Friday, June 7, 2013

Course Lead and Course Development. Branching Out!

Greetings Everyone -

Sorry for the long delay in posting any updates but between Obama Care, the new IRS rules on what qualifies as being a part time adjunct,  and dwindling teaching opportunities, I've been very busy. Some interesting reflections in all this.

Every school that I teach for has stepped up their game revising their courses, updating and in some case replacing their LMS. They've required instructors to attend more adjunct training, tightened up feedback and classroom presence requirements.

My evaluations have shifted focus from academic rigor to student satisfaction and retention. The instructor's evaluation is still their but it has more to do with answering messages in a timely manner, responding to student questions, classroom presence, adding value, discussion postings and qualitative feedback.

I' work really hard at making my classes the ones that students enjoy attending and recently here's what has come with it.

CSU has signed me up for their course development course giving me a course to redevelop. This pays $1500.00. APUS made me a course lead for their ISSC422 Information Security course and because I just passed the Cisco CCNA wireless certification, gave me a new course to develop on mobile wireless technology.

This does make up for the income I've lost for due to smaller enrollments and cut backs but it does help. At APUS course assignments are given out first to fill time faculty, course leads and finally to part time adjuncts so by excepting the course lead assignments I moved up in the standings a little. I need to be teaching two courses per session at CSU, APUS and ECPI to make decent money but those days have passed. University of Phoenix and UMUC only assign me one course per session but that it is what it is. If and when the economy rebounds and student enrollment comes back, I'll be ready but in the meantime. if an opportunity to become a chairperson, course lead, or a course developer comes your way, don't pass it up. The school is not asking to be nice, they're asking  for your expertise and help and course directors remember who stepped up and who didn't.

I'm no longer looking for additional teaching gigs but that might change if the current trends don't improve. I have plenty of work right now and though I thought having 6 or 7 schools to teach for would be a nice, in reality it's just becomes to stressful and it is just better to take the 5 you have and work on making them the best they can be.

One thing that really makes course directors all giddy is the adding of a video to your course. The video can how how to navigate the course room, install a Citrix web client or be a video introduction to your students. Over the last 5 years I have posted more than 60 instructional videos on Youtube.

Take any area of your course room that  tends to be a problem in each new session and make a video that demonstrates the task and the problem goes away. You're happy and the students are grateful. Embed a video introduction into the course room and your presence level just increased substantially. If you were to create a video overview for each unit in the course, the course director would never forget you come assignment time but here's the trick.  Create the video so that it pertains to the unit and not to you. That way any instructor that teaches the course could use the video. This not only makes you look like a caring and professional adjunct, you just helped make the course room that much closer to being 508 compliant. Add a video transcript and you are 508 compliant.

I'm not one to look at the glass being half full or half empty. Just maybe the glass is just the wrong size but regardless of your perspective, look for opportunities or create new ones.

Cliff



Sunday, December 30, 2012

Teaching at Concordia

Concordia Update

I taught one class with Concordia and then resigned. The oversight was just a little over the top. Weekly meetings and a constant barrage of emails about doing this and than something else. I had three students in the course and though they were pleasant enough, I found myself working for so little money that I decided to pull the plug.

I think what we have here is a an instance where Concordia outsourced to a third party to manage their adjuncts hence the very low pay. I'm still trying to understand who Hotchalk is and how they relate to Concordia. This is the second online college I have quit with since 2008. You never know how it's going to work out until you start teaching for the university. In this case I got pulled and then the course requirements and the expectations for adjuncts was unloaded on me. I can honestly say that if I had been told me I was going to have to make weekly faculty meetings and counseling sessions, I would have declined.

After  year and a couple of false starts, Concordia finally found a class for me to teach. A couple of interesting notes about teaching online for Concordia; first they have no technology course offerings and their course offerings focus on education at the Master lever. I don't qualify for either but yet I'm teaching an education class at the Master level. Checking the other adjunct BIOs, I'm the only one with an outside discipline and that does not have a terminal degree; weird.

