Juggling Teaching Remotely for Multiple Institutions

This portfolio artifact is a module to teach instructors and/or tutors how to approach OLI. It’s tech dominant because adjuncts often face a number of tech-related obstacles with little cohesive support from multiple institutions while trying to satisfy pedagogical goals.

Made with Padlet

Module Introduction

Many adjuncts teach for more than one institution at a time. When I first began teaching, I taught face-to-face for one institution during the day while teaching a webinar-style class online in the evenings for another. As my teaching career progressed alongside increasing demand for, and new developments in, online teaching, I began teaching all classes, even wholly face-to-face, with supplemental Learning Management System (LMS) courses. Fast forward to the pandemic of 2020 and I now teach fully online, remotely from home, for 3 institutions. Any adjunct teaching in these circumstances will likely have multiple emails and calendars to manage across different platforms and may have to navigate different LMS and Student Information System (SIS) for each school. Most often, we’re doing all of this from our “home offices” on our own devices with little support on how to manage what could be conflicting technology across institutions. This Module will discuss primary email, calendar, and file-share platforms, as well as common LMS and SIS, while making recommendations for day-to-day management.

Outlook versus Google

The two most common email systems used by higher-ed institutions are Microsoft Outlook and Google.

The Microsoft Outlook Suite provides email, calendar, and file-sharing through Microsoft Share Online (which contains online versions of popular Office Programs like Word). It’s accessible through a downloadable Outlook application or via the web-based version on a browser.

The Google Suite of products also includes email, calendar, and file-sharing through Google Drive (which contains web-based word processing applications like Google Docs). It’s accessible via web browser only (though Google Docs allows for an “access offline” option).

Side-by-side, the differences in these two platforms appear primarily aesthetic. The functionality of both systems obviously does what it’s supposed to do – allow for communication, scheduling/organization, and storage/sharing of files. 

Beyond aesthetics, the main distinction becomes apparent during access. Microsoft’s authentication settings allow institutions to implement security measures that can be difficult to navigate for the remote instructor. The difficulty can be exasperated if multiple institutions use Microsoft, all requiring authentication, or if a school switches from Microsoft to Google (or vice-versa) without fully communicating that switch to remote adjuncts. 

Multiple and/or conflicting security measures can make frequent checking of campus email time-consuming if not frustrating. For this reason, I use one email inbox with filters for schools; though there are still times that logging in to the school’s email system directly is necessary, the one inbox makes daily email maintenance much more manageable. More on this under “Recommendations for Keeping It All Straight” below.

Blackboard versus Canvas

While there are many LMS, the two most common seem to be Blackboard and Canvas. Both provide typical LMS functionality – building of modules, assignments, discussions, management of grades, etc. – but look very different. You’ll find that instructors generally love or hate their LMS with very little in-between.

Campus Portals, Zoom Licenses, Etc.

[Develop as working through for screenshots]

Recommendations for Keeping It All Straight

Email forwarding and incognito browser windows are the adjunct’s best friends.

One Email Inbox

Perhaps it’s because I was already using Gmail, but I prefer Google’s aesthetic to Microsoft’s. All three of my school emails forward to my personal Gmail inbox. In Gmail, I’ve set up aliases (allowing me to reply as the school email) and filters to organize incoming email. Occasionally, I have to log in to the Outlook web-based application – if I need to update a password or access a shared file/link with limited permissions. In those instances, I have to ensure I’m in an incognito browser and that I have the appropriate authenticator (Microsoft Authenticator or DUO) handy (on my phone). But those instances are few and far between, so my daily email maintenance is all in one place.

Browser Windows

Open all school LMSs in incognito browser windows. This way, if the school uses single-sign-on features you’re not affecting your main window’s accounts. The only problem with this is that you can’t have more than one incognito session at a time (but you can have multiple tabs in that session). This isn’t really a problem though because it forces you to focus on one school at a time.

Tech Set-up

Multiple monitors, moveable webcam, headset with mic.

Don’t be afraid to go old-school

As a final measure of keeping myself straight and staying on top of 4 classes at 3 schools, I print out the course schedules for every class and post them on the bulletin board next to my desk.