s degree, but not all degree programs necessarily want Ph.D.’s, and that’s particularly true in many practitioner-based programs. Some programs purposely seek out expert practitioners, people currently working in the field, not professors, not researchers, not Ph.D.’s, but people who have hands-on experience in whatever content area that they’re teaching.  So, you’ll want to understand the type of faculty the program you’re interested in is hiring.

What level of college can you teach? Typically, when looking at higher education teaching jobs:

  • You have Bachelor’s degree> teach undergraduate only
  • You have Master’s degree> teach undergraduate and some introductory Master’s level courses
  • You have Doctorate> teach all levels

Online Courses & Workshops

Even if you don’t have degrees or certificates related to educational technology or online teaching, you can take online courses or workshops and note those in your resume.  Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) are one way to get exposure to online courses, but be aware they are only one very limited type of online teaching, and probably not representative of the type of online teaching that you will be hired to do.  It is essential to experience online learning as a student before you attempt to teach online.  You can also register in inexpensive online courses at Udemy or Udacity, for example.

Online Teaching Certificates

A certificate in online teaching shows you’ve completed several courses of in-depth study at the graduate level. Certificates aren’t required to teach college online (although some states have started to add required endorsements at the K-12 level).  

However, imagine that you’re a chair of a university program and you need to hire someone to teach online for you as an adjunct, part-time or full-time. Let’s say it’s a History department, and I’m the department chair who has two resumes in front of me. One resume belongs to a candidate who has a Master’s degree in history and some teaching experience, and the second resume is a person who has a degree in history, teaching experience, and they have a certificate in online teaching. Automatically, as an employer, I’m going to lean towards that person who has a certificate in online teaching. It’s a quick indicator to me that the person has more in-depth study in online teaching, and some level of confidence that they have multiple experiences in learning as an online student, designing online instruction, and leading and facilitating students online. Some recognized programs for certification include:

Online Teaching Graduate Degree Programs

If you are considering specializing in online education full-time, you may want to consider completing a  Master’s Degree in Online Learning or Educational Technology.  A Master’s degree can typically be completed in two years.  Some recognized programs include:

Want to learn more?

book cover

This blog is first in a five part series to help you get focused on finding a job teaching college part-time online.

If you’re looking for additional tips with finding and landing online teaching jobs, get a free digital copy of my book, Find Online Teaching Jobs Now! College Edition, through April 24th, 2017 at Amazon!

 

If we’re living in a simulation, the singularity is here

(2011, Dawley). Teaching class in virtual world, Dr. David Gibson guest speaker.

Last year, I came across an article and video where Elon Musk proposed that we are living inside a simulation, “…that our odds this is base reality are one in billions,” an advanced form of technology where we are characters in an ever-manifesting role play, where our code base is written in atoms, molecules and DNA.

As a sci fi aficionado and a person who has researched, played, taught, and lived(!) in simulations and virtual worlds, I was intrigued by the simulation hypothesis, but initially responded to the claims, “No, definitely crazy talk.” Diving deeper into Elon’s and other arguments, the light bulb switched on, and I, too, was convinced the likelihood we are living in a simulation is very probable.

To understand this argument, you must first sustain your belief that technology equals machines or robots. “How can I be a simulated technology if I have blood, skin, veins?” To the pro-simulation believers, everything you see, touch, feel is a form of technology, all built on atoms as our base building blocks with DNA as our historical genetic code that evolves over time (this Quora post explains how living things are differentiated from non-living things, if molecules and the atoms they’re made of, are present in everything). Think of the advancing role of biotech over the centuries, from cultivation of plants and domestication of animals to Musk’s neural lace interface connecting our brain to AI, and the experimental geoengineering of weather. Humans seem predisposed to manipulate, control and reinvent their environment. The tools just keep getting more advanced.

Nick Bostrom (2003) began the argument by claiming at least one of the below is true:

  1. the human species is very likely to go extinct before reaching a “posthuman” stage;
  2. any posthuman population civilization is extremely unlikely to run a significant number of simulations of their evolutionary history (or variations thereof);
  3. we are almost certainly living in a computer simulation.

The main problem I have with the first two of Bostrom’s arguments is that they assume a human-centric view, and imply it is our future selves running the simulation. Who says the creators of this simulation are human? Much like we have created science simulation games that allow us to tweak fantasy species or the environment to see what happens, humans on Earth may be the characters in another species’ advanced technology.

Pro Simulation Theory Arguments

  • Technology is exponentially increasing, doubling in capacity, function and AI capability every year. Today we have highly interactive games, simulations and virtual worlds with over 1B user accounts around the world (KZero has the best data on growth in virtual worlds that I know). These simulations are becoming more immersive with the use of virtual reality, augmented reality, haptic devices, and brain interfaces. If we are only 15 years or so into commercial virtual worlds, and tech capability doubles annually, in 40 years we’ll be a trillion times more advanced than we are today. Technology will be creating itself, humans will need interfaces to keep up. Can you imagine a species 10,000 years or 100,000 years older than us? How have they advanced their technology?
  • Universal laws appear mathematical, and as any computer programmer knows, games and simulations are built on laws of mathematics and logic. Ideas from information theory keep appearing in quantum physics. One very important concept is the observer effect, where reality or matter doesn’t exist until you measure it, and the instruments used to measure it can influence whether it will become a wave or particle.
  • As human’s age, their use of virtual worlds and sims evolves. In 2012, I published this chart (data courtesy of KZero), showing how younger children prefer simulations around books, TV, media, then evolving into social interaction, role-play and games as pre-teens, and finally ending in content creation and mirror worlds as adults. This evolution is part of what makes me believe we are the self-aware technology creating the new technology (see the Singularity event below).

