Volume 2007 No. 1

Spring, 2007



Spring 2007 Newsletter > Lead Story

From Contingent Faculty to On-line Teaching: The View at the Maryland Conference of the AAUP

by Ed Hirschman, History (Emeritus)

The Maryland General Assembly is giving increased attention to the rights and compensation of “contingent faculty” – adjuncts and non-tenure-track lecturers, whose numbers are growing in state universities and colleges.

At it spring meeting on April 14, 2007 held at Coppin State University, the Maryland Conference of the AAUP received a report from Jordan Choper, veteran lobbyist/legislative chair for the conference that will not bode well for “contingent faculty.”  He stated that a proposal to apply state minimum wages to their work had been introduced in the recent session of the legislature and would be studied for consideration at next year’s session.  Julie Schmid, of the AAUP national office, said the national organization is trying to propose guidelines delineating the rights of “contingents,” including widening gaps between different disciplines, in gender equity, and between administrators and faculty.

These concerns come on top of the recent approval by the Board of Regents of health and pension benefits for “contingents” with sufficient service to their credit.

Most of the State AAUP conference, however, addressed “The Faculty in a Technological Age.”  Three members of a Montgomery College task force –Tammy S. Peery, William I. Talbot, and Anita Crowley – explained some of the advantages, but also some of the problems, with on-line teaching.  The three noted that on-line teaching is best suited for large, multi-section “common courses,” but that even in such cases, most students need some face-to-face contact with the instructor.  Before being entrusted with an on-line section, instructors will need some special training in on-line techniques. 

The work, the Montgomery professors added, is harder than regular classroom teaching.  Faculty are much more readily accessible, but they should not be expected to receive messages and respond “24/7.”  Professor Crowley noted that faculty teaching on-line courses must always have a “Plan B,” as well, because technical glitches do occur.

Lucia Worthington, professor of management at UM University College, advised on-line instructors to post all assignments, outlines, and questions, so that they might be available “24/7.”  As a back-up, instructors should also keep a notebook with “hard copy” of all on-line information.

Nevertheless, there remain problems.  Worthington warned that synchronization of responses does not work well.  Often, too many students try to get on-line at once clogging the server and the site.  This, the instructor should be aware, may generate put-downs or grumpy moods, leading to especially harsh on-line criticism of instructors.



© 2007 Towson University