Indiana Tech Update

Indiana tech never did have a course for me to teach so I have moved on. In this case I got hired by the Dean of Online Education but he only does the hiring. It's up to the course director to utilize you. I have no idea who the course director is since they never responded to any of my emails or dropped me line welcoming me to his or her department. I let my web access email expire, deleted all the links to Indiana Tech and just stopped wasting my time with them.

Indiana Tech

Out of the blue, Indian tech sent me a congratulatory email and my login information for Blackboard and web mail. That was a month ago and I haven't heard anything since. Maybe after the first of the year.

Pre-qualified

I did receive an email from an online university letting me know that I have be pre-qualified to teach for them but I don't recall the name. I guess that means I'm part of someones adjunct pool. I'm going to spend the summer tweaking my resume and other documents and come August of 2013, I'll be starting a new push for more online teaching positions. Again, I'll be using my blog to share my tips and tricks on how I'm going about seeking these positions in 2013.

Cliff

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Teaching at APUS! Just a little different!

I'm into my second week of teaching at APUS and it's been an experience. First, some of the classes are setup for instructors and some have to be built from scratch. My mentor told me that my classes would be set up for me but that was not the case so I almost got terminated before I even got started. The good news is this, if you setup the grade book, the announcements, the assignments and the forums to automate, than the class pretty much runs itself but the learning curve, at least for me was a stretch. This is probably the method to the madness that APUS uses to ensure instructors are ready to facilitate a class using SAKIA, their open source LMS. The instructor course did nothing to prepare me for facilitating a class but I'm not sure anything could have. SAKIA is not for the faint of heart but once the light does go on, you realize that the design is actually quite good.

It took all of couple of weeks to figure out how to setup the course room from scratch but once I figured it out, the start of class went very smooth. I was given enough courses to see up through January of 2013 and my fall 2012 schedule has not stopped filling up. So far between now and the end of the year I have 7 courses to teach but this to is misleading in that your courses can be reassigned to another instructor and you can be assigned another instructors course at the drop of a hat. That's not an issue because the reassigned course has already been setup.

Right now I'm teaching two courses. One course has 18 students and the other has 1. It makes me no never mind if I have 1 student or I have 30.

Course load is marginal for 5 universities. Right now I'm teaching 11 courses and that might jump up in November to 12 or 13.

I now have Ashford and Indiana Tech looking at me but I don't expect anything to happen until the winter or the spring of 2013 with either.

I'm not looking for anymore universities to teach for at this point. Time to clear the decks and settle in for a while. Let the dust settle.

I'm enjoying APUS and it could be one of the best to work for right now.

Cliff

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

APUS Welcome Packet Arrived - Interview with Indiana Tech!

Received my welcome packet from APUS on Tuesday, August 28th, 2012. Filled out some course preference spreadsheets and the next day was given my class assignments for the fall session. I have two instances of Computer and Networking Security to deliver starting in October. In the mean time I've been given a course to shadow for at least 4 weeks. What a ride!

The month of August is when I start my seasonal hunt for more online teaching opportunities and I began sending out my CV using the Adjunctworld Directory of Online Colleges. The list contains roughly 826 names of online colleges and universities. I go through the listing, remove all the entries for health, law, seminary, management and schools I do not want to work for. I create an email  template using Outlook 2010 that has my cover letter in the email body. I attach my CV and unofficial transcripts to the template and in the subject line I write; "Online Adjunct - Information Technology: "

I than begin going through the schools that I believe have an online technology program in place. Starting with the A's and working my way down through alphabet, I start sending out roughly 25-40 emails a day. I plat the first email address in the list in the To: line and than Bcc the rest. I started sending out my junk on the 20th of august and on the 24th of August, I received an email request for a 15 minute interview the dean of the business and technology program at Indiana Tech. I concluded the interview on Monday the 27th of August and was told that if everything checked out, if I submitted the required documents, I could expect to hear back from Indiana Tech in three weeks.

