Helping Students Bridge the Experience Gap

If you have found your way here I would love your opinion on an idea I have to start a website that would help give students experience with projects actually performed by entry-level employees in different fields. The idea stems my desire to give my students real job-like experiences in the field I teach - biology.  I then thought everyone could benefit from this website, not just students.  If you have any thoughts please leave them in the comments.  Thank you!

Background: Currently there is a gap between what students learn in school and the capabilities businesses are looking for in new hires. Students who enter the job market are dismayed by their inability to obtain jobs after they have spent years getting an education intended to make them successful. Businesses also struggle to find prospective employees with the abilities they need for their company.

Objective: To give students experience with tasks performed by entry-level employees, and provide businesses a means of screen…

Why We Should Teach Evolution Earlier in Biology Classes

I was recently presented with the chance to redesign an online introductory biology class.  The was a very exciting opportunity for me!  I started by thinking about what I wanted the students to take away from the class.  I also wanted an overarching theme the students could refer back to and place the information from each chapter within a broader picture.  What theme would do that?  Well that answer came easily.  Evolution!  As Dobzhansky said, "Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution."
Great, I had a theme.  I went back to my textbook and realized that evolution wasn't taught until chapter 13!  That was well over half way through my class.  Sure it was mentioned in the introductory chapter.  It was briefly mentioned as a side note here and there in other chapters, but it was not used as a means to connect topics together in the early chapters on cells.  A lot of the facts surrounding cellular evolution are still unknown, but based on what we kno…

Bringing Species Back from Extinction - How Far is too Far?

Scientists are currently working on how to bring extinct species back to the wild.  The passenger pigeon may one day make a reappearance in the United States.  This was an abundant species, whose demise was recent (early 1900s) and largely due to human impacts such as hunting.  What other species should be brought back from extinction?

Work is currently underway to bring the woolly mammoth back from extinction.  Is this a good idea?  The woolly mammoth lived nearly 10,000 years ago.  According to a TEDx talk given by Hendrik Poinar, the scientist in charge of this project, "there are swaths of habitat in the north of Siberia and Yukon that actually could house a mammoth."  He emphasized the ability of these animals to survive great changes in climate during their time, so maybe they could survive today.  Poinar also states that "we have to think very deeply about the implications, ramifications of our actions, and so as long as we have good, deep discussion like we'…

The Changing Shape of Printing - How Will We Use 4-D Printers?

We have come a long ways since the old days of printing!  Right now 3-D printing is becoming very popular.  3-D printers are not a staple item in all schools, but the 2015 Horizon Report predicts that makerspaces, that include 3-D printers, will become more widespread in the next two to three years.  These makerspaces provide students with places where they can put theory into practice and apply the knowledge they have gained in class, like creating prototypes of objects they have designed for class.  3-D printers can also be used by instructors to print models needed for demonstrations in class, such as a heart model that can be taken apart by students and reassembled without damage.  3-D printers are even in space now, where astronauts can use them to create objects, like a wrench (the file for the wrench printed in space is available here, if you want to print your own space wrench!)

Now, with time still left before 3-D printers are common place at universities, 4-D printers are b…

Does Hiring Adjuncts Instead of Full-time Faculty Really Benefit Universities?

The number of adjuncts in schools has been increasing.  Schools seem to think that hiring three or four adjuncts to teach the same amount of classes as a single full-time faculty member saves them money.  It is true that if adjuncts are restricted to teaching only a few units that the school doesn't have to provide insurance.  But are schools really benefiting from this hiring strategy?  Lets take a look at some factors related to a school's decision to hire many adjuncts instead of full-time faculty.

The Difference Between Adjunct and Full-time Faculty Pay
According to full-time college instructors make anywhere from around a low of $40,000 per year to a high of $100,000 or more per year.  Let's assume a new full-time faculty member has a reasonable starting salary of $50,000 per year.

I have seen adjunct pay ranging from a low of $565 per unit to the upper $900s per unit.  We will assume we are talking about a mid-range adjunct compensation of $750 per unit.…

Lessons from an Adjunct: Luck and Desperation Led to My First Online Teaching Job

I was lucky and they were desperate.

After completing my PhD I thought online teaching would be a great route for me.  As a mother of two little ones and a Navy wife I wanted something flexible that I could take with me when we transfer.  There are a lot of online anatomy and physiology classes.  There are nursing classes online.  I am not qualified to teach these though.  I did not find a lot of online biology positions for someone with a degree in evolutionary biology.  Occasionally there was a posting for an introductory biology instructor.  I always jumped at those.  Everyone else did too, right?  I rarely received anything more than a confirmation email telling me the school had received my application and someone would contact me if my qualifications met their needs.

My resume seemed decent.  I had been a teaching assistant in graduate school for eight undergraduate biology classes.  I did have a gap on my resume though due to a transfer shortly followed by the birth of my son.…

Lessons From an Adjunct: How to Keep Adjuncts Happy

I like teaching.  I'm happy to have an adjunct position teaching.  I'm even happier to be able to teach online so I can work my teaching around doing other things, like playing with my kids.  One thing that concerned me when I started teaching was the very low wages.  Considering the amount of time I put in I probably make an income in the single digits per hour of work.  I have a PhD I worked hard to achieve, and this is how much I make?  It is insulting if I relate this to the amount of respect people have for me.  So I try to focus on the positives.

What are the positives?
I have a job, so the gap on my resume after graduation has stopped.
I really enjoy the class I'm teaching.
I'm getting valuable experience that will help me get another job later (I hope).
I can now say I have taught an online class.
I'm in, and people know who I am now, so word of mouth may bring future employment.
I can push myself to do my best and impress people, leading to good references…