One of the more entertaining questions about us living in a simulation is what if there is a bug? Some have humorously proposed that the 2017 Oscars snafu and the unexpected election of President Trump are prime examples of something gone wrong in the simulation. Other futurists and a couple of tech billions are taking a more pro-active stance, and working to break us out of the simulation. And wasn’t this what we feared all along, the “robots” controlling their own destiny?

Con Simulation Theory Arguments

  • Limited computing power – opponents argue that the computer processing power to run a global simulation that accounts for travel through the solar system and observation of the universe with universal laws doesn’t exist. Again, from my perspective, this is a current and limited human-centric view. We have billions of suns and black holes in the universe, capable of producing more energy than can be imagined by the human mind. We are, after all, powered on Earth, yes? And much like video games where the world emerges as it comes into your view, the observer effect in quantum mechanics does the same thing in real life. We see things as our technology advances and gives us the ability to see, and manifest, it.
  • Humans are mostly interested in themselves. No higher species would want to simulate them. Again, humans already invented simulations that give fantasy characters the ability to evolve as you tweak a feature here or there, just to see what happens. What if the human race is this form of simulation on a much larger and more elaborate scale?
  • Many humans live in poverty and extreme suffering. If the creator was ethical, why create such painful circumstances? These questions have always been asked about the creator of the universe, whether it is God, an advanced species or our future selves. The global eradication of poverty is a growing part of our human evolution, with philanthropists such as Bill Gates investing hundreds of millions of dollars for this purpose, and the United Nations progressively establishing goals and a sustainability agenda toward this end. Perhaps a necessary part of our evolution as a species isn’t to rely on the creator for the fix, but to use the tools at our disposal to fix it ourselves.
  • The argument is a violation of Occam’s razor, if there are two explanations for any occurrence, the simpler one is usually better. I don’t know, I think the fact we are living in a simulation explains a hell of a lot 🙂

Is the Singularity Here?

The Technology Singularity is a an event in time where technology becomes self-aware and surpasses the capabilities of humans. AI expert predictions place this event somewhere about 2040. If we are indeed living in a simulation, and the technology (the people in it) are starting to become aware of it, and investing millions of dollars to “break out” of the simulation, then the singularity is indeed already here.

I was fascinated to learn that Ray Kurzweil, futurist, a major author on the singularity, and director of engineering at Google is buying up AI companies and technologies at a very large scale. He is working on building intelligent chatbots that digest your writing, and have customized interactions with you, as we sit in our homes now talking to Alexa, Google Home, and Siri.

Curious where we go from here given exponential technology advancement? Check out these prediction charts 5, 10, 20, 40 and even 50 years in the future.

Ultimately, does it matter if we are the base world or if we’re living in a simulation? On a daily basis, probably not. We continue on and work to stay present in the moment, enjoying the life, family, friends and work we have. To others, it opens doors of unexplored possibilities and new horizons beyond our wildest dreams.

Your thoughts?

Epic Academy: Personalized PD for Your School

This is a repost from Rezzly, a learning technology platform that offers monthly teacher workshops online and a gamified LMS. I’ve known Lucas for many years, and he brought me into the world of Minecraft in the classroom. In our conversations about his personalized teacher professional development program in his district, Epic Academy, I was fascinated to hear how the teachers are responding to quest-based and gamified professional development that is designed around their learning needs, and showcasing their badges outside their classrooms. Great stuff!

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Epic Academy: Personalized PD for Your School

March 1-13, 2017

Imagine a personalized professional development program in your school or district that helps teachers engage with the latest topics based on their own needs and interests. Join Lucas Gillispie, Director of Academic and Digital Learning for Surry County Schools in North Carolina, and creator of Epic Academy, a quest-based professional development program in North Carolina where teachers throughout the state are questing and connecting around such topics as how to use YouTube in the Classroom, Being a Connected Educator, the SAMR tech integration model and more. Hear about his success and challenges, and get tools and strategies for starting a personalized professional development program in your school or district!

  • Play quests anytime at your own pace
  • Attend optional synchronous events
  • Fully facilitated by Lucas Gillispie

Lucas is a passionate gamer and educator exploring the intersection of games and learning. He is the creator of the WoWinSchool Project, exploring the educational potential of online games like World of Warcraft with middle schoolers, was one of the earliest pioneers to bring Minecraft into classrooms, and is working to build game-inspired professional development for teachers in his district through his EPIC Academy program.

Legendary educators can participate in Epic Academy at no cost, or register here for $79 (includes three month access to Rezzly).