I'm looking forward to hearing back from Indiana Tech with a job offer in three weeks but if not, I'll just keep pushing forward looking for another opportunity.
So why August you ask? This is the end of the summer drought for online students and enrollment goes way up at most online colleges and adjuncts are needed to fill the pending fall schedule. This is also the time that the schools are putting together their spring course offerings and adjunct pools need to be filled. Argosy, South, Baker, Grand Canyon are all excepting applications for this reason.

Between August and December, those that remain proactive in their job search stand a good chance of getting picked up. You have to remember that the hiring process at some of these online institutions is longer and more drawn out that at others. My recommendation is that if you get the chance to interview, do the best you can and forget about it. Move on with your next search and if they call back or email you with a positive response great, if not keep pushing forward.
I get a lot of questions about the email cover letter template that I use. I wrote this and built the formatting based on the best information that I had at the time. As with all my documents, this template is a work in progress and gets tweaked and updated as needed. working and reworking the formatting, the style, the layout of the message your trying to convey with your documents should be on going. From time to time I just open up my CV and scan it for grammatical errors and other mistakes.

Here's a copy of my email cover letter:




Subject: Online Adjunct - Information Technology: Cliff Krahenbill

Attachments: Cliff_Krahenbill_Curriculum_Vitae .docx; CKrahenbill Transcripts.pdf

Dear Hiring Manager;

Please permit me to submit my curriculum vitae for consideration as an online adjunct instructor with your online information technology program. Given my proven record of work performance and experience as an online adjunct instructor and technology consultant, I’m confident that I could add value to any technology course I would be assigned to deliver.

I pride myself on being a results oriented, hands-on individual with progressive online course management skills. My teaching style emphasizes student centered learning where I focus on being a facilitator and resource person providing the student with mentoring and the skills to succeed as an online learner. An evaluation of my curriculum vitae will better acquaint you with my background and qualifications as an online adjunct instructor.

Adjunct Requirements

• Master degree and 18+ graduate hours with a concentration in Information Technology.
• Successful completion of your online instructor training course

My Qualifications

• Master of Science in Information Technology with 18 graduate hours in the specific subject area.
• 4+ years’ experience facilitating online classrooms
• 13 years real world experience working as technology professional
• Numerous, current and valid professional certifications from Cisco, Microsoft and CompTIA

In review of my curriculum vitae, you will note my growth and experience. What it cannot illustrate, is the degree of dedication, resourcefulness, and professionalism that I bring to the online course room. A personal conversation will enable us to discuss how I can contribute to the success of your online technology students. I can be reached via email, my cell phone or through my Linkedin account. I look forward to interviewing with you if and when the opportunity presents itself. Thank you for your time and consideration.


Best Regards,

Cliff Krahenbill


CLK Technology Solutions
8066 East Shadow Canyon Road
Tucson, Arizona, 85750
520-812-0246
Linkedin Profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/ckrahenbill






Wednesday, August 15, 2012

APUS Status Update!

My journey getting hired with APUS started in November of 2011 when I received my first offer to interview. This week I was notified that I had completed all the HR requirements and the faculty hire requirements and I needed to wait for the completion of my packet review and my welcome letter which should be completed by the following week. This is where I'm at now and I have say, of all the universities and colleges I have been cleared to teach for, APUS is the toughest of the bunch. They are very serious about their selection process and they don't wait around for candidates to submit completed forms. Every form that needed to be signed and completed had a window of opportunity of 24-72 hours depending on the form.

The hardest part of all this was getting my i9 form notarized and delivered in timely manner. APUS has a requirement that candidates use the Notary Pro Company to verify their eligibility to work in the states. I'm in the Philippines so this was going to be challenge luckily, the faculty hire people at APUS were flexible enough to allow me to use the notary service at the American Embassy in Manila to complete the form. I have to travel to Manila by plane which is better than having to travel by plane to the states and much cheaper but the problem I had was the typhoon that was socked in over Manila and had flooded the city. I located the consulate general in Cebu and flew in one day, stayed the night at the Edgewater Hotel and Casino. Got up the next morning had breakfast and walked to the bottom floor where the consulate was located, took a number, swore an oath that I was a U.S. citizen, paid the $50.00 charge for the service and was back in Tacloban by 4:30 PM the same day. Getting the form notarized cost me roughly $500.00 altogether but it's all a write off so. Once back on the island of Leyte, I had to find a delivery service that I could depend on to get the original form delivered in a timely manner. I used DHL and the forms were delivered to HR in just four days. I also make copies of the forms and the supporting documents and emailed them to my point of contact at APUS.

Hopefully if the packet review goes well, I should receive my welcome letter next week in time to start teaching for the fall semester. The start to finish process was 10 months in length.
As with CSU, APUS pays per student which I have grown to really like. Payment is based on the number of students broken down by the number of completed assignments turned in and graded. This form of payment makes you want to stay logged in all day grading course work and posting feedback to discussions. APUS pays twice a month, somewhere around the first and second week and then somewhere between the 3rd and the 4th forth week. The pay schedule is based on when sessions start and finish.

I still have two more online universities that have hired me but no class assignments yet. Both Concordia and South are staying in contact but no classes have been sent my way to teach. I contacted the South recruiter for a status update and they replied that my information was still in their database and that the course director for technology had been notified that I was available to teach. Concordia sent me an email stating that I had been hired and that they were waiting for a class that was suitable for me to teach to open up. I'm hoping these two will send me something the fall but I'm not waiting around for this to happen.

It is now August and time for the big push to begin for more online teaching opportunities. First here's my disclaimer; though it may appear that my dance card is full in reality, the number of classes I'm teaching has dropped off due to the busted economy and low student enrollment. Having 4 online universities to teach for should provide me with 7-8 course but in reality I have 5 courses going and some of these courses only have an enrollment of 5 students. When you add in APUS, the number increases but until I get something from South and Concordia, the work is just not there.

I don't expect student enrollment to increase anytime soon. Even after the election, I expect the economy to continue its downward spiral and for enrollment to fall off in most online universities with some exceptions. Technology jobs are still plentiful so technical schools should still see a small but steady increase in student enrollment but only those schools with the reputation and the best programs will see this happening. Those that have been flagged in the Harkin's report and others will find that a slick marketing campaign does not always make for a better bottom line.

Those schools that I work for that has taken the wrong tact in improving their bottom line by standing on the necks of their adjuncts will be replaced by other schools that don't. Hardly a week goes by where I don't receive an email notifying me that I have been assigned more expectations and that I need to generate some type of new tracking procedure so that the school can ensure that I'm doing what I'm supposed to be doing. When you can make more working the drive through at Mickey D's, it's time to cut someone loose.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Working for Coulumbia Southern University

Columbia Southern University

It's been a very busy last couple of months. I started working for Columbia Southern University (CSU) and right away the money started coming in. Within a matter of just few short weeks I was given 5 classes with two of them being open enrollment with the last three being 8 week sessions. CSU 1099's it's adjuncts so no taxes are being taken out so I've had to plan accordingly for taxes in April of 2013. The money is very good with potential of making 5-6K per month before taxes. CSU pays per student. $50.00 per open enrollment student and $75.00 for all others. This is amount is divided by the number of assignment each student has to complete and as the assignments are completed, instructors are paid. Instructors are paid the first week of each month. With all others paying somewhere between the first and third week of each month, CSU is a nice addition to the income. With potential for 300 students, the money is oustanding. I have to say after just two months I really like working for CSU and they treat their adjuncts with a great deal of respect. I've also been give a course to develop which pays $1500.00 and I've evaluated a course which pays $300.00 so the money is very good at CSU.

Concordia

Last November I interviewed with the dean at Concordia and after the interview just forgot about it. Last week I received and email asking me to do a second interview with the dean of Concordia Online. Shortly after the interview I received another email from Concordia telling me that I had been hired and to wait while they found a course for me to teach.

APUS

In June I finally completed all my background checks, online references and other administrative requirements to be selected for the instructor training program at APUS starting on June 18th, 2012. The course is three weeks long and any offer of employment is contingent on candidates passing the course. Candidates are given two tries and after that you are banned from ever applying again.

