Online Faculty Meetings: Necessary Evils?

Online teaching is awesome and it has given me the opportunity to work from wherever I want, whenever I want. Although, like anyone else, I have deadlines to meet and annoying people to deal with (albeit, almost exclusively over e-mail…people don’t like to call…thank you smartphones and texting!) the fact that I was able to uproot myself and get moving to a new and interesting locale every few month is exhilarating.

Teaching online makes this possible.

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect job or a free lunch in this world and even the “best laid plans” are oftentimes thwarted or experience unexpected disturbances.

Today I want to talk about online faculty meetings.

As much as I despised all of my traditional 8–5 gigs, I still have some pleasant memories from every one of them. People can be kind of cool, sometimes! However, I can’t recall a single meeting that could be classified as…tolerable. People waste time. People say stupid stuff. People have cell phones out on the table (in my experiences, we were all middle managers, at best. Nobody was so important that “it” couldn’t wait).

I’m sure I’m preaching to the choir. Meetings suck.

Well, I hate to break it to you, but they aren’t always the most fun in the online teaching environment, either.

(kind of like this, but I’d opt for a tank top)

The logic of meetings for online faculty escapes me. In my experiences, the less-esteemed institutions/institutions with less accolade or recognition want to have the most meetings and want to require attendance, even for part-time faculty. If this is your online teaching situation….well…congratulations!(?) There is about a 50–50 chance that a meeting will be paid, but even if it is, it’s not worth your time (well, it hopefully isn’t worth your time). You’re looking at $15–20 an hour…so…better than retail!

So….how often are we talking?

Depending on the institution and one’s job role, meetings (if the institution has and/or requires them for online personnel) will generally take place at least once a month, although individual departments may require an additional monthly meeting. I’ve had as few as one and as many as four meetings per month.

So….how long are we talking?

Generally, meeting moderators are pretty good with sticking to the meeting schedule and self-imposed time parameters. Meetings will generally be at least 30 minutes, but I have yet to have one where moderators spoke for more than 90 minutes….

….however, stupid people are everywhere (including online!)

You remember the unwritten law from school/college where you saved your own specific questions until after the class was dismissed as to not hold up those who couldn’t care less about the answer? Well, if you do, it may be news to you that many people don’t remember that rule. Forty-five minutes after set end times, the same person is four questions in (it’s always, fittingly, the person with the most annoying voice imaginable), but do you really want to take the chance of dipping out and your attendance not being recorded/counted?

So you stick around for up to two-and-a-half hours

Thankfully, this is a great time to kill two birds; grading papers, replying to discussion boards, or doing other teaching work during the meeting (maybe 15% of the content covered will apply/be of interest to you at any given moment). You could also probably be working on your abs. A 90’s infomercial told me so!

(“What a day! Abs of steal and second quarter enrollment numbers are up!”)

Ultimately, faculty meetings are not usually discussed at length, if they are discussed at all, during the online teaching interview, but your attendance is generally expected, if not mandatory. In the words of Wayne Campbell

but you shouldn’t let them deter you from your online teaching aspirations. Roughly 6 hours maximum each month as you rip through final exam grading isn’t that bad

Worst case you miss one and say that you were meticulously reviewing a student’s thesis proposal….but…actually….no….think of your own excuse!