In June, I also turned down an offer to interview with Le Cordon Bleau. Le cordon Bleau is part of the questionable organization named Careereducation Corporation whom I once worked for for 3 months back in 2008. I can only describe my experience as being one of the worst any adjunct should have to go through.

I'm pleased to say that my dance card has been filled up and I'm not actively seeking anymore online adjunct positions. As I receive offers, I've been posting them online at Linkedin.com for others have a stab at.

Odds and Ends

I'm half way through my second course at NCU completing my DBA in computer and Networking Security. I'm actually enjoying the courses since they have no discussion requirement. That's got to be worth something. Each course 8 weeks long and consists of 8 writing assignments. I'm actually not trying to get an A but it's hard not to.

I was also hires in December of last year to teach for South University but I heard through the grape vine that they lost all their adjuncts contact information in their database and finding anyone is becoming a chore for the directors. I've was also told that it can take up to a year before an adjunct is given a class.

I'm making plans to attend Cisco training in Thailand in the fall to help reduce my tax liability next year. I've already increased payroll deduction for my 401K. I hadn't planned on making 6 figures teaching on line and living in the Philippines; it just turned out that way. I'm actually working roughly 6 hours a day teaching online and when you add in additional work and school, I've now got a full day. I may start getting up at 5 AM so that I get done sooner, maybe not.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Time Management Tricks!

What separates those that can teach 8-10 courses at once from those that struggle to manage 2 or 3 courses may be just good time management skills. The ability to use your time wisely and reduce the number repetitive steps to just a few.

Here's my disclaimer; I teach technology courses and much of what I do is facilitate. For those that teach general education subjects, these tips may or may not help reduce your work load.

Roboform

Roboform is primarily a password manager but it has many other useful features as well. You can create text files for storing canned information such as the initial posting to course discussion questions, feedback to the same, quick tips on APA formatting and links to URLs and YouTube videos. I use it for all that a lot's more. In the following image you see how I have laid out most of my SafeNotes inside of Roboform.
For those repetitive online job applications you can store your personal information and with just a single click, fill in your personal data. The best part of about Roboform is the online storage of all the information you put into it. If you have a Roboform Anywhere license, you can create a online backup using the Roboform site and have access to your information from anywhere in the world. Case in point; you PC or laptop has to be rebuilt or reinstalled. Reinstall Roboform, put in your account information, and it will sync with the online server and once again your precious data in back in your hands.

When it comes time to provide feedback to my students, I open Roboform, select the SafeNote from the college folder, next I select the class and finally the subject. I read the students response and from my SafeNote I copy and paste the selected feedback, modify as needed and move on o the next student. A major time save for me but here's the trick, it takes time to build up the volume of feedback and discussion questions so you have to become disciplined enough to add the information to Roboform. I went back through as many previous classes as I could and retrieved the feedback and discussion questions that I had posted.

DropBox

I use DropBox for online storage of anything that I don't want to loose. It has all my employment documentations information, I-9, W-4, scanned images of my drivers license and passport, copy of my unofficial transcripts, my CV, references, cover letters, technology labs, software keys, licensing information, drivers, a backup of my favorites from IE and so much more. Again, I can access this information from anywhere in the world and it is backed up to the DropBox server. I reinstall the app, put in my account information and my data is once again available to me.

Create a Default Image

I also have an external hard drive that holds a default image of my Windows 7 machine with all my default applications and settings. I create a default build of Windows 7 and instead of having to reinstall Office, DropBox and Roboform, PDF reader, Flash, Avast! and Peerblocker, I recover my machine using the image that already has all of the software with in it. I sync my online storage and I'm back.

Having a Routine

I'm online first thing in the morning. I'm up with the chickens and on the way to brushing my teeth, I turn on the PC. I begin by checking all my personal and working email accounts for important messages. I than start going into my course rooms checking for messages and questions from my students. I check the level of activity in the discussions and make sure the course rooms are functioning properly. Time to take a break and get that first cup of coffee.

I'm back in front of the PC. I start grading assignments and posting feedback. This goes on for a couple of hours depending on what I'm grading. Review questions are kept until the end of the day. I read the discussion postings and provide feedback but not to every student. I'll try and get to every student by the end of the week but I'll do 5-7 feedbacks per discussion forum using Roboform and any new feedbacks that I consider worth keeping get saved as a SafeNote.

Time to take a break. I check for new job postings and the discussions up inside of Linkedin. I check for new job alerts for any online adjunct positions that pertain to information technology. Have another cup of coffee. Take a walk outside, check the weather, head to the second floor, break out exercise equipment, start off with some leg extensions, arm curls and do about four sets of each.

Move back to my office, check my email, break out the situp bench and start doing situps. It's now about 10:30 AM, time to take a break from all this hard work and watch a movie. If nothings on, go back to the course rooms and add some content, expand on new ideas for engaging students and check my email accounts for new messages. I have at any given time a minimum of 5-7 classes going on. Some are just starting and some are wrapping up. Both the start up and the wrap up are important. The startup sets the tempo for the entire course and a bad start is difficult to over come. I pay particular attention to this phase so I'm in the course room more than usual. Once the questions and the messages from students abate, I pick up my routine until the wrap up in the last week begins. There's a lot of nudging and pushing to get students to finish their late assignments and the constant checking for last minute postings keeps me coming and going.

What you've just read is my routine for managing my time. It's now 10:45 AM and I've done all my classroom maintenance for the day and I've posted this blog. Right now I have just three course going on but I wrapped up two others on Monday of this week.

Redundant Internet Access

As with any business, you need business continuity or the ability to keep working even if the unexpected occurs. You can't work if you lose your data and you can't teach online if you don't have Internet access. Case in point: My ISP made changes that caused my 2MB connection to drop down below 250Kbps and I was lucky if I had that. I can't maintain 5 course at one time with this kind of connection. Living abroad is nothing like in living in the states when it comes to customer server. I now live in a patriarch society and for a Filipino to get a decent job they have to have an uncle or a cousin that knows someone that has a way to get you hired. No skill set required. There's no such thing as a licensed plumber or electrician or a certified technician. Calling in a work order is a waste of time as is the technician showing up. The trick is to have a back up Internet connection. After dealing with the key stone cop routine for a week I had another ISP come in and drop another connection into the house. Problem solved. It took my first provider a month to fix the issue with the first connection but I now have two good Internet connections. I had decided to disconnect the first connection and get another ISP to replace it. When I went to main office to pay my bill, complain and have my Internet disconnected, they asked that I wait until Monday before deciding and they deducted the difference from my bill. I said fine and that night when I got home, I ran a speed test and the connection had been restored to 2MB. In case you’re wondering, this is referred to as Filipino style. There's also Filipino time which is where you add three hours to whatever time you were told that the Filipino worker or tech would arrive if he or she ever does.

More Side Notes....

Watching Filipino T.V is also interesting in that most of the major actors and actresses have either wealthy family or political connections as they are either related to a senator or the president himself, with very few exceptions.

Tipping is allowed as long as you tip before the work gets started. It most places this is would be called a bribe but here it’s called tipping. But the living is cheap, the beer is cold and this is the one country left in the world where they still like Americans. I live in Tacloban on the island of Leyte where General MacArthur landed on his return to the Philippines. They named a park, a highway and a town after him and where ever I go there’s always some kids and some adults that call out “Hey Joe, where you going?” The people are freindly, mostly shy but approachable.

The Philippines is a great place to live and live well but at the same time off of the grid. I estimate that I gained back 10-15 years of my life when I moved here. Work stress is a real killer and with that gone, I look, act and feel forty again.  I couldn't be happier. By Filipino standards, I'm wealthy; by American standards, I'm eligable for food stamps but there is a solution to living well and being happy. Find a paradise somewhere, figure out how to generate an income, and begin enjoying life. For me, I moved to the Philippines, I teach online and life is good. Best decision I ever made.                                
